One To Watch: Zoe Murphy

14th October 2011
I am so excited I finally managed to sit Zoe Murphy down and get her to answer a few questions, not an easy task with this extremely busy lady. I am beyond ecstatic about having her on the blog today as not only am I fan but I got to know Zoe better during our lovely shoot that we did for Heart Home magazine back in May. I like to consider her as a friend and someone who I admire so much. Full of life, charismatic and passionate about her work and Margate, she is one in a million. Here we get to discover the real Zoe and believe me you will fall in love…

When did you realise you had a passion for design? 
When I was small I used to make everything I could for my dolls houses out of recycled bits of rubbish. I remember spending HOURS paying close attention to emulating all the little details using matchsticks or paper or bits of rubber and wood. The whole thing was put together using miniature furniture pieces I made – it was brilliant! When I was a child I used to tell everyone I wanted to become an ‘Interior designer’, it was around the time that ‘changing rooms’ had first started on the BBC and I loved the theatrics and the staging of all the themes. It was all the stuff of childhood playtime though until I got to further education and university, it was there that I fell in love with textile design – surface pattern & colour and realised I wanted to make design my whole life.

Where do you inspirations come from? 
My most obvious inspiration is my home town and the social history it has. I grew up in Margate in the south east, and the place has so much character and colour in its stories and surroundings. I reference it all the time in my furniture pieces, but it is actually more than that for me. It represents a real jovial defiance and determination that I know runs through me as well, which starts becoming part of the things I make too. I affiliate most of it with the post war era of my home town, when holidays were getting back in the swing again, and lots of people visited Margate in the summers. It strikes me as being quite an aspirational time when people were positive about the future and enjoying Britain again. I think in this current decade we want to relate to those optimistic years again, and so I love mostly to look at patterns and design from that age as a foundation for my own work.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 
Some fantastic things have happened to me in the three short years that I have been set up in business. Being shortlised for the New Designer of the Year award at ‘New Designers’ was a really proud moment. I’ve also had opportunities to meet my favourite photographers and artists through what I do which still humbles me immensely in a good way – Tracey Emin stopped into my studio last year on a trip to Margate and I could not have been happier. Having my work stocked by the prestigious Liberty in London has been a constant joy over the last few years and I still consider that to be one of the best things I am involved in. But hands down, as cliche as it might sound, the most important and brightest moments for me are the ones where my local community is rewarded for my work. I’ve put on workshops for local young people and been involved with town restoration and promotion in lots of ways, and it’s those moments/projects where I come home and feel like I’m achieving something really good with what I do.

What do you hope to achieve in 5 years time? 
I would love to push the boundaries of my process a lot more. My ethics are very important to me and I feel there is a LOT more to be done in the way of furniture re-use and developing peoples relationships with the things they own. So there will definitely be some changes/progression over the next five years. I hope to be involved in some collaborative projects by then, the best thing about my job is the people. I fully intend on travelling a bit, for work and play.

What famous artists/designers do you admire or inspires you the most? 
Martin Parr (photographer), Saul Bass (graphic designer), James Rosenquist (pop artist). All bright and colourful, all slightly humorous, and often with some social commentary in their work.

In five words how would you describe yourself? 
Driven, chatty, sincere, awake (always and very), local.
What 5 things couldn’t you live with out?  
The seaside, bacon, Abi (my assistant), radio 2, coke cola.

A big thank you to Zoe for managing to squeeze me in her busy schedule. A true inspiration to many, There is so much more to her than just designing and restoring furniture. Watch this space…

Images: John Deed for Heart Home, Matthew Murphy, Osborne & Little.

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