First up, can you tell me who you are, and a wee bit about your business?
I’m Olive - the designer-maker behind Olive Pearson Designs. I'm not very good at being out in front, preferring my designs to take centre stage! My first career was as a cartographer and when I moved back to Scotland, fulfilled a lifelong ambition to work in textile design, starting with my degree from the Glasgow School of Art. After trying a few different avenues I took the plunge to set up my own brand in 2015, designing and making bespoke and limited edition accessories for fashion and interiors.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Being self-employed and a sole-trader, I don’t have a typical day - while I do plan what I’m going to every day, one of the things I love about my job is the variety and unpredictability. Some days are ‘normal’ and I work through everything on my to-do list, from knitting, washing, pressing and finishing to admin and designing. Others end up dealing with whatever comes up unexpectedly, from urgent orders to last minute applications for opportunities. Generally my days are split seasonally with making, exhibiting and trade fairs in the winter, and researching, planning and designing in the spring / summer.
Where does your passion for the industry stem from?
A love of pattern, colour and geometry - my introduction to spirograph as a kid probably started my love of design and repeat pattern. My work is a constant exploration of the way patterns play with perceptions and perspective.
Did you study? Where?
I studied for a Geography and Cartography at Glasgow University, then textile design as a mature student at the Glasgow School of Art.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
My unique designs - I haven’t run out of inspiration yet! Also the complimentary comments I get about my use of colour - wonderful, confidence building feedback when you’re working on your own. I recently collaborated with Craft Design House, creating two bespoke Mackintosh inspired designs for them that were displayed at the Mackintosh exhibition at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum earlier this year.
I’m still very proud of my degree collection that was inspired by man-hole covers - and still refer to the many source images I have from then for new designs, like HEX.
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
I especially admire the work of Thomas Heatherwick, Zaha Hadid, Sean Scully and Brigid Riley.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
I’ve just completed the first phase of the Aural Textiles project culminating in the ‘Tangible Sounds’ exhibition in Forres, funded by RSE and GSA. As one of a group of 6 textile designers we were looking at sound as inspiration for textile designs. We are hoping to expand the project and tour the exhibition if successful in the next round of funding.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The variety and the independence. If I get bored or am not in the right frame of mind for one task - there’s ALWAYS something else to do, or I can go for a walk or visit a coffee shop as a sort of re-boot, as long as I don’t have an imminent deadline.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career so far and how could it be avoided?
Not having the confidence to apply for opportunities or funding. Learn to just go for it, there really isn’t anything to lose.
What does your workspace look like?
I’ve just moved so it’s currently a bit disorganised - but once I’m fully unpacked I look forward to working in a lovely bright, white space - including the floor.
Who is your design inspiration?
More a what than a who! Everything around me - there is so much inspiration in both the natural and man-made worlds with many patterns repeated in both. My stripe pattern for this winter is inspired by the humble zip.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t stress if you’re not selling at an event: think of it as an advert for your work and an opportunity to engage with customers and get valuable feedback.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
There could be much advertising of services from local / Scottish suppliers with smaller scale manufacturing facilities. It's surprising how few of them get back to you when you contact them.
Any final thoughts?
Would love to see more support for small businesses that wish to grow but still remain small and true to their ethics. I’m passionate about slow-fashion and zero waste. It’s a shame that success and growth seems to be measured by the amount you export and number of employees you can take on. While not trying to build an empire, I still want to provide a ‘service’ for like-minded clients who care about quality, integrity, service, ethical practices, value for money, with well made products that last a lifetime rather than a season.
Find Olive Pearson Designs online:
website / instagram / twitter / facebook