Hannah Nunn - Hebden Bridge artist inspired by nature's delicate details
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 November 2019
Hannah Nunn creates beautiful accessories for the home
Anyone who regularly walks the rugged country pathways and well trodden hillsides around Hebden Bridge will probably have stumbled across Hannah Nunn. Literally, in some cases, for Hannah likes nothing more than getting 'up close and personal' with nature - sitting among the flowers with her sketch book, lying among the grasses taking notes and disappearing into tree canopies to snap photographs of their detailed form and textures.
It's all in the name of research as Hannah draws inspiration from the wildlife around her West Yorkshire home for a business which developed from the seed of an idea into a range of stunning artisan products.
From a converted industrial building in the heart of this trendiest of towns, Hannah transforms her sketches and photographs into extraordinarily delicate designs for a range of hand made lamp, wallpapers, window films and fabrics that sell to customers all over the world.
Her studio, up two flights of stairs and with massive picture windows pulling in the light, is a hive of well considered productivity. There is systematic order to what could have been artistic chaos, yet the inevitable presence of modern technology is outweighed by the paraphernalia of creativity.
The surfaces and walls are covered with cards, photographs, plant cuttings, twigs, dried leaves and grasses, flower heads and peculiar textured artefacts (unidentifiable to the untrained eye), all of them collected for their shapes and surfaces. Shelves are piled high with different sizes and formations of lamps, their delicate cut-out designs springing to life from back lighting. Draughtsman's drawer chests house fixtures and fittings and a glut of gloriously coloured punches -tools of her trade. In deep-set shelves lie rolls of fabrics and sheafs of wallpaper samples, and window panes have been turned into opaque meadow scenes illuminated by the early morning sun.
It's a long way from Hannah's humble beginnings when in 1999, with her two young children Ffion and Euan in tow, she set up a tiny studio in a shared space at the top of a mill in Hebden Bridge. To Leeds-born Hannah it was like coming home - only better.
'Hebden is a great place for creative people,' she says. 'It offers the perfect mix of culture and artistic community and it was an ideal place to bring up the children.'
Hannah was returning to her native Yorkshire from Wales, where she studied art and design at Carmarthen. But the bias towards ceramics left her wanting and she took a year out to take stock.
'I lived in a very big, lovely old mansion by the estuary which had a small derelict castle on the doorstep,' says Hannah. 'I was surrounded by cats and abstract art. It was heaven.' Encouraged by her very supportive parents and inspirational artistic friends, Hannah developed a childhood passion for drawing and followed a 'nagging impulse to make and create'. She worked hard to find her feet commercially. She was encouraged to sell her paper cut cards and then developed the concept of cut-out lamp shades with the help of Arts Council funding.
'I couldn't cut into plastic coated pre-bought lampshade material so I borrowed a laminator and started experimenting with thin lining paper. I created a very crude lampshade and gradually refined it to produce a finished product. I wanted it to be as minimalist as possible, so they are all the same neutral colour. The impact is in the detail of the cut-out design.'
Hannah took her shades to a trade show and soon found galleries queueing to sell her work. In 2005 the studio was earmarked for residential development and Hannah moved out to open a shop called Radiance.
'I loved meeting customers face to face,' she says. 'I was working on a shoestring but gradually building up the business, selling my own work as well as that of other makers.'
Then in 2013 Hannah went on a life changing research trip to Japan and came back inspired to launch a range of wallpapers.
'I brought back some screen printed Washi paper and started experimenting, cutting lining paper and laminating it myself,' recalls Hannah. 'At the same time a friend was running a surface pattern course and I thought it would be useful to enrol so I could learn how to put patterns into repeat, using motifs from my lamps.'
Satisfied that they worked and could be turned into wallpaper, Hannah approached a factory in Loughborough to see if they would be prepared to do a small print run. Test runs proved successful and Hannah, with help from her Dad, raised enough funds to run two patterns, each in three colours.
'The factory has incredibly approachable, helpful and supportive,' says Hannah. 'Although I am a very small business they encouraged me to launch my first range of wallpapers.'
It caught the attention of a US design blog and suddenly Hannah was selling to customers all over the world, from Peru to Mexico, Japan to Finland.
Hannah quickly needed more space and moved her workshop into a converted industrial building just round the corner from the shop, employing colleague Oonagh Staerck three days a week and helped by her father every Thursday. In November 2017 The Window Film Company asked for eight of Hannah's designs to add to their range, and Hannah was started producing a limited range of fabrics based on her wallpapers.
'I am always looking for inspiration,' says Hannah, who lives with her partner, landscape artist and local courier Dean Rebeiro, just round the corner from her studio. 'When I'm out walking I rarely come back empty handed, and I always take my camera so I can photograph close-up details of flowers, grasses, leaves and seeds that will be developed on the computer into motifs. I get so excited when I find something extraordinary. I want to learn all about it and decide how I can use it. It can be a long process. I don't rush anything. The patterns and motifs can take a long time to evolve, but there's always a sense of deep satisfaction when they eventually come together. I don't think I shall ever quite get used to seeing something I've created in someone else's home!'