Interview: Laura Spring, textile designer

Textile designer Laura Spring among some of her work. Picture: Robert Perry
Textile designer Laura Spring among some of her work. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE BRITISH are famously obsessed with the weather, and none more so than Glaswegians, who get their fair share of rain.

Textile designer Laura Spring needed to look no further than the glowering skies overhead to find inspiration for the latest addition to her screenprinted luggage collection. However, it wasn’t the dreich greys and browns to which she turned for her colour palette, but bright, in-your-face tones to cheer up the dullest days.

“The Weather collection happened because a friend got me a present of a lovely old suitcase that I copied, and because I’ve always thought it’s horrible how suitcases have to be black. I’m quite an upbeat person and it comes out in my work and colour choices. I’m inspired by designs such as Marimekko because they’re not afraid of colour, and people like Donna Wilson and Celia Birtwell,” Spring says.

She has hardly had time to dry out her mac following a jaunt down to London – where she appeared at Top Drawer, the annual gifts, home accessories and design fair at Earl’s Court – before getting back into production for the launch of her new rucksacks and shoulder bags. In jaunty, heavy-duty canvas, they come in three designs, Wet, Windy and Warm, featuring prints of blue umbrellas, red hot sun circles and green windmills.

Making luggage was an obvious choice for spring since, along with colour, travel is another obsession. Originally from Stoke-on-Trent she hit the road to Glasgow because she was desperate to study at the city’s famous art school.

“I’ve been here for 13 years now and the longer I’ve been here the more aware I’ve become of colour and it’s found its way into my work. I have always loved travelling and have been to India, Sri Lanka, New York ... the world is such a big place so I try and travel as much as I can,” says the 32-year-old.

“The gift of the suitcase coincided with my interest in vintage patterns so that’s what I made. I don’t think about whether something will sell, although maybe I should. I make things because I want to. It’s afterwards that I realise about the business side,” she says.

As one of 12 young designers handpicked to be showcased by style writer and Wayne Hemingway collaborator Charlotte Abrahams at Top Drawer, Spring has won increasing acclaim on the pages of the glossy style mags, as well as fans impressed by the style and practicality of her designs. Described as “a triumph of form and function”, her designs are a witty take on our propensity to discuss the weather at every opportunity.

After Glasgow School of Art, and The New School for Design in New York City, she was awarded the Scottish Craft Residency at Cove Park arts and creative retreat near Helensburgh last year and used the time to build up her stock of designs.

“I did lots of work there and now I’m using up all the ideas in my luggage. It’s all coming out, I lean towards retro designs, so my new rucksack is based on a 1970s Karrimor one.”

As well as the textile design, Spring works two days a week for Artlink, which provides opportunities for individuals who experience disadvantage or disability to take part in the arts in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“I work at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and textiles come into it a lot. Often in the studio you’re in a bubble and it’s great to be pulled out of that and work with other people.”

Offering a bespoke printing and design service, she has worked on projects as diverse as roller blinds, fabric booths for a restaurant and limited edition bags for a design shop in Canada. “Because my products are hand printed and handmade, they’re unfortunately a little pricey so the market is often in London and Japan.”

However, if you balk at £600 for a handmade, handprinted suitcase, however much it might brighten a rainy day, you might find Spring’s tote bags more affordable at £70. And with keyrings at £5, a splash of colour on a rainy Scottish day won’t see you breaking into your rainy day money.