Kelly Swallow is an Irish designer, who has always loved working with textiles in her spare time. Since she was a child, she has been interested in sewing and fabric. “We had my grandmothers really old manual sewing machine in our house which was perfect for starting out on little projects as a child. So, I did all the usual things like making dolls clothes. I remember making a very complicated patchwork quilt when I was about ten, which was quite ambitious looking back at it!
“I have always reused things…I used to use vintage curtains to make coats and I would always try to look beyond the obvious and do something different.”
“It was probably in my late teens that I really developed a passion for fabrics and design – at that stage I studied fashion design. It was then that I started to accumulate a huge collection of fabrics and over many years I gradually moved towards working on interiors and upholstery. … After many, many years of designing and making I worked on a project which was a family piece of furniture – an old chaise longue which had been passed down to my husband. I thought I’d do something a bit different with it, he was sure his Aunt Kath would have approved! It was beautiful when finished and before I knew it I had a waiting list of clients and so set up my own business making unique upholstery.”
An avid collector of fabric, she says her collection tends to take over the house sometimes! A new piece of fabric is often the key to a new piece, and she is always excited about new projects. However, she says “Completing each chair is very special. Seeing photos of my work in magazines is quite a thrill.”
She loves what she does, but is always ready to explore new ideas. She would like to try more collaborative work – a dream collaboration would be with UK interior design Abigail Aherne, or wild fabric designers Timorous Beasties.
I love Kelly’s sense of fun, her clashing of disparate patterns and colours. It’s a great balancing act, which underlines her immense skill with scale, colour, and texture. With such vivid colours and lots of pattern, it could so easily hit overload, but careful placement of coordinating sections of fabric ensures the look hangs together well.
Her chairs are gregarious, always welcoming and ready to be part of the conversation, and each chair has its own distinct and very definite personality. Now, I’ve just got to convince my husband that we need one in our new house.
And the last word from Kelly, on the best piece of advice she’s ever been given?
“Of course you can do it! – constantly said by my husband.”