We talk to Bristol-based designer Rhiannon Southwell about her latest venture, Blossom & Brush
A struggle to find the right sort of net curtains gave designer Rhiannon Southwell a chance to start a new business.
But it all came as a bit of a surprise because her solution sparked such a lot of interest from passers-by.
Rhiannon, who is a freelance textile designer, living in Bristol with her husband Patrick and two children Dylan, four, and Macsen six, decided to paint parts of their windows to create privacy but in a unique style.
After she had created the new windows Patrick was up a ladder painting the outside window frames when people kept stopping to ask him where the windows had come from because they wanted to buy them. Blossom & Brush was born.
The business is flourishing particularly since Rhiannon found a really good printer who could provide made-to-measure window designs on top-grade film which people can stick on to their own windows, very simply using water, rather than pay more for them to be hand painted.
Rhiannon, who is 36, comes from Machynlleth in mid-Wales. She studied textile design at Loughborough University and very excitingly got her first job in Stockholm at the very successful high street fashion brand, H&M. She found herself working mainly with British and Dutch people because there is no training in Sweden for textile designers.
She thoroughly enjoyed the job but although she tried to learn Swedish the English of virtually everyone she met was so good she had little chance to practise.
Rhiannon moved on to Next in Leicester and Marks & Spencer before kidswear at Monsoon in London in 2005, which she absolutely loves and has worked for ever since either full-time, part-time or as a freelance.
She was determined when she had her first son that she would spend as much time with him as possible and opted to go part-time.
She was lucky because the family flat in West London was within walking distance from the Monsoon offices.
But after her second son was born she decided to go freelance and work from home. She said: “It was than we realised we did not need to be in London anymore.”
Their eyes turned towards Bristol. Patrick, who is a strategic director in a PR company, grew up near Bath and his brother still lives in Bristol so it seemed a good choice particularly as the city is close to Rhiannon’s Welsh roots and family.
They moved to Bristol in 2013 and much to Rhiannon’s delight she got involved in the very successful Shaun in the City project in Bristol last year.
Artists like Rhiannon were asked to create designs for different Shaun the Sheep sculptures – the hugely successful character invented by multi-Oscar winner Nick Park at the city’s Aardman Studios.
These are now famous worldwide following his earlier inventions of the incomparable Wallace and Gromit.
Together the local artists created a trail around the city of sheep which was hugely popular not just in Bristol but attracted visitors from surrounding counties and further afield.
Rhiannon said: “It was a great way of getting to know lots of artistic people. We worked together in a studio – ten of us at time. I really enjoyed it.”
Her sheep is called Willow and was on show outside St Mary Redcliffe church.
The couple really like living in Bristol. It offers the convenience of London with plenty of diverse shops, restaurant, pubs and cafes.
But also has good local schools and the opportunity to get out into the lovely countryside in Somerset and other counties around the city.