Leigh Bagley

I never take it for granted living on this beautiful stretch of coastline. Whenever visitors arrive they are in awe of the peace, the beauty, Gullane beach is our back yard, the incredible friendliness of this area and all on the doorstep of Edinburgh, a half hour train ride away, with Glasgow only another hour further. The local artistic community is amazing, we are very spoilt and  recently I discovered a designer living on the block: Leigh Bagley

Leigh is a textile designer, he teaches at Glasgow School of Art and has recently launched his own range of fabric and wallpaper. Inspired by nature and local scenery, his designs are named after nearby locations. I loved meeting Leigh and seeing his work up close and was delighted to have the opportunity to interview him. I genuinely wanted to find out as much as I could about his creative process and also to spread the word far and wide about his elegant prints.

GSI: Where did you train as a designer?
LB: I specialised as a knitted textile designer graduating from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London in 2000. I fondly look back at this period in my life, the opportunity to be creative without restrictions was so important and enjoyable. Being able to take creative risks and working collaboratively across disciplines was creatively grounding and challenging. The knowledge gained at this time has given me a solid foundation to work from. I still use processes, methods and techniques of working which aid my creative journey to this day.

GSI: What brought you to Scotland?
LB: I met my partner at the RCA who had been offered a lecturing position in Edinburgh. Straight after graduation we decided to move out of London and continue our careers in Scotland. I have to say it was a hard decision at the time but one that has been pivotal in establishing myself creatively.

GSI: How do you come up with your designs?
LB: I tend to start with a quick sketch or drawing, taking inspiration from research or photographs I’ve collected on my travels. The current collection of wallpaper designs are all taken from elements of the architectural print series I produced in 2012. The digital drawing process offers endless possibilities so simplifying forms down to basic shapes has its challenges. I draw in adobe Illustrator creating images that are vector based. This software uses mathematic equations and geometric primitives (points, lines, and shapes) to create art that is clean, and can be scaled infinitely, without any loss of quality. This is incredibly important as what might be a small detail in a drawing might become a defining form in a large scale wallpaper design.

GSI: What inspires you?
Everything! Shadows, the built environment, a skyline, technology, archives, Permanently having a camera with me on my iPhone enables me to capture anything I see that inspires me. Being an educator is also incredibly inspirational and rewarding, seeing a new designers development is enriching.

GSI: How do you come up with your colour palette?
LB: Again, this comes from initial research and inspiration. I’m constantly capturing colour references on my iPhone from nature to architecture, food to packaging. Surrounding yourself with unusual and unexpected colour proportions and compositions is very inspiring. I don’t however look at colour trends, or buy into the notion of ‘colour of the year’! I believe colour is a personal, emotional connection with an object, surface or product and should reflect your aesthetic taste and emote feeling and expression. Covering your walls for instance with ‘today’s must have colour’ to me seems pointless and lack integrity.

GSI: I also want to know more about your series of Fine Art Prints – which came first your design work or your prints?
LB: It happened at the same time really. As a lecturer in Textiles at The Glasgow school of Art I had showed knitted textile work as part of a staff exhibition and realised I’d missed designing on a regular basis. With this new enthusiasm I decided to revisit design work that hadn’t develop during the staff project. This work formed the basis of my starting point when designing my first collection of prints. Even as a student my design aesthetic had always leaned towards a very graphic outcome so It seemed natural to explore my love of graphic print but in a new context.

GSI: What are your prints about?
LB: Colour, the whole creative process for me starts with colour – I’m slightly obsessed! I’ve always been interested in how other people perceive colour and use it in their own environments. My prints explore interactions of colour through geometric composition, each one meticulously planned, every hue, proportion, saturation and opacity of colour is considered.

GSI: Who are your favourite artists?
LB: I tend to look at design rather than art and have been inspired mostly by mid century design over the past 20 years. Hella Jongerius is a huge influence on my work. She’s taken a look at the way colour behaves, exploring shapes, materials, shadows and reflections which I find incredibly fascinating.

GSI: What will your work be about in 5 years time?
LB: I can’t see my aesthetic evolving beyond abstract colour compositions but who knows. I’d like to explore more geometric florals for both wallpaper and Editioned prints. The Lupins print, above, has been incredibly popular so it’s certainly worth exploring more abstract floral ideas.

Leigh’s work is carefully crafted from meticulous observation, he transforms his initial interpretations of the natural world into amazing graphic patterns and colour ways. I love the glamourous, contemporary mood of his designs and artwork that reflect so perfectly the surrounding area that we are so lucky to live in. I know they are perfect for mid century and modernist architecture, but would love to see his work boldly juxtaposed in a period setting as well.


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