7th April 2020

Craft / Featured / Gail Bryson

How Eco-Anxiety has Changed the way Print Maker Gail Bryson Designs

57 6 mins 5

GGail Bryson is an independent designer and screen printer. Each design she creates is purposeful and thoughtfully made to ensure the longevity of the piece.

Some Good Ideas had an honest conversation with Gail about how her concerns for the environment are affecting the way she works. Conscious of waste, toxic materials and environmental destruction, Gail had hit a wall. But in working around these issues Gail has challenged herself to think creatively as an eco-conscious designer.

Some Good Ideas: Hi Gail, how long have you been designing textiles, have you always considered the environmental sustainability within your design?

Gail Bryson: I started designing textiles when I left Art College in 1996. My first job was working for Terrence Conran and The Conran Shop. Being eco-conscious wasn’t a thing back then but our design team did follow Sir Terrance’s design ethos and designed products to last and didn’t follow transient fashion trends. This has always stuck with me.

When I started designing my own products, I was very determined to have everything made as locally as possible. I wanted to source my fabric from the U.K., and I wanted to print the fabric myself and get my products sewn in London. Cost price has always been a bit of a struggle and the mark up I’ve made has not been as much as if I had had products made abroad in larger quantities. It’s made wholesaling my products difficult to make work for some products.

SGI: What struggles have you dealt with as a designer aiming to create non-pollutant products?

GB: In the past few years I’ve felt increasingly conscious of not wanting to create more unnecessary waste for the world and have tried to avoid just designing products for the sake of doing something new. Recently I’ve found myself questioning my designs/ideas more and more; is it useful, will it last, could I make it better with less harm to the environment, will people pay more or care to have it hand-printed/ hand-made in the U.K.? Am I prepared to compromise the quality to make a more affordable product? This thought process has definitely made me think more about what I create.

I’ve also felt an increasing consciousness of not wanting to be pushy while selling my products, whilst also communicating the right message. I think this partly comes from feeling that we don’t need so much ‘stuff’ and an annoyance at the constant bombardment on social media and email mail outs of companies encouraging you to buy more when I don’t think we need to. It’s been challenging to sell when I don’t feel like I want to be sold to and I’ve definitely felt a bit of a ‘designers block’ when I’ve tried to work on new designs with these concerns going on.

SGI: Has your concern for the environment changed your printmaking methods?

GB: The process of printing, which I’ve always just taken for granted as this is what I studied at Art College, has got me wondering if there are better ways of decorating fabric, even though pattern and print are my big passions. I use water-based inks but the process can create lots of waste for example washing the screens, the chemicals used in preparing the screens, the fabric and paper waste and small things like all the tape used to prevent ink spreading where you don’t want it to. I’ve been wondering if there is a more environmentally friendly way of doing it. Recently I’ve started experimenting with paper stencils, which I feel is a less harmful process than creating a stencil on the screen as it uses fewer chemicals in the process. I’ve also been more inspired by nature and more organic shapes and creating designs with more stories and meaning rather than creating a print for the sake of just a pattern or decoration.

SGI: Do you express your concerns to your customer?

GB: This is something I want to do better and I would like to express the choices I make more in my work. I do my best to ensure all packaging is recyclable or made from recycled materials. The plastic bags I send my mail orders out in are made from recycled plastic (but I’m considering reverting to paper wrapped orders when the stock has run out). I use recyclable paper tape and unbleached/recycled tissue paper to wrap them up in. I only use packaging that’s necessary.

I also use a local social enterprise to sew my products; it’s great to be able to work with the local community in London whilst supporting a worthwhile cause.

I’m constantly trying to do things better and create less waste and make more useful products. My most recent screen prints and the card I use for my workshops are printed on GF smith paper card, which is made from recycled paper cups.

I want to create designs and products with more meaning and that are able to demonstrate and express my concerns for the environment. I want to experiment with more eco conscious print processes and materials and generally be more considered about the work I create and the products I produce.

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Gail Bryson

Gail Bryson is a textile, graphic and product designer. She specialises in simple and graphic prints that complement a wide range of home styles. Trained at Edinburgh College of Art, she developed her design skills at The Conran Shop and The Nest before subsequently becoming co-founder and creative director of Bryson Loxley. Amongst her clients, there are John Lewis and Jamie Oliver. She has also collaborated individually with Pedlars and Future and Found on a wide range of projects over the years.

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