Designer Interview: Fun Makes Good

By Susannah Dowse

Eleanor Young of Fun Makes Good is the designer of one of our shops best selling lines. Her geometric coasters and table mats have been incredibly popular with our shop customers. We're really looking forward to receiving her upholstered pouffes this month also. In her upholstery Eleanor combines detailed embroidery techniques with bold patterns and creative colour combinations to produce a striking range of interior products using locally sourced, specialist wools, leathers and hand dyed cotton.


Tell us your story please, where did it start for you?
I guess I have always made things, as a hobby growing up. But finally realised my passion for textiles and studied textiles at Glasgow School of Art specialising in embroidered textiles for interiors. Alongside my final year I took up upholstery evening classes at a local college. It was great to be able to put my flat textiles onto something 3D. It helped me understand what I could and couldn't do with my textiles.

Is being a designer what you imagined it would be like?
I think so! It can be very hard work and all consuming at times but on the flip side it it can be the greatest job with so much freedom to experiment and push yourself creatively. I only have good things to say and hope it continues!

What are your greatest challenges?
Keeping motivated is probably the hardest thing and finding your next project / commission can be tough. However this is one of the biggest enjoyments for me. Working on a variety of projects from retail to private commissions to exhibitions, I am lucky, I am never bored. The variety means everyday is different and each new projects brings its own challenges, but also achievements. It is a great way to work and each project helps to inform the next and I am always learning.

Where does your greatest satisfaction come from?
I really enjoy the process of creating, taking a design through from that initial spark of inspiration to seeing the final product on a shop shelf or in some ones home. It's very exciting to see your design placed onto an object and for it to be exactly how you imagined, especially if it is something I couldn't personally make. That is why my work is a mixture of handmade (by me) or manufactured (locally). 

Why do you manufacture in Britain and why does it matter to you?
There is no reason not to manufacture in the Uk so I try to whenever I can! In Scotland alone there are huge numbers of skilled workers and specialist manufacturers, I am constantly surprised at what is being made on my doorstep. I like getting to know the people behind my products, in the same way that I, as a consumer like to know a bit about the maker. I like the story and getting to see behind the scenes, if it's a mill weaving fabric or a leather tannery. I enjoy the collaborative aspect and when they say "oh that's unusual, not our normal style. But we like it!" and then help you make it! It's great.

What are the pros and cons of making here?
Pros definitely out weigh the cons, although communication is always going to make or break a project. Being able to visit the site of where your products are being made and sit down and discuss the final design is a real bonus. You can't get that kind of hands on approach via email or phone.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
I'd really like to stock in Europe, to have a handful of shops across the world would be rather nice! But closer to home i'd love to work on more spite specific work and large scale projects. I got a taste of it last year, completing bespoke upholstery for a restaurant in London  and I enjoyed the challenge. I'd really like to design a scheme for a boutique hotel or bar, or even some seating for a grand foyer.

Outside of design what influences you?
mmm probably the opinions of my family and friends, some of which are designers themselves so that might not count! But I try to be open to lots of different things, work related or not. My environment probably influences me quite alot too.

Does where you live influence you?
Most of my inspiration up until now has been architectural, looking at shapes in buildings and structures. It could be because I live in an ever changing city. If that changes then perhaps so will my style! But I just get drawn to shapes, pattern and colour. I tend to carry a camera around incase I suddenly see something I want to save for later. 

Please tell us some best kept secret's in your area.
Glasgow has a lot to offer and like lots of cities the smaller independent places can get gobbled up by high street chains and developers. One place which remains despite the many attempts to close it is a wee tea shop, hidden down a lane. Tchai Ovna makes the best tea and they have hundreds to choose from.

Which other British designer / manufacturers do you love or admire?
I really like Doshi Levien for form, shape and colour. I enjoy their use of textiles and their sense of fun, their wool parade for Kvadrat especially.

Please shine the light on any emerging designers you think we should know about?
Alittle Adholla make the most intricate patchwork clothes for children, I only wish they made adult clothes.

What does a typical day involve for you?
mmm cup of tea, check emails, 6 music on, start the to do list, tick things off and add to it! I might have orders to post out or I might have some upholstery to do. Tomorrow for example I have chairs to re-cover, fabric to order and designs to complete, on top of working towards my first solo exhibition which will be at the Lighthouse in Glasgow in December. It's all go, and full on!

What are you favourite websites for inspiration and / or wasting time?
I have started looking at Pinterest although I don't yet have my own boards. I like for a nice mix of posts (sometimes themed) covering films to food and everything in between. I have also started looking at Designfiles for a nosey round bright and enviable Australian homes.

What do you enjoy doing apart from designing and making?
I enjoy being creative in the kitchen. For the olympics my partner and I made a meal each night inspired by the competing countries in alphabetical order. Think we'll do the same for the Commonwealth next year. I also really enjoy getting out of the city, going hill walking and mountain biking.

If money was no object what classic piece of British design would you buy?
I would like a Robin Day Form sofa, for its simplistic, sleek design and its functionality. You can adjust and alter the seating/ table arrangements to suit your needs, although I would probably have to put some new upholstery on it. Or an Ercol love seat.