London-based artist Hazel Stark learned to appreciate art and great design from an early age, and she just launched a line of linens showcasing her clean aesthetic with natural dyes and muted colors.

By Maren Ellingboe
Updated May 23, 2017

Born in picturesque Surrey, England, Hazel Stark learned to appreciate art and great design from an early age, thanks to her woodworking father and frequent trips to London museums with both of her parents. Though she has worked with ceramics for a number of years, her just-launched line of linens showcases her clean aesthetic with natural dyes and muted colors. She has also started offering workshops with other artisans in her London studio: you can currently learn to make abstract mobiles and stunning paper wreaths.

How did you get started as a designer?
I've known since I was a child that I wanted to do something creative. I studied Fine Art as an undergraduate and it gave me a really broad understanding of the creative process and art history. After graduating I worked for a number of artists and designers behind the scenes. I recently left a job of three years at a fashion accessories brand to start my own company. It’s been a tough few months, but I really believe in the quality of what I make, and I think it's so important to have an ethically and environmentally responsible alternative to mass produced textiles.

What inspires you?
I love researching traditional and natural textile dying and printing methods, and I'm incredibly inspired by artists' work, especially Hockney, Mattise and the early modernists.

What new trends in the design world are you excited about?
The new wave of artisans over mass production: A growing number of designers are choosing to produce goods in small quantities, carefully sourcing materials and making items by hand with both new and traditional technologies.

What's a trend you would never get behind?
I’m pretty allergic to glitter. Also I really don’t get bling.

Have your sensibilities changed since you started your company?
I’m so new to it that I’m still not far from my initial concept, but I recently started working with natural dyes and I definitely appreciate subtler colours now.

What, if any, changes are you planning on making for upcoming collections?
I’m working on a new palette of linens, using natural dyes again but in richer, muted tones. I’m also working on some new silkscreen prints inspired by the background elements in some of my favourite paintings, which I have then scaled up or repeated. I love the idea of people who know the work recognizing them and enjoying those elements afresh.

What’s an interesting Mad Genius Tip you use while designing your pieces?
I take photos everywhere I go–of packaging in the supermarket, flowers in a garden, all sorts of different things. I find that when I look back through my phone that without realizing it, I’ve been capturing similar colors, shapes or textures. It really helps me see what I’m interested in pursuing in my designs.

Do you have a mentor and if so, what’s an important, useful or funny lesson you remember?
Not exactly. The accessories designer I worked for until recently certainly helped my understand that working for yourself is incredibly hard at times, she was always the first to arrive and last to leave, but made the time to take good breaks abroad. I can't afford long haul flights just yet, but the local parks are lovely–and it’s definitely worth taking time off to get your energy back and feel inspired again.

What talents, artisans, entrepreneurs and designers do you admire and why?
I have been fortunate in having some really talented American designers encouragement via Instagram. I’m also a huge fan of Doug Johnston, Ilana Kohn and Mary Manning, and I just couldn’t bare working in the studio without Ira Glass’s company.

What new innovations or technologies influence what you do?
I am totally addicted to Instagram, and it’s been really influential in the development of my design practice and getting my work out there internationally. I really hope that next innovation in image-based micro-blogging will be as user-friendly!