Artist Harriet Popham on textiles and mornings

Harriet Popham was approached by Harper Collins to illustrate a colouring-in book and Sheffield Museum to design a floor vinyl. She did both, while continuing with her beautiful textiles homeware collection. We meet the multitalented maker…

Harriet Popham, 23, lives in Somerset, where she was born.

What time do you get up in the morning?

What are your most productive working hours?
Every day is different, I dip in and out of focus and bursts of productivity usually (and hopefully) between 8 and 8.

Do you work from home or a studio? If the latter, can you talk us through your space?
I work from home, in a hut at the bottom of the garden which is regularly visited by the inquisitive cows from connecting fields.

The main working space consists of a long work bench under four windows surrounded by research, tools, embroidery hoops, fabrics, scribbled plans and to do lists.

HP Early Hour 2

At what age did you create your first artwork, and what was it?
Age three, a portrait of my Dad that looks like a smiling giant peanut on legs.

Is creativity nature or nurture?

What role did your family and home environment play in harnessing your creativity/artistic flare?
My mum has always had an immense amount of enthusiasm and all manner of wonderful ideas for “MAKE AND DO!” I have very clear memories of a tiny house we moved to when I was five. The kitchen was floor to ceiling with draws stuffed with art materials and scrap store finds, we did tye dye on the front lawn, plaster cast plastic gloves, face painting, marbling, macrame, dress up and relentless drawing.

So it all began there and as PVA and felt turned in to screen printing and embroidery, her encouragement and support remained.

When did you decide to start focusing on a career as an artist?
I’d always wanted to do something creative but realised that I wanted to work for myself during the final year of my degree.

HP Early Hour 4

Harriet Popham on textiles

Why textiles?
I love working within textiles because it provides many options, both in process and techniques as well as in application. It’s such a treat to not only create something tactile combining illustration, print and embroidery but then to be able to see that become a lampshade, a cushion or a piece of furniture.

Alongside your textiles home-ware projects, you were chosen to create a floor vinyl for Sheffield Museum, how did this come about?
Someone from the museum came across my work on a feature about the London show New Designers, One Year On. I was invited to come to Sheffield to talk about some work the Millennium Gallery wanted to commission for an upcoming exhibition ‘In the Making – John Ruskin, creativity and craftsmanship’. I was fully expecting this to be about embroidery and when I arrived to be shown a giant floor and told I had 40sq metres of vinyl to work with was very surprised and excited.

HP Early Hour 3

You also designed a colouring-in book – The Great British Cake-off – that was published before Christmas, who decided on the theme?
The idea for the book came from the team at Harper Collins, and a great idea it was too, to combine the nation’s baking obsession with the colouring craze. In the three months since it was published it has sold over 25,000 copies.

The book was a completely different project for me and my biggest working challenge so far.. A tight deadline, an unfamiliar subject matter and learning to draw for someone else to colour. However, it forced me to go full time, taught me how to approach creative work like a job (something I hadn’t quite grasped up until this point) and to see all those hours of drawing printed, bound and in all those homes is very rewarding.

Any other comments on art/home life/projects – past, present or future?
I have new prints planned for March (currently in excited scribble form). These will feature on my online shop that will be launched in April. The new book I’m illustrating will be published in May.

It’s only been six months since I decided to work for myself full time and there’s still lots to learn but I’m so happy doing it and feel very lucky to have worked on such a variety of projects in this time.

Harriet Popham 

Homewear Photographs: Rae Marie Payne
Millennium Gallery Photograph: Tom Williamson