June 07 2011
London is a pet theme in the work of homeware designer Michelle Mason. “Every day, the walk to my studio in Clerkenwell takes me past St Paul’s and Shoreditch. London life and architecture always inspires me,” says Mason, who studied illustration at Chelsea School of Art before doing an MA in graphics at Central Saint Martins.
In fact, her vision of the metropolis isn’t contemporary but harks back to the 1950s. Yet forget images of a smog-wreathed city. Her cushions (from £45), cotton tea towels (£11.50) and melamine tumblers (£7.99) feature jaunty, faux-naïf graphics depicting streetscapes evocative of the joys of spring. Sprightly women in tightly cinched coats walk Scottie dogs past blossoming lollipop-shaped trees. Double-decker buses circle a sunlit Piccadilly Circus. Modern life rarely intrudes: the Gherkin is just visible in a cushion picturing the Tower of London foregrounded by a dachshund and Scottie dog (second picture, £45).
Mason’s 1950s mania stems from a passion for midcentury design, Lucienne Day prints and 1950s illustrations: “I like their whimsical quality, colours and low-tech printing techniques.” Even so, in a modern twist, Mason’s crisp images are often digitally printed onto her cotton-satin cushions (she also screenprints).
And she does offer an alternative to 1950s fever. Her pared-down, 1930s-inspired Leaf tea towel (first picture, £9.25) was designed in collaboration with the London Transport Museum, which has given Mason permission to rework a design by Marion Dorn. (Mason also features the destination signs from London buses on mugs and cushions.)
Simpler still are her felted merino wool rugs: one, called Stella (£350), nods to lace but is cleanly geometric, and far from frilly.
Seesawing between simplicity and hip-1950s retro, Mason’s pieces somehow straddle timelessness and trendiness. “I see them as modern-day souvenirs but, hopefully, they are also collectable.”