Interview with Maxine Hall & Paula Moss of Blackpop

We are delighted to have the opportunity to interview Maxine Hall and Paula Moss, Designers and Directors of Blackpop.

What inspired you to create Blackpop?

Blackpop was a midlife plunge into the unknown for me. Prior to starting the business, I was a university lecturer in fine art and digital media alongside which I had my own fine art practice using photography and graphics in Photoshop.  For a long time, I had been looking for surfaces to put my artwork onto. I started out printing it directly onto furniture that had flat surfaces such as coffee tables.

It became difficult to sustain this – they were truly stunning but the post-production i.e. sourcing suitable pieces where the tops could be taken off and the sanding down, became too labour intensive. Then I came across some digitally printed fabric and I was instantly excited! Manufacturing in this way had only just come online back in 2012. I eagerly created a few patterns inspired by visits to nearby stately homes such as Chatsworth House and developed an elegantly distressed collection of wallpaper designs. Blackpop’s fabric came online a couple of years later. My motivation was triggered by my desire to spend my time being innovative, creative and to be a successful business woman.

Your designs are exquisite, can you tell us a little about how the process works?

We work from a digital palette of photographs that we deconstruct in Photoshop, mixed with scanned in painted artwork and graphics created in Illustrator.

For the ‘Tudors Deconstructed’ collection we worked with the National Portrait Gallery’s world renowned collection of Tudor portraits where we were sent high-resolution images, some made microscopically and others with state of the art cameras. These became our digital palette. Then I had to think how to deconstruct [that word again] the portraits as I didn’t want to simply replicate them. I made painterly textured backgrounds, embedding graphics of crowns and orbs that I made in Illustrator, then I decided to draw Kandinsky/Miro like shapes and fill them with the pigments/pixels from the portraits. All of these elements sit on different layers, so you have control over each element, which allows you to play around until you think it’s finished.

What was your source of inspiration for your Paradise range?

We wanted to design a collection that took its inspiration from something dark and dramatic. We’ve got a very old, battered and beautiful copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost and the plates which are by Doré are gorgeous. Whilst Paradise is a collection which is much more graphic in style than any of our previous ranges, it still has Blackpop’s design DNA running through it. On the whole ‘Paradise’ is more motif than pattern led, created to produce statement wall murals and cultured velvet wall hangings, in addition to rolls of wallpaper, that work for both our commercial and residential clients.

You have had a number of very successful collaborations in the past, do you have a favourite project?

Our collaborations have all been such a privilege and each of them quite different from the other, so it would be hard to say. We do though have favourite designs from our collaborations, ones that have really stood the test of time. Oh and we’ve just won the ‘Best Modern Rug Design’ Award at Domotex 2020 for our Fresco Rug made in collaboration with Knots Rugs and Sir John Soanes Museum. We took a trip to Kathmandu to seeing them on the loom being hand made and that was a real highlight!

What exciting new plans do you have for the future?

At the moment we are working on some new designs, that’s always really exciting. We have a number of ongoing bespoke projects, for one we are designing a ceiling wallpaper for a wonderful house on the estate where Downton Abbey is filmed, reworking the ‘Paradise Found’ motif into a heavenly fresco!

For another we are reupholstering two fantastic wingback chairs, again reworking ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Found’ so the chairs will be covered in a narrative rather than a repetitive pattern.

We have also developed new sustainable FR fabrics that will adorn all of our existing designs, to expand our commercial reach. We have plans to work on a couple of Blackpop pop-ups in the UK and overseas – so watch this space!

What do you like about being based in Derbyshire and when you are not working, how do you relax?

Derbyshire has a long-standing tradition of artisan craft making and we are really proud to be part of that. Having recently established our studio and showroom here, we are finding that being in the middle of the UK is really handy for clients who are wanting to visit.

We have a great circle of friends here too – something akin to the Bloomsbury set! Wirksworth is a quirky super creative historic market town and there is always something to get involved with.

From our 25 year old Contemporary Arts Festival where we get swamped by thousands of visitors every September, to our wonderful independent art-house cinema Northern Lights. Being so close to nature is really important to us, Tessi our Welsh Terrier loves to take us on long walks.

We have 3 local pubs – the ‘Feather Star’ being conveniently located directly across from our showroom [voted in the top 10 best micropubs in the country by the Guardian]. We really missed them during lockdown!