Agnes Q & A with legendary textile designer Sarah Campbell

Sarah Campbell is an internationally acclaimed textile designer. Collier Campbell, which she founded with her elder sister, Susan Collier, created distinctive, colourful patterns over many decades for a huge range of fashion and homeware producers including Liberty of London, Cacharel, Jaeger, and Marks & Spencer. Collier Campbell designs were even used by Yves St Laurent in his first off-the-peg collection in 1971.  Since Susan’s sadly early death in 2011, Sarah has worked alone, creating a beautiful range of textiles and homeware products, and running inspiring textile workshops for all ages.

We are absolutely thrilled that Sarah has agreed to answer some questions for Agnes.

Photo of Sarah Campbell by Miki Yamnouchi

What was the best thing about your teenage years?

I made some good friendships which are still going strong.

What was the worst thing about your teenage years?

Confusions and disappointments – with myself, my family, politics and the world.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Have courage, but don’t be foolhardy.

Did you have any ideas about your future career when you were at school? Did you always know that you would do something creative?

I wanted to be an explorer, and planned to read anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge! I never considered creativity as being a special ‘thing’  –  I don’t think it was a word that was used very much.

How did you become a textile designer?

I started as a teenager helping my older sister Susan, who was developing her career as a textile designer. She was busy, and soon had two little children, and because I could draw and paint she asked me to come and help her with her work…. I learnt about design by doing it really.  We worked together for fifty years.

What do you enjoy most about being a textile designer?

I love painting, I’m fascinated by pattern, I’m drawn to what’s called the decorative arts – so, for me, the best thing about being a textile designer is that I can enjoy all those things and earn my living too.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My latest new idea..

What is the best part of running creative workshops for teenagers?

Young people seem to have a natural confidence; it’s lovely to offer the space, time, ideas, materials and the opportunity to use them all without the constraints of school, curriculum and sensible-ness.

What would you say to girls who think they have no creative or artistic talent?

You do!

Do you have any particular suggestions for girls who might want to try something creative but don’t know where to start?

My advice generally is start with what you can do – things develop. For instance,  look around you – it’s worth noticing what you like, what pleases you, and really considering what and why that might be. It can be a tiny thing – the way you like to arrange your cup and plate at table, say – write a description, paint a picture, compose a poem, make a collage about it, invent alternatives, make a little book about them…you’ll soon start to think creatively and then there’ll be no end to what you might make and do.

Sarah Campbell

April 2017

If you’re feeling inspired, check out Sarah’s website which is a wonderful feast of colour and pattern; it also gives information on her upcoming workshops and talks, which come highly recommended by Agnes.  You can also follow Sarah on Instagram.

And don’t forget to check out our own Making beautiful things pages for more creative ideas.