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A Modern Willow Love Story – Interview with Dinah Body

We're thrilled to be adding a modern take on the famed Willow Love Story and met with Dinah Body, who designed the range at her airy studio in Bristol.

Did you always want to be a designer? Can you remember if there was a specific object that first got you interested in design and why?

As a child I always had a love of creating things, I remember loving colour and drawing patterns from an early age. From the first time I used clay I loved it; I loved its tactile qualities when making things – so different to other design disciplines. In my early years I liked designer makers such as Joanna Veevers with her delicate intaglio ceramic pieces, and the intricate marquetry pieces of Dorothy Fielblemann, Vicky Shaw and Judy Trim were also favorites. I have always been inspired by pattern making and with ceramics I love the fact you can pick it up, feel it and hold it.

Which particular items do you get the most satisfaction from designing?

I'm drawn to the way pattern wraps around objects; the way that as you turn a bowl or a mug you see different aspects of the design. I enjoy designing stationary using techniques such as model die and laser cutting. However, I'm always drawn back to designing patterns for 3D objects; objects that you can hold and treasure. I think particularly with ceramic pieces as they are items that you want to pick up and not let go!

Are you fan of tea or coffee? Which teas/coffee do you love the most and how do you like to take them?

I am a big fan of coffee, no day can start with out a cup. At home I always use a cafetière and I enjoy experimenting with different coffees, but my favorite so far is Sumatra coffee. I love taking the time to make a proper cup of coffee and sitting down to drink it – such a simple act seems such lovely, luxurious, self-indulgent "me time" in an otherwise hectic day.

Tell us how your Willow Love Story designs for Loveramics came about. It's such a well known and well-loved design, how did you go about giving it a modern twist?

Dinah at her design deskI was approached by the Hong Kong based company Loveramics to design a range of tableware. I love Chinese blue and white tableware and have a fascination with the Willow pattern in particular; the fable is so romantic. I wanted to produce an updated version that told the story across the full dinnerware range. By letting the story unfold across the pieces in a more playful way, the pattern and the story comes to life. By combining hand painted artwork with a sophisticated cobalt blue, the range has an authentic feel following in the style of traditional Chinese blue and white ceramics. We were conscious that the shapes we selected were relevant for today, and that the items were designed to sit together cohesively.

Tell us a little about your design process

The initial stages of any project are fun - I spend time pulling together ideas and filling my desk with scraps of paper and ideas from books, magazines, fabric samples, exhibition clippings, etc. I will put ideas together and build story boards. Once a direction has been agreed, the hard work begins. I work in a mixture of ways either by hand painting or working directly on the computer depending on the project. Once painted, I will scan my artwork and then manipulate it on the computer so that I can develop it across the range. It's very exciting to see the first proofs arrive, at this point we can assess the samples working closely with the factory to make any final adjustments before it goes into full production. Nothing beats the excitement of seeing the final product in store.

Dinah's design inspiration wall

What do you think is the key to creating an enduring design?

It's a very good question. Having discussed this with friends it is really interesting to explore what we all think an example of enduring design actually is. It is in fact very subjective. Is it a Thonet chair designed by Michael Thonet in the mid-19th Century and still used today in numerous restaurants? Is it the classic Martini glass, or the Burberry trench coat? Is it an Eames chair, or is it the humble paper cup? I would suggest the Moka Pot originally designed by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. I believe the key to creating an enduring design is to develop a product that transcends time and fashions; that is as relevant today as it was when it was first designed. For me it is a design that is rooted in craftsmanship, quality and style; a product that is made to last. It is something that looks great, solves any design issues and works well. I would say It also has to have that "X factor" that people fall in love with whether that be simple clean lines or an intricate detailed pattern – but it has to function well.

Which designers/artists are you most inspired by? Where else do you find inspiration?

Close up of colour palette and designsInspiration is everywhere! I love the work of Mariano Fortuny. Last summer I was lucky enough to take a family holiday to Venice where we visited Palazzo Fortuny, I wanted to move in!! The building maintains rooms created by Fortuny, filled with examples of his eclectic work, including his large precious wall hangings. You can even peer into his library and see work in progress, it was truly an inspiration – wonderful! Other inspirations are Eric Ravilious and Edward Baldwin. Inspiration is everywhere; from home magazines to flea market finds and antiques shops.

Is there an iconic piece of design you wish you had created?

Rene Gruau illustrated post war fashion. His drawings are amazing. He seems to capture the essence of a pose in a few lines. There is a natural ease, simplicity and confidence to his drawings. Whether illustration, ceramics, glass or furniture, I admire design that appears simple, effortless and yet captures style with ease – it is often the hardest to create.

What's next for you?

What's next for me??.... I have several new ranges launching in the next year. One of those is a new bone china range called "Petal" launching in full with the company Loveramics. It will be showing at Maison Objet in September. I also hope to move studios in the next year, so we are looking forward to having more space to spread out!

Thank you to Dinah for sharing her inspiration with us! You can now view the full Willow Love Story range on the Whittard site.

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