Isolation Inspiration: Sarah Campbell

In this latest installation of our Isolation Inspiration series we caught up with textile designer, master of pattern and colour and long-standing Fashion and Textile Museum friend and tutor, Sarah Campbell.

Sarah is always busy creating collaborative commercial designs and private commissions, speaking, teaching, mentoring, authoring her own blog and maintaining her online shop. We found out how such a busy designer has adapted in current times.

Q: How have you been keeping inspired during these unusual times – what inspiration can you take from the every day?

A: I’m never quite sure about inspiration – my general experience is that work is very often a progression, a steady slog, into which new ideas may suddenly jump. I do habitually take nudges, pointers and directions from my surroundings, from the everyday, from a sudden new view or juxtaposition.

At the moment the changing light outside the window, the way green horizontals of grass hold things together, deep shadows and the sudden interruption of red (buses) is beguiling. But when what seems like an entirely new idea comes along I’m often taken by surprise and wonder where on earth it sprang from.

Q: I’m sure you’ve been keeping very busy, do you have some working from home motivation tips?

A: Keeping motivated can be really difficult; especially when paid work doesn’t really exist at all in the same way for me and many others. I’m looking at this as a time to invest in myself for the future with new projects, new ideas, new plans. I do have lulls of energy and periods of low spirits during the day. I have several remedies, but they don’t always work: I have more than one project on the go, so if one isn’t going too well I can turn to another. It’s helpful to have small things to do – like a little bit of sewing, mending, knitting which can actually be finished, or a section completed. It’s amazing what can be achieved in just half an hour.

It’s good too to have different locations for these – a table for drawing, a chair for sewing, a sofa for reading, a bed for writing – so that you’re having a different view, different light each time – and you don’t have to keep putting things away. I live in a small flat, so there’s not far to travel between pursuits, but it does make a difference. And it’s quite exciting going back to the studio after sewing in the sittingroom, and giving myself a fresh look at whatever I left on the table there.

Q: You always look so colourful in patterns, do you ever give in to working in pyjamas? If not, what’s you go-to comfy but stylish work look?

A: Well no, not pyjamas – I don’t have any! I meet my neighbour every morning at 8 to practice tai-chi on the grassy area outside her house over the road – so I have to be up and dressed for that in fairly simple flexible clothes. I wear layers – it can be chilly even though sunny – I don’t have a track suit or trainers, so I favour cotton jersey somewhere in the mix, with an extra vest below and an extra jumper on top – and my checked Vans or my hand-painted Novesta boots. I always like a merry little detail – a coloured scarf tucked in at my neck, bright earrings, spotty socks. And once I’m dressed that’s it – except for the lipstick if I’m doing a FaceTime!

Q: You have a beautiful home to be spending more time than usual in, do you have a favourite part of your home to work from?

A: Actually my home, although in a stylish 50s block and well designed internally, isn’t really a thing I spend much time thinking about. As it’s a rental I’m not very involved with or interested in perfect décor etc. I live alone and my work and life intermingle and overspill in quite an unruly fashion. The result is that I tend to use my studio for ‘wet’ work – painting paper and fabrics, collage and papercutting, and my sitting room for sewing, admin and writing. At present the two sofas I have are buried beneath bolts of fabric as I’ve been cutting bundles of fat quarters for my online shop (still functioning!), sewing face-masks and making a patchwork coverlet for a new-born baby! I have a lovely simple oak table made for my parents in the ’40s, and I try to clear, or at least tidy, it every evening so that in the morning I meet a nice calm space for breakfast.

Q: Lots of people have been tackling some interior DIY while spending more time at home, do you have some tips for where to start, if people are wanting to give a room some new life?

A: Well, as you can tell, I’m not necessarily the best person to ask: my flat is an ever-changing landscape depending what I’m working on. But a change of focus is often a good place to start. So if you have a favourite painting, or photo, or jug, or view or even an open book, think what it is you like about it, and see if you can work from there. Even something simple like re-arranging plants so that the lovely spring sun shines through their leaves and brightens the atmosphere can bring so much visual pleasure. And cleaning the windows can make such a difference to the light.

I like to make little still-life compositions, bring old things to new attention, put a new piece of cloth beneath a jug of flowers. I have two paintings of which I’m very fond, and I like to make sure they have nice companions near them so that they always give pleasure when I catch sight of them.

Q: Any other message for museum fans spending their time at home at the mo?

A: I don’t have a garden, but every day the view from my window is changing – the leaves unfurl, the blossom opens and blows away in the wind, the birds are busy, the squirrels are at their acrobatic antics. It’s worth taking a few minutes during the day to notice and enjoy it if you can: have a cup of coffee, look up from your computer or desk or homework, breathe deeply, and for that time stop doing and just be. These are unsure and anxious times; it’s important to give yourself and your family or companions an interlude of calm – and it’s free!


We do hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the Fashion and Textile Museum online. If so, please consider making a donation, to help us continue our work during this difficult time.

Every donation will support us in showcasing contemporary fashion and textile design during our closure, and will assist us in welcoming you back to the Museum, as soon as we are able.

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