Meet North Devon textile designer Sam Pickard

Screen printing workshops underway

Screen printing workshops underway - Credit: Archant

Debbie Manners meets North Devon textile designer Sam Pickard, who draws inspiration for her award winning designs from the precise colours of nature

Sam with her bamboo wall panels at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen

Sam with her bamboo wall panels at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen - Credit: Archant

The work of artists and designers is often inspired by nature. The magic of a misty morning or a dazzling orange sun dipping over the horizon, translated onto paper or canvas by skilled hands.

One Devon designer has gone a step further, seeking a more precise connection with the natural world. For the past five years, textile designer and screen printer Sam Pickard, who is based in South Molton, has documented the exact colours that she has found in hundreds of plants, and some wildlife, on Exmoor and the North Devon coast. She has matched their colours to CMYK, the colour model used in the printing process, with its range of many thousands of hues. These ‘true’ colours of nature have then found their way into some of Sam’s stunning designs.

An internationally acclaimed textile designer, and winner of many prestigious awards, Sam admits she is often at her happiest outdoors with the wind on her face and a sketch pad under her arm. In 2010 she decided to indulge this passion for nature and started an online blog which she called Planet Sam. She shared with her readers her delicate drawings of plants she found in North Devon’s countryside, recording the soft mauves of ling heather and the vivid magenta purples of the foxglove, the sunshine yellows of gorse and the rich chocolate browns of the Monterey pine cone. Initially, she says, she saw the blog as an alternative to simply following the global trend forecasts for textile colours. Five years on, this record of nature’s ‘real’ colours has become a source of inspiration for many of her textile designs.

“It is always amazing how much more you see when you really look,” she explains. “A perfect example of this was the surprising colours I found in an old Tea Rose on a cold winter’s day last February. The colours in this little faded flower ranged from antique gold to dusky pink. I have found that the more I look, the more I notice the extraordinary beauty and exquisite detail in the most commonplace of plants.”

Some of Sams textile designs

Some of Sams textile designs - Credit: Archant

Last summer Sam took part in the exhibition Land, Sea, Sky at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and selected to display her striking chrysanthemum, bamboo and ivy designs at the event, printed on a series of large fabric wall panels. “The idea was to bring the outside in and I matched the colours (by eye) directly from the plants themselves, so although the scale is dramatic, the colours are in fact very natural and harmonious.”

Many of Sam’s designs are larger than life, a scale she deliberately uses to create impact and evoke emotion. Her style combines a bold, modern freshness with a precision reminiscent of the traditional botanical artists, all the time embracing a sense of authenticity and respect for nature.

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“I try to keep the personality of the plants that I feature,” she adds. “Often this can include deliberate blots or smudges, which lets me portray something of the spirit of the original movement of the plant. What I love to do is to bring the balanced colours of the natural world into our homes so we can enjoy the beauty of the garden or countryside throughout the year.”

Sam’s textile designs are highly sought after and sell worldwide. She has exhibited at top shows including 100% Design, the Chelsea Crafts Fair and New York and San Francisco Trade Fairs. Her skills have been recognised on numerous occasions within the textile industry, with awards including the RSA Design in Industry Award and RSA Travel Award. Two of her designs were also shortlisted for the British Design Awards, including her very first digital design for fabric, Rosemary Russet. She is also winner of the Devon Guild’s Summer Exhibition President Award.


Gorse - Credit: Archant

The past year has seen a new direction for Sam’s talents as she has started to run workshops from her studio in South Molton. These include classes on Textile Screen Printing, and also Photoshop® for Textile Designers, which she runs with her husband Peter Bishop, a graphic designer with more than 30 years’ experience and a Photoshop® instructor. “We have really enjoyed the workshops, and we have had the chance to work with such lovely groups of creative and enthusiastic people. We are looking forward to running more workshops in 2015.”

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