This week I have the huge pleasure of interviewing the lovely and incredibly talented Samantha of fortyvenus, a graphic and fabric designer! Sam’s designs are absolutely gorgeous and I’m dying to get my hands on her amazing fabric – quite a suitable response, given they are inspired by the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie and her use of poison!
I hope you all enjoy this interview! Make sure to stay tuned til the end, because Samantha has a wonderful offer for all of my readers! 😉
Tell us about your business, fortyvenus!
Thank you for interviewing me! I design patterned fabric and stationery for lovers of old-world glamour.
When did you start your business? What inspired you to start it and what excites you about your work?
I’ve been a graphic designer for well over twenty years and began trading as a freelancer under the name fortyvenus from 2013. The name comes from an address in Melbourne, Australia and it’s there where I started to create my own designs alongside client work. It’s very exciting to think of a fabric’s possibilities: a stunning dress, an upholstered elegant chaise longue or in the lining of a beautifully made suit.
What is your process? What tools do you like using? Where do you do your work? Can you walk us through a day in your life with your business?
I work from home and it starts after walking my youngest son to school and a cup of tea. I prioritize any clients’ work over my pattern designing. The process for my patterns begins with a concept and a great deal of reading and research, which I love doing. With each design I like to learn something new and I’ve certainly gained knowledge about poisonous plants. The patterns start as very rough sketches on paper, usually in a sketchbook but I have been known to draw on any scraps of paper, napkins or receipts. They are then drawn up on the computer, I take rough photos of the screen on my phone as I go along, this is purely so I can study the pattern at any moment, turn it upside down, look at it from different angles. Holding a design up to a mirror is very useful too.
What do you love the most about your business?
Recently I’ve had a couple of messages to say how much I’ve inspired people with my pattern designs. It’s moments like these that are amazing.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your business?
I would say it’s the selling and marketing side of the business that is the trickiest aspect. Like many creative people, selling myself doesn’t come naturally. Juggling work in the school holidays can be a challenge too but it’s getting easier as the children grow older.
How did you get into fabric design?
It all began with my mum asking me to look out for a set of notecards for her. I was looking one day and thought, why don’t I design her some? As my mum was born in Cornwall, I created a Cornish pattern for her and an Australian pattern, based around the lyrebird, for my mother-in-law. The patterns were cards first and then later became fabric. Printing the designs onto fabric opened up a whole new exciting world to me and I became hooked.
I love that your fabric designs are inspired by Agatha Christie, can you tell us when did you first become a fan of Agatha Christie’s and what drew you to her work?
I grew up near Agatha Christie’s summer home, Greenway House. We had a boat and every time we motored past the Georgian house overlooking the River Dart, I would try to catch a glimpse of it high up through the trees. I loved puzzles and mystery stories as a child, beginning with Nancy Drew books. In my early teens I began to read Christie’s books and loved watching the screen adaptations. Agatha Christie was an amazing woman; intelligent, witty and a woman ahead of her time.
I love the combination of Art Deco styling and deadly poisons, how did you come up with the idea to combine the two and how long did it take to put together these beautiful designs?
My first poisonous plant pattern was CYANIDE and creating the ‘sparkling champagne’ design in an Art Deco-style seemed the perfect fit. Even though Agatha Christie wrote novels spanning many decades of different styles, I like the decision for the Poirot TV series to remain within the Art Deco era for consistent style purposes. Originally the idea was for one pattern design to contain many poisonous plants but it soon became clear that a set could be created. Some designs developed quickly like BELLADONNA. HEMLOCK took much longer. Although it looks simpler, I found the flower harder to fit within an Art Deco design.
I have to ask, as a fellow Agatha Christie fan, do you have a favourite Agatha Christie character/book/(tv or film) adaptation?
For me, Joan Hickson was the perfect Miss Marple and David Suchet the most wonderful Hercule Poirot. I’ve been re-watching the Poirot series recently and studying the clothes and sets. I particularly like the costumes and the character of Ariadne Oliver played by Zoe Wannamaker. I also loved the star-studded Poirot films with Peter Ustinov, the Oscar-winning costume design in Death on the Nile is stunning.
How did you first get into Art Deco and what drew you to it?
I believe it was the film director, Ridley Scott, who first introduced me to Art Deco. In 1987, sat in a cinema watching the breath-taking opening sequence of ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, I fell deeply, madly in love with the Chrysler Building.
You’re also a graphic designer, can you tell us some more about that?
I always enjoyed art as a child. One of my earliest memories is in nursery, making a patterned picture from gluing dried pasta on paper. I recall eating some of the pattern. It was quite clear to my family and teachers that I was heading to art school. Over the years I’ve specialized in packaging design and logo creation, designing products from washing powder and luxury chocolates to pet food. I love the variety of my work and also like to work for not-for-profit companies.
As an artist, what tends to inspire you the most?
My patterns are inspired by stories and history. There are elements and themes in the patterns that have been inspired from Greek myths and Socrates to the story of a hardy little flower (London Pride) that rapidly colonized the bombed sites left by the London Blitz of the early 1940’s.
Are you a seamstress yourself? If so, when did you begin sewing?
Sadly I’m not a seamstress but I have started sewing in the past year or so. I feel that if I am creating fabric, then I should work with it myself to get a feel of the different fabrics and the way they work.
Do you have plans to expand your fabric line?
I do indeed. I’ve started to work on a new set of designs. I’m also creating elegant bags using my fabric which I’m really enjoying doing. These bags should be available in my Etsy shop soon.
Tell us about yourself!
I love a good laugh. I still have a dream of one day working creatively in the film industry or maybe of someone wearing a pattern of mine on the red carpet…
What do you do in your free time?
You may have guessed already that I love reading and watching films. My two boys keep me busy. I love yoga, visiting art galleries and gardens, being with friends and family. We live in London so there’s a huge amount to see and do but every so often we like to escape to the sea and countryside.
Do you have any words of advice for someone who might be thinking of starting their own business?
The competition is immense these days but invest time, passion and energy, be patient, find your niche, love what you do, believe in yourself and keep going. It can be a tough rollercoaster ride but the highs are worth it.
Do you have anything special you would like to promote to my readers?
I’d like to offer a 10% discount in my Etsy shop for your readers. Just use the code PRETTYANDTHEKITSCH at the checkout.
Where can we find you online?
Thank you so much, Sam, for allowing me to interview you and taking the time to answer my questions – and for your generous offer to my readers! It has been so wonderful to get to know more about you and your wonderful work and I wish you all the best in the future with everything you do!
I hope you all enjoyed this interview with Samantha just as much as I did! What do you think of the gorgeous fortyvenus designs? I know I’ve been swimming in a sea of obsessive inspiration ever since I discovered Samantha’s work (I’d still love to use it for an Art Deco 1930’s outfit and a Biba inspired outfit)! I’d love to hear your thoughts on fortyvenus in the comments! And if there is anyone you’d like to see interviewed here, I’d also love to hear about it! 🙂
Note: All images featured in this interview have been used with kind permission from Samantha of fortyvenus.