To share further insight into the designers & makers who create the lovely goods in our shop, we’re kicking off a series of interviews by connecting with Kirsty Thomas. She’s one half of the creative duo who founded Tom Pigeon. Their modern prints and stationery frequently use simple shapes, but each piece evokes a connection to the unique places where they draw their inspiration. Kirsty shares with us more about her inspiration and insight into how living in Scotland impacts their designs.
What originally interested you in design?
I have always been interested in art and design and even as a kid spent time designing and making stuff (miniature gardens, lots of drawing, creative makeup!!) I guess I became hooked when I started studying my Foundation art year in Liverpool and got really hooked on mid-century furniture designed by amazing people like Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Alvar Aalto.
What does designing connect you with? (i.e. something bigger, expression of yourself, connection with others through your designs)
Good question and not one I’ve really thought about before. I feel like designing is just “in me” – I think I am a very visual learner and am constantly looking at the things that surround me whether that be furniture, type, textiles, colour, fashion. I don’t really think its about expressing myself as much as creating simple pieces that I would want to live with myself. I would like to use my design skills to benefit others more and this is something that we are looking towards for next year. I feel like its time to “give more back” to society.
Tell us a bit about your creative process in developing a new product.
Inspiration comes from all kinds of places – our local landscape, Modernist design, architecture, hard edge painting, St Ives artists and sometimes from the people we are working with. I start by sketching out rough ideas, forms and compositions and then take these not to he computer to explore colour and composition in more detail. Jewellery then ends up in the workshop for sampling and prints are artwork for our printmakers. The process can be super short (occasionally) or can be a real labour of love – it just depends on what I am designing. I think I work in quite an intuitive way. I don’t have a set of rules that I work by but rather play with the design until it “feels” finished.
How do you think that being in Scotland has impacted the products you create?
The local landscape often influences my work – colours of sunsets, reflections in water, the geometry of sailing boats and local harbours, but I am equally inspired by Brutalist architecture and there’s not a lot of that around our little village. I think that the simplicity and clean lines of our work are fairly international though so whilst a print might be influenced by our local harbour it doesn’t really feel like a piece of “Scottish design” specifically.
What is a product you really connect with? Why?
I am really happy with the Shipwreck print series. I loved working on this project, which is inspired by the Flotsam and Jetsam washed up on our local beaches. It was the first print triptych I created and was a really interesting challenge to design a series of prints which interconnected whilst still working individually. I love this playfulness!
What do you hope customers get out of your products?
We hope to make people smile!
What is one piece of advice you would give to people who have a hard time getting started with a passion project?
It might be a bit of a cliche but “work hard and be nice to people”. It takes time and effort to build a successful business but if you are passionate about it then it’s really worth pursuing. And the people around you are super-important, whether that be your staff, your stockists, your manufacturers, or your family – treat them well!
Since travel runs in our veins, we’re keen to know where your favourite place is to escape to in Scotland that’s a bit off the beaten track? What does this place bring you?
I don’t often feel the need to find somewhere off the beaten track because our little village is remote and beautiful (if I’m looking for escape I usually head to the big city!). We live in the East Neuk of Fife, a string of picturesque fishing village about an hour north of Edinburgh – it’s all rugged coastline, fish and chips, ice cream, cosy pubs and stormy seas. It brings me peace and tranquility, a closeness to nature, and the need to wear lots of lovely knitwear!
Beyond the likes of haggis and fried Mars bars that have become a Scottish claim to fame, what local food would you suggest a visitor try?
Hot smoked salmon, local prawns, oatcakes and irn bru!
Thanks, Kirsty for sharing all of this great insight with us!
Photos courtesy of Tom Pigeon.