GET TO KNOW: Emma J Shipley and her new magical tableware collection

With the clocks going forward and warmer, brighter evenings on the horizon, we’re all looking forward to inviting friends over for an intimate, outdoor dinner party.

What better way to get ready then than by giving your tabletop a zhoosh with Emma J Shipley‘s new tableware collection. Known for her hand-drawn enchanting prints that typically adorn cushions and wallpaper, Emma has recently branched out into tableware and tells Charlotte Page (@stylingyourhome) all about the pieces that will bring joy to your table this spring.

Emma, its such a delight to chat with you today on the release of your new captivating spring tableware collection, how are you feeling?

I’m feeling excited about the launch, and cautiously optimistic about the weeks and months ahead with the restrictions slowly easing. I can’t wait for lots of outdoor dining and picnicking this spring.

Totally! The new collection is so enchanting, can you tell us a little more about it?

Thank you! It’s a new collection of tableware including placemats, coasters and trays in some of my favourite designs; past and present. There are  Lemur and Pegasus, which I created a few years ago but have become favourites. Wonder World and Highlandia are newer, inspired by my travels through the Scottish Highlands, as well as William Blake prints and Mary Queen of Scots! I’ve gone for bright, lively colours as I want to evoke happiness and wonder, whether you’re eating inside or out.

Im so blown away by your brand, and would love to know a little bit about your journey?

I have always had a fascination with nature and animals, in particular those from the most extreme and wild places on Earth, such as the jungles of South America and the plains of Africa.

I’ve also always loved to draw. I mix inspiration from my own travels with my imagination, and fictional influences such as myths, legends and fairytales, to create my unique and fantastical world of design. I draw all of the designs by hand in pencil, and colour them digitally, giving a distinctive look combining traditional and cutting-edge techniques.

I launched the brand at London Fashion Week in 2012, after graduating from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Textiles. Browns launched my graduate collection of printed scarves and now my collections are stocked in some of the best department stores and boutiques around the world, including Harrods and Liberty London.

How have you found working in such challenging times this year? 

My small team and I have been working from home, and I’ve also been hiring this year as the business has been growing, which is a challenge to do and for new members of the team to start remotely! We’ve just had to be really organised and keep communication flowing. We also try and keep some social aspects with a Friday teatime chat and Zoom quizzes.

I’m lucky as I have a home office, which I think really helps, and means I do have some separation between work and home life. The cats also love me being around all the time! Having said that, it’s difficult as a designer to get inspired while sitting at home, and it will be really nice to start going into an office again in the coming months and hope to travel for inspiration

Setting the table is such a treat and with your placemats and coasters what advice can you give people to create the perfect tablescape?

Placemats and coasters are a really easy way to transform your table as they make such an impact. I like to mix and match designs, and this works best when you have the same colours that running through. For example, you could choose green and make sure that everything you choose has a touch of green in the design.

I also love a coloured tablecloth, proper linen napkins tied with ribbon, candles and flowers – either fresh, or colourful dried blooms laid to create a centrepiece. Go for colours and flowers that you love and you can’t go wrong!

Each piece from the collection has been made ethically, could you let us know a little more about this journey/process?

I want to leave a positive legacy on the planet and our aim is to create quality pieces to be treasured. We reject the idea of seasonality and ‘fast fashion’, instead favouring a slow and considered approach to design. I believe that our designs are timeless and trend-less, that my pieces will spark the imagination and bring joy for years to come!

We choose our factories and craftspeople carefully, not only for their skill and quality of making but also for their ethical practices and proximity. We want to support local manufacturing, in the UK and Europe, where we know employees are supported and treated fairly, as well as minimising our carbon footprint. We choose our materials carefully, considering their impact on the natural world, and are always trying to minimise waste. We create pieces from our leftover fabrics, such as our silk notebooks, and produce everything in limited numbers so we do not have ‘dead stock’. We also make our packaging as sustainable as possible, using recycled and biodegradable materials.

We also started a partnership with World Land Trust last year in which we are donating trees for endangered wildlife habitat. We have an initial goal of 1,000 trees, and so far we have donated over 450.

What is next for Emma Shipley, whats in the pipeline?

We have lots of new things coming this year, including a new website which I’m super excited about. Also, new home fragrance designs coming soon, an exclusive with John Lewis later in the summer and a new design coming in the autumn too. I’m also planning to travel this year once I’m able, I would love to go to Madagascar to be inspired by its unique wildlife.

Shop Emma J Shipley here.