Roddy & Ginger: Q&A with Virginia Armstrong – fabric, wallpaper and so much more…

Roddy Ginger battenberg

Roddy Ginger battenberg

When it comes to interiors, two of our most favourite design influences are the late, great Lucienne Day and the clean, uncluttered but friendly Scandinavian look. So it’s unsurprising that we really love the work of London-based designer Virginia Armstrong, the founder of Roddy & Ginger, whose masterful way with pattern, colour and texture continues to amaze…

Virginia kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her homegrown empire for our Saturday Q&A slot and, needless to say, we’re pleased as punch!

Your work has a very Scandinavian / Lucienne Day feel, how did you first fall in love with design?

It does! it was what I was brought up with, my parents were interested in design and shopped in Heals and Habitat. My earliest pattern memory is of our Lucienne Day Ducatoon curtains in black and olive, sadly gone now! I went to art college and studied graphic design but I have always had an interest in textiles.

How did you come to start Roddy & Ginger?

After college I had a career in London design consultancies specialising in branding and packaging. Then when I had my children and I needed a more flexible lifestyle so I freelanced as a designer and illustrator. I started screen printing again a five years ago. When we moved here to our sixties house in the woods I created a studio space in the basement and Roddy & Ginger grew from there, starting with hand printed textiles and prints on paper selling in local craft fairs and markets, slowly building an online presence with a website, blog and shops. I am now keen to move into small batch production and the wallpaper and home wares are the first of these products.

I run the business by myself, with help from my daughter Lucy on the PR side, although she is so busy these days building her career that she fits me in when she can. She does provide a lot of encouragement, her favourite phrase ‘do it mum!’

As you work across so many different mediums (wallpaper, fabric, furnishings, stationery, etc), do you create with one product in mind or a range, and how do you decide which are most appropriate for each design?

I can’t say there has been much planning here, I have grown rather organically and I am always looking ahead to the next project. It usually starts with a design or pattern and I take it from there deciding what it will work on as I go. Next year I hope to be more organised!

Roddy ginger tray and chopping board

Your birchwood trays are gorgeous, but unlike most of your products are manufactured by someone other than yourself. How did you manage to find the Scandinavian suppliers who could make the trays?

A little bit of detective work on the internet and you can find just about anything, trade shows are also a good source of manufacturing ideas.

Which of your designs has given you the largest amount of personal satisfaction, and why?

I would have to say my Logpile design. I am not obsessed with logs but I do love a good log pile! I have been able to use it across all my products, and it just seems to work. Putting it onto wallpaper was my first big move away from the handmade and it was a really lovely and exiting project to work on.

What’s your average working day consist of?

There is no average day really, I start with checking emails and any orders that have come in overnight (lots of holiday shopping from the USA and Australia at the moment). An hour or so admin is followed by whatever is most urgent. Sorting orders ready to post takes priority then it may be a day for my freelance design or illustration work, sewing or screen printing (I try to make Tuesday my printing day but that doesn’t always work out).

I also need to find time for marketing, updating my online shops with new products, photographing, organising wholesale orders, blog posts, book keeping, designing, research, looking after family and house! I end the day by catching up on Twitter, I am new to this and feel like I am just looking over the fence but determined to get the hang of it.

What are your current design obsessions?

Scandinavian design has always been an influence and inspiration for me. Our house was built in the 1960s and lends itself to a mid-century Scandi look. I find Scandinavian design blogs entertaining and inspiring. However, I sometimes think that too much exposure to them can cause a bit of house anxiety – why isn’t my home whiter / cleaner / tidier? Where do I hide my stuff? Why haven’t a got a set of String Shelves / black and white rug?

What does the New Year hold for Roddy & Ginger?

I am aiming to be a bit more focused and business minded. A new integrated website is first on my list and on the product side maybe another wallpaper. I have just been selected to be part of Spotted at Top Drawer this January, which is really exiting, my first small step into the world of trade shows so looking forward to a busy year.

Finally, what’s your simple thing?

It has to be a log fire on a cold winter’s day.

Thanks Virginia! As an exclusive, Virginia is offering 10% off purchases from the Roddy & Ginger online shop and Etsy shop until Wednesday 19th December 2012 with this code: SIMPLE10

Roddy Ginger cushion battenberg

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