Meet the Maker: Saison International, textile makers

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Eleanor Wright and Sam Watson of Saison International
For Eleanor Wright and Sam Watson, the production itself is a form of artistry, and the resulting fabrics represent a blurring of the lines between consumer products and art

“Our work in the arts has always been led by an interest in the possibilities and challenges of production alongside a col­labo­rative working method with artists. For us, Saison International is a natural pro­gres­sion of this; enabling us to work closely and slowly with artists as well as to further our learning about production techniques and possibilities. Our work essentially allows us to indulge in the two things we love: working with artists and working with makers to produce something that neither party would normally have the means to realise.

We each grew up in Northumberland and London and had creative parents who were artists and photographers, so we were always making things and were exposed to quite wide and diverse influences, from gardening to patternmaking, that has continued to inspire us.

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Both of us have a background in the arts and, having graduated from art school just in time for the 2008 recession, we quickly had to use our training to be inventive and resourceful in forging a career path in this field. In a way, we are thankful for this, as it resulted in us having the resilience to weather whatever came our way and be more entrepreneurial perhaps than people who graduated before us while learning invaluable skills in research and production that naturally come with running your own studio practice.

[Left] Fabrics made up as cushion covers, including the colourful ‘Reflection’ by Lothar Götz. [Right] ‘Swim Together’ by Sophie Von Hellermann.
[Left] Fabrics made up as cushion covers, including the colourful ‘Reflection’ by Lothar Götz. [Right] ‘Swim Together’ by Sophie Von Hellermann.
Being based between London and Antwerp gives us the best of both worlds. We love working with traditional makers in the UK and supporting those heritage industries is really important to us, as is re-establishing, in our own little way, the historic trade connections between textile makers in Britain and Belgium, where our linen is farmed and produced. The obvious difficulty now is that we are constantly encountering European clients and partners being put off by both perceived and real trade barriers.

When it comes to our work, our biggest influences come from travelling to our favourite cities – Milan, Helsinki, Athens – and soaking up the culture there, the food, the architecture and different histories of making and production attached to the evolution of each destination. Our time in these cities, each of which has its own distinct but rich history of arts and textiles, really feeds into our desire to create a business working with artists with functionality in mind.

It was great to find and work with an independent specialist quiltmaker Maisie Utting in Northumberland whose expertise in the Japanese Sashiko-stitch technique resulted in our limited-edition handmade quilt in collaboration with Paul Morrison. It is so exciting to see how each artist’s fabric comes to life for our collection of limited-edition ready-made pieces.

But, when we’re not working on Saison International, Eleanor spends time in her art studio preparing new works (she is currently working towards an exhibition in Düsseldorf later in 2022), while Sam works in a studio in the back of his bookshop in Antwerp, publishing projects with international artists.”

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