ESCAPING from the city gave artist and textile designer Ptolemy Mann the room to think and create
When you’re an artist or textile designer like Ptolemy Mann, the location of your home is somewhat irrelevant. There’s no need to be next to a gallery if your work is shown around the country and no need to be in a city, if your work is generally inspired by nature.
So when an opportunity came up for Ptolemy to move from her flat in Borough, central London, to a beautiful three-bedroomed house in the Sussex countryside, she jumped at it. Ptolemy had lived for 12 years in the hustle bustle of London and was very keen to move to the country.
She now shares a house with a costume designer and a set designer, Es Devlin and Jack Galloway, who only stay there at weekends, and she gets to make use of the whole house during the week. “Its a wonderful kind of notion of communal living and it works very well,”, says Ptolemy, who is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and Central St Martins College of Art and Design.
Ptolemy has worked on many collaborations including those with contemporary carpet specialist Christopher Farr and John Lewis.
She currently has an exhibition of her work touring the UK and next month it will be shown at Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh.
Ptolemy’s work is a mixture of rainbow-hued woven textiles and fabric prints. Throughout the house, her work is displayed along with ornaments and paintings that she has picked up on her travels around China and the Far East. She has a studio in the house next to the kitchen, as well as another outside.
Ptolemy uses an upright Dobby loom, with which she creates carefully stretched, three dimensional panels that bring dynamic colour and geometric form to interior spaces. Her designs are inspired by colour theory and are reminiscent of the Bauhaus school where colours become three dimensional and seem to vibrate next to one another.
She has recently designed a series of exclusive flatweaves for Christopher Farr, which form a new collection alongside a digitally printed linen furnishing fabric called Adras, available in four colourways.
The upcoming exhibition in Scotland features work from her diverse studio practice including rugs designed for Farr, printed and woven lengths of fabric, collaborative projects with John Lewis and furniture designer Kristian Stringer, a tapestry woven chair by Marina Dragomirova, Ikat dresses by Eloise Grey and a series of architectural façade drawings.
Trained in textile design at Central Saint Martins, followed by an MA in woven textiles at the Royal College of Art, Ptolemy’s speciality is hand-dyed and woven textile pieces, which are stretched over a frame and hung as art in homes and public places. They are characterised by her abstract style in pure, strong colours.
Ptolemy also runs a successful colour consultancy and has worked closely with architects to bring colour to buildings outside and in. “My work brings colour into the world in an elegant, timeless way,” she says.
“What I love most about my home is the absolute peace and quiet, and the beautiful birdsong. It is very close to a reservoir that attracts a great deal of wildlife and is so serene,” she says.
The Sussex house was built 25 years ago and has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It is all arranged on one floor and has a mixture of wooden floors and cream carpets.
You can tell it is the home of artists, as there are paintings on every wall and many unique pieces scattered around.
“The first thing I did when I moved in was unpack my books and put paintings up on the wall. It all happened pretty rapidly and I was amazed how quickly I felt settled,” explains Ptolemy, who was born in New York and moved to the UK when she was six.
“I’m a firm believer in unpacking super-fast and getting everything out of boxes and sorted out. After that initial process the house has become a wonderful, continuous, ever-changing work in progress,” she says.
“I adore living here for the calmness of it all. The ability to be completely still and quiet with thoughts and ideas. In London you never really ever lose the buzz of the city going on in the background.”
Ptolemy has embraced country living in many ways. “Since I moved here I’ve become obsessed with making jam and chutney. Every time you walk out of the door there seems to be some fruit, berry or plant that can be transformed into something delicious. I’ve always been a serious cook but in the last year it’s become obsessive,” she laughs.
As Ptolemy works so closely with interiors she finds that her surroundings are especially important, “I am very sensitive to where I am but I have also learnt to make anywhere I am feel special and unique to me.
“Light is important, as is colour and texture. With a few small things; some books, artworks and textiles, any house can be totally transformed pretty quickly.”
• Ptolemy Mann – The Architecture of Cloth, Colour and Space will be at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, 4-26 May, www.ptolemymann.com, www.dovecotstudios.com