Anatomy Of A Design: A Closer Look At New Product From The Vale London

Melinda Marquardt, Founder of The Vale London, sits down to give us a closer look into the design process in creating Pardus Toile Wallpaper. The product is part of the company’s Spring/Summer 2020 Beaufort collection.

Pardus Toile finished design & full repeat in Oxblood colorway.

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Melinda Marquardt: I started to develop this collection last January 2019. I don’t like to rush my design process, so I’m always illustrating and drawing. If a pattern isn’t coming together, I will push it to the next collection or remove it from the collection.

Raymond: What was the overall time-line from conception to final design?
Melinda: Each pattern can take a full year to develop. Pardus Toile took me about six weeks to design, and then there’s a lot of back and forth with the printer to figure out scale and color correction. 

Vale Founder + Designer Melinda Marquardt in her home studio.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea come from?
Melinda: I was really inspired by tattoo art and the Dutch masters. Before I started designing textiles, I was an artist and worked on giant realist drawings that people often compared to tattoos. I wanted to bring this style into my design work for this collection. 

ASPIRE: Please describe your overall creative and design process, and if there was a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Melinda: My process is a little different from traditional textile designers. I usually have no idea what the final product will look like. I illustrate images that inspire me and then build them into a pattern. Many designers will map out the final design and then “fill it in” I do the opposite and put it together like a puzzle. For example, with Pardus Toile, I started with ink drawings of snakes and panthers and designed the flowers much later to merge these elements together. 

Peonies watercolor (left) and Tulips watercolor (right) in the style of Dutch masters.

Raymond: How was this design created?
Melinda: Everything I do starts with a hand-drawing. The only digital aspect of my work is the color adjustments and building the repeat. It’s really important that you see the hand of the artist in the final product. I want my customers to feel like they are buying art for their home. 

Raymond: Please describe the tools and materials that you used to prototype and develop this design?
Melinda: Experimenting with materials is one of my favorite things to do in the studio. I think that beautiful and unexpected patterns can come out of a day of testing out new products. I have worked with ink before, but I’d never worked with Shellac inks until I developed the Pardus Toile. I loved using this heavier ink as it’s harder to control and creates beautiful pools of ink throughout the design. I think creativity comes from trying new things and being open to learning new processes.

Pardus Toile final design with Melinda’s hand drawing of the snake in shellac ink.

Raymond: Was there anything new or unique to this piece – it could be a technique, material or software/app?
Melinda: When I scan my artwork into the computer to edit and build a pattern, I don’t edit the design’s structure at all. I leave all of the ink marks and smudges. I think that these marks are what brings the work to life. I only work with the best digital printers globally, which means that every single brush stroke can be seen in the final product. To me, this makes the final product feel like an original piece of artwork. 

Raymond: Did you encounter any challenges that affected the design?
Melinda: My biggest challenge is color matching. During development, I am working with a handful of different mills. I can send them Pantone color chips to match, but each mill will come back with a slightly different shade of a particular color. I want the collection to coordinate, but it’s often really difficult to get the exact shade you need as natural yarns can be tough to dye evenly. I only work with all-natural fibers, so this can be a challenge sometimes. 

Pardus Toile room set in the Haze colorway inset in panels.

Raymond: Design Ethos?
Melinda: The Vale is committed to remaining environmentally friendly. Clothing textiles and home goods are often worn once or only used for a couple of months and then sent to a landfill. We are focused on creating luxurious products that stand the test of time and are 100% natural and recyclable.

Take a closer look at the Beaufort Collection from The Vale London here.

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