Social Togetherness: Eleanor Pritchard

Contemporary textile designer, Eleanor Pritchard, discusses the effect of the pandemic on the creative process, her inspiration from home and pastime recommendations.

Social Togetherness: Eleanor Pritchard

Wheres home for you?

Peter and I moved just a few months ago to a little bungalow on One Tree Hill in Honor Oak Park – South East London. It needs a lot of work but is full of quirky charm. I feel so grateful we are in such a quiet, leafy part of the city – the lockdown must be so much harder for people with no green space around them.

What are the highlights of your home-working day?

I have been really touched by the many kinds and thoughtful personal messages I have had from clients all over the world in the last few weeks. It makes me realise what a strong network we have grown through our work over the years.

The lockdown has brought a much slower pace of life for me. It shows up how frantic the schedule in the studio can be. Now even making a pot of coffee has become a ritual!

What creative pursuits are you doing now that you ordinarily wouldn’t manage if the world were at its normal pace?

I feel very lucky that our new home has a garden. When we first looked at the estate agent’s details for our place I had visions of Tom and Barbara from ‘The Good Life’… and indeed last month we dug up part of the lawn for potatoes and broad beans. We have a tiny cold frame and all my seedlings are coming up now - it feels very grounding and rewarding to watch them grow. 

Are you learning a new skill, craft or hobby?

Initially, I imagined that this peculiar situation would offer all sorts of creative opportunities – I kept reading articles about how this is a chance to write that unwritten novel or paint that masterpiece! … but in reality, I find myself much too distracted for any really creative design work. What I have found though is real pleasure in using my hands to make something. I am working very slowly on a piece of drawn-thread work which will – one day – work as a curtain for our bedroom window. In many ways, the process of drawn-thread is the opposite of weaving (…perhaps a metaphor for me in these strange times! ...). You start with a woven fabric and then remove sections of threads which are tied to form open lace-like effects. It is very slow to do, but that’s the joy – it’s about the process rather than the outcome. 

I have also been doing a postcard exchange with a group of friends. I am trying to draw one every day – and the pleasure of getting something real and home-made in the post is wonderful. It’s a very different way to stay in touch with people – a non-virtual, non-digital exchange. 

What positive change might come from Covid-19 for you, or your wider community, or the world at large?

I really hope I can hold onto something of the slower pace for myself. In the wider community we must show much more real recognition (in terms of wages and working conditions) to all the essential workers we all rely on every day. The pandemic has shown up the widening inequalities in this country, and we need real resolve for change. As a global society, we must also bring some of the energy and resolve which are in such evidence now to the climate crisis.

Any interesting projects, exhibitions or launches for later this year that you can share?

One project that will launch later in the year is a new blanket we have made for Fallingwater. It is called Carreg – Welsh for stone – and references the fireplace in the Guest House at Fallingwater. It is part of an ongoing project in which I have been responding to the architecture of the house through a woven pattern. I have just written a post about it on our journal which you can see here.

Given time to reflect, what would be your wish for a new piece of furniture or lighting? 

I would really like a pig bench from Mick Sheridan’s ‘Welsh Vernacular’ series. They are a beautiful contemporary re-interpretation of a rustic tradition. A couple of years ago Mick used some of our Aerial fabrics for the upholstery on the Welsh Vernacular series and I have been dreaming of one ever since.

Any music or podcasts you would recommend? 

I have been listening to Max Richter’s 8-hour lullaby Sleep on radio 3 – the 2015 live recording from the reading room at the Welcome Collection. I was really sorry to miss the live ‘sleepover’ performance of this at the Barbican a couple of years ago so it has been great to be able to listen to the whole piece now. It is very mesmeric.

I have also recently finished reading ‘The Shepherd’s Life’ by James Rebanks about sheep farming in the Lake District. I really enjoyed the insights into his relationship with the landscape through shepherding – a way of life that in many ways is unchanged over the centuries. 

Please send us a photo from home of something you find inspiring. 

I find Rachel Scott’s work particularly inspiring – and now even more so since reading ‘The Shepherd’s Life’. She spins her own yarn and makes wonderful hand-woven tapestry rugs. All the wool is undyed from British sheep breeds – the range of colours is extraordinary. We have three of her rugs at home and I really love them. There is a piece on our journal which I wrote about her work a couple of years ago here.

Many thanks to Eleanor for taking the time to speak to us.

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