Erin Lightfoot is an Australian print designer best known for her stunning handmade printed porcelain bangles. Based in Brisbane, she runs a ceramic studio creating contemporary ceramic jewellery and homewares, in partnership with ceramicist Tang Oudomvilay.
Tell us the Erin Lightfoot story. How did you get started as a print designer?
I studied fashion design at uni, which ignited an interest in textile design and gave me a platform to start developing my style as a print designer. After that I was eager to pursue print design and thought the best way to develop a portfolio was to actively create tangible work. My mother Vivien Lightfoot is a ceramic sculptor. Shortly after I graduated I spent some time in her studio developing a range of porcelain bangles for the purpose of creating functional canvases to explore print design.
When did you start making your own range, and what were the first objects you sold under the Erin Lightfoot label?
In 2011 I developed my porcelain bangles and sold them at a Finders Keepers market. Success with the bangles led to the – slow – exploration of other porcelain objects.
In 2013 I spent time at an artist residence in China where I learned techniques that helped me develop my earring range.
That same year my partner Tang and I opened a small shop in Brisbane, which operates two days a week. Having constant contact with customers was and is great for getting feedback on the work and editing the range. This year Tang started helping me with the business more or less full time. We’ve started doing trade shows, which has kicked things into another level.
You’ve recently expanded from your porcelain jewellery and homewares, to also create a beautiful range of silk scarves. What motivated you to start working with textiles, and is this part of your business that you’d like to keep growing?
I was keen to explore the prints on a larger scale and return to textile design. Different canvases inspire different prints so it was a chance for me to develop pieces I otherwise wouldn’t have had the outlet for with ceramics.
Your designs are often geometric. What are the stories behind them?
I look widely for inspiration. The Bauhaus and art deco movements are styles I often draw on but I may get an idea from a pattern in a fence, a piece of clothing or in a book. Geometric style came naturally to me and is a good way to explore colour. The mood of a pattern can change depending on the balance of colours next to one another. If I design a print for a client I will ask them to give me a few pictures of a mood they want to achieve, and work to achieve that through colour and shape. The final print is the result of a lot of working and re-working to get it just right.
Tell us about your work place at the studio in Brisbane. What’s happening there in a typical seven-day cycle?
At the moment with Christmas coming up it is very production heavy! But typically I tend to either do blocks of designing or producing. I do design and refine some of the ceramic pieces as I go but the prints require me to sit at the computer for hours at a time.
Monday to Thursday Tang and I are in the studio during the day. I do the majority of the handmaking of the jewellery and all the decoration and fine details of the work. Tang does lots of the heavy lifting, organising and pouring. We tend to have a nice morning and then work from about 10am to 10pm.
On Fridays and Saturdays our shop is open so we tend to do admin type work in the morning and then I go to the shop in the afternoon. Tang is also a sound engineer so he often works nights and weekends.
Saturday we have a slower day but usually fit a few hours of work in and then Sundays are off! Usually a mix of sleep, coffee, housework, a nice meal, wine and general social activities.
What are you looking forward to when you visit Adelaide for Bowerbird, and what will you be showing on your stall?
We are really looking forward to the food and wine and seeing Adelaide in the spring. Last time we were there we ate at a fantastic restaurant called Africola and sampled some great wines on the outskirts of the city.
Our stall at Bowerbird will feature our signature bangles, patterned vases, planter pots and candle holders. We also have an art deco inspired range of marbled porcelain and gold lustre jewellery. We’ve been building on this range since our last visit so have a few new pieces to share. We usually like to bring a couple of special studio pieces along as an exclusive look into next years collection.
More information, http://www.erinlightfoot.com/