With his silvery quiff, goatee beard and quirky patchwork of handmade and vintage clothing, British-born, New York-based Martyn Thompson has an air of puckish woodland nymph about him. The celebrated former commercial photographer turned textile and product designer is certainly magical in his thinking – for more than 30 years, his photography, whether for the world’s leading glossy magazines or clients such as Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co and Hermès, has been renowned for its moody and romantic ‘lived in’ feel.
In his own personal photography projects, though, Thompson has constantly sought to capture the ‘accidental’ in moments, such as the beauty of a floor splattered with paint. ‘It has always been about embracing the spontaneous element of accident in creativity,’ he says. And since 2013, Thompson has expanded this idea by ‘experimenting with different ways of reproducing a photo on different surfaces and textures’.
The result: a textile collection that includes patterns such as the ombré-effect ‘Watercolour’ (inspired by a photograph of rippling pool water at La Colombe d’Or) and the blowsy florals of ‘Cezanne’s Farewell’ (taken from an image of flowers in a vase in Thompson’s ‘Falling In Love At The Institute’ series). Each one is woven as a jacquard on tapestry looms, lending a sense of depth and antiquity, perfect for curtains, floor cushions and upholstering furniture.
Warming even further to this theme, Thompson launched the ‘Accidental Expressionist’ tea set earlier this year with Emily Johnson of Stoke-on-Trent-based ceramics firm 1882Ltd. Comprising cups, saucers, bowls and a teapot, whose shape was influenced by a coffee pot created by Thompson’s great-aunt, the revolutionary ceramicist Susie Cooper. The splattered glazed finish intimates the imperfect beauty of something handmade.
Thompson has also recently handpainted one-off pieces, from cups to vases – ‘I’m a stripy, spotty, splodgy painter. I can’t do any more than that,’ he laughs – for his design takeover of Jo Malone London’s HQ during London Design Festival, celebrating his collaborative capsule collection of candles and diffusers, in scents such as Lime Basil & Mandarin and Peony & Blush Suede, launching next April.
For this, his ‘Falling in Love’ series prints will also appear on 1882 Ltd-made vessels and packaging. In the takeover, new ottomans and tables by Thompson will be shown, as well as pieces by Pinch upholstered in ‘Pink Cloud’ (a new colourway of his ‘Dropcloth’ fabric) and flowers by Wild at Heart’s Nikki Tibbles set in large vases, also by Thompson for 1882Ltd. ‘A lot of my career has been about photographing flowers, but it’s always been hard to find big vases. This will feel very Brâncuși in style,’ Thompson enthuses.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.