Print designer Helen Baker creates gender-neutral furnishing fabrics, cushions and lampshades for modern family homes. Inspired by natural shapes and colours that reflect her Cornish upbringing, Helen’s contemporary homewares and fabrics are accessible for all ages, making them a perfect backdrop for family life. Here she shares how she built her business out of a passion for stylishly simple design.Helen grew up in a house where the sewing machine was constantly in use. “Either my mum would be running up a pair of curtains for the house or I’d be making hair scrunchies for my friends (this was the 1980s, after all!).”
She later worked as a primary school teacher for nine years, a job she found endlessly inspiring. “I loved the creative side, and found working with children who were so confident to express themselves inspirational to see.” After leaving teaching when her two sons were little, she started a small sewing business, but admits she “soon found I enjoyed designing more than making.” After moving from Cornwall to Wiltshire in 2015, Helen was looking for fabrics for her new home “that suited us as a family whilst not compromising on style.” Frustrated at not being able to track down the prints she dreamed of, she decided to look into how fabrics are designed.
“I taught myself digital illustration, took online surface pattern courses and read lots of books. I used our new home as a testing ground to see if the designs translated from the screen to fabric to be made into blinds, cushions and lampshades.” Designing and stitching so many beautiful pieces for her own home gave her the confidence to launch her debut collection, titled ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall…’ which she says is “a contemporary take on coastal designs inspired by growing up and living in Cornwall. All my designs are suited to family friendly living and are gender-neutral.”
Helen says she strives for her designs to be accessible to all. “I use elements such as nature that everyone can connect with. I am also drawn to silhouette shapes, gender-neutral colours and bold, unfussy patterns. I take photos on my phone for inspiration, then I’ll sketch them out in a sketchbook with pencil, trying different layouts and repeats, and then I’ll work on the final pattern on the computer.”
One of her favourite pieces is The Cornish Cloud. “I wanted to redesign and update the nautical stripe so I created the horizontal lines based on Breton stripes (my husband is half French), and I love clouds so I added a cloud motif. I love its simplicity and clean lines.” She designs with the myriad needs of the modern-day household in mind. “The need for designs that suit family living really seems to resonate with people. Last year, I exhibited at my first trade show and it felt amazing to come away with new trade customers who understood the need for fabrics that suit the way modern families live today, often in open-plan spaces that have to work for everyone. It’s the best feeling to see photos of my fabrics and products in people’s home – that’s a true honour as our homes are very special places.” Her latest range is inspired by British gardens. “It celebrates the often overlooked plants and wildlife. The British Birds design has been very popular and it features the birds I see in my garden when I’m washing up at the kitchen sink!”
As much as she loves textiles, Helen also hopes to expand her range to include other homewares too. “I’d love to see my designs on a range of home products (plates, mugs, bowls, glasses) so people get to enjoy these designs in their everyday lives.”
See more at www.helenbaker.com
Liked this? Try these:
- Read our interview with designer Natalie Lea Owen.
- Get inspired to spruce up your home with our free projects.
- Discover the ins and outs of starting a sewing brand with Alice Caroline.