No Chintz Fabric Designer Natalie Atkinson On Her Career, Design Inspiration & the Fabrics She Chooses for Her Own Home
She is known for her vibrant colour, beautiful florals and exceptional quality digital prints. Meet Natalie Atkinson, No Chintz Fabric Designer, and find out the inside scoop on her career, designs and the fabrics she chooses for her own home …
In a nutshell: What does a Fabric Designer do?
“I design digital prints that are suitable for different fabrics!”
Where did you train? “I studied theatre and English at University then went on to study fabric design and printing and screen-printing at COFA (College of Fine Arts). It was fantastic – I learnt about colour, painting, illustration, fashion and how these elements work on different fabrics. We also studied the make-up of fabrics and what’s appropriate for different uses.”
Where It All Began… “My career began as a set designer in Brisbane, designing sets for the Powerhouse Museum, working with the Queensland Theatre Company and I was a founder of a theatre company. The last production I did was about the life of the Bronte sisters. The whole set was made of fabric – hand painted four metre drops of fabric featuring the Bronte sisters works with screen painted illustrations and a wallpapered the set.”
First Textiles Gig? “I started out working for a fashion textiles company that made fabrics for leading Australian fashion houses and designers. We’d create lots of designs then have them made up and take them to the fashion houses, who would select the fabrics for their next collections.”
And No Chintz? “I had offers to work with several companies but I loved No Chintz because the fabrics and works are original – not copied from overseas fabric collections. I began in February 2012 and found Chrissie (No Chintz Creative Director) was very encouraging of creativity. I love it! I’m able to create beautiful original designs for No Chintz and help customers select fabrics for their homes – there’s always something different and interesting to do and learn.”
Inspiration comes from… “Many different places. The designs that turn out the best for me are of all the things I really love – gardens, flowers, nature and cityscapes.”
Chair upholstered in Cityscape. “Cityscape is a photograph I took of Hong Kong at night, and then turned into a print. I am from Hong Kong originally and love the cityscape at night. It’s quite a masculine print.”
Vintage Bloom is one of your most celebrated designs. Explain the creative process… “I used to treat myself to a bunch of flowers, but printing florals on soft furnishing fabrics is like an eternal bunch of flowers in the home for me. Vintage Bloom involved taking a lot of photos of my mum’s garden and flowers, then illustrating them. It was a really peaceful experience. I combined multiple mediums – paintings, watercolours, coloured pencils, and then put them together to create the digital design, which was then printed on fabric.”
No Chintz Textiles Designer Natalie Atkinson’s Vintage Bloom (bottom left) with orange piping (also available in Tourmaline, Forest and Cranberry), from $185, in-store. Pouch (top left), Geometric embroidered with fringe and (bottom) denim with circular embroidery, both from Megan Park’s previous collection. Linen with blue fern (top right), Florence Broadhurst, available from a range in-store at No Chintz.
It’s a digital print. How is it different to other digital printed fabrics? “It was printed by one of the best printers in the world – one of the few digital printers who print on natural fibres, whereas a lot of the printers only print on partially or fully synthetic fabrics. The quality of the base cloth for Vintage Bloom is fantastic for longevity and the vibrancy is exceptional. In Australia, the UV is so harsh that digital prints often fade, but for soft furnishings, people prefer natural fibres, so it’s important to use quality printers and textiles. That’s what No Chintz are known for – superior quality cottons and natural linens – we pride ourselves on our beautiful natural fabrics.”
What was the inspiration behind Grass Chevron? Chevron is a zig zag design and it was really in fashion at the time I designed this. I took a photo of the grass at the park, and it was a quick design that worked. I’ve upholstered chairs in it, made tablecloths and other soft furnishings.”
Chairs upholstered in Natalie Atkinson’s Grass Chevron. Fabric orders available through No Chintz. Cushion (back) featuring Vintage Bloom. Lampshade and curtain drop both designed by Natalie Atkinson.
How does your creative process work? “It’s varied. I can sit down and work at a design for ages. Or I might paint something and a print evolves from that. Other times an idea pops into my head and I can go into Photoshop and design it in five minutes, or I take a photo of something, like leaves, and turn that into a digitally printed fabric.”
“I like fabrics that have a lot of colour – colour makes me happy. And it’s nice to walk into your house and see it filled with bright and bold colour.” 100% Cotton that Pops! Barmer in Cranberry, $46/m, Zanzibar in Citrus, $56/m, and Ruff in Cumquat, $59/m.
Tell us about your designs, Crows and Leo? “I designed Crows after seeing a friend’s photograph of a flock of Crows and was instantly inspired by it. I created the design then had it screen printed it on the No Chintz Barmer fabrics – a hand-looped plain cotton fabric. I had an old Elizabethan chair and had it upholstered in it. Leo was a design I did to ay tribute to my late Grandfather. He was a painter and used to teach me to paint when I was little. I combined three of his paintings to create Leo and made this drop (pictured), as well as cushions.”
What’s your favourite fabric? “I love ikats. I sometimes have to hold back from using too much of them in my house! The fabric is such an art form. The traditional weaving skills are passed down from generation to generation, and every yarn is hand-dyed before being hand-loomed together… It’s an unbelievable and time-consuming process, with no two ikats being the same. And it’s not fast fashion – it’s completely timeless.”
Favourite Fibres? “Cotton and natural fibres. It feels pure, and it allows your skin to breath.”
Must-have Embellishments? “I love layers of design, so a mix of pattern with both embroidery and print.”
Tips for budding fabric designers? “Study and learn all the skills you need. Computers are a huge part of textile design now. Whether you do a weekend course or full time, it will all help.”
x Miss Stitched