Now, perhaps more than ever, the idea of bringing a little extra joy into our homes is hugely significant.
Manchester-based homeware designer Emma Alviti‘s designs are inspired by the moments in life that bring joy, with the hope that they in turn will bring joy to the homes they inhabit. “I wanted to create a homewares brand focusing on simple, colour-led designs,” Emma tells me, “using natural materials and an environmentally conscious approach. Most importantly, I wanted to bring joy and creativity to people’s homes.”
She has two core ranges – a main range of homewares and Little Em, offering designs for children. The main range includes luxury cushions, wall hangings, wash bags and art prints, which all start out with hand painted artwork. These have an emphasis on simplicity, natural materials and beautiful colour combinations. Little Em has art prints, wall banners and cards designed in carefully chosen colour palettes, designed to be treasured by kids and adults alike.
Prior to setting up her brand, Emma worked for seven years as a wallpaper designer. “At the first company I worked at I was designing wallcoverings and murals for hotels, and for the second I was designing domestic wallcoverings for people’s homes. I think I was destined to be self employed, but have always been fairly risk averse, so it took a while for me to gather the courage to do it. When I finally did, it was just a few months before the pandemic started, so it was a tricky start!”
I think designing patterns is the perfect marriage of expressive drawing and mark making, along with the restrictions of the mathematical approach of repeat design.
Her creative process always starts with hand painted or printed artwork. “I love all of the imperfections and fluidity you get from analogue processes – plus it’s such a joy to do!” she tells me. “I compile these elements using CAD and work them up into placement prints or repeating designs before sampling them onto cottons and linens, which is where they really come to life with colour and texture.”
“I’ve always loved textiles,” she says, “and I think my mum passed that love onto me, as she’s always sewn and been creative. I thrive when I’m designing within restrictions, as I like to problem solve. I think designing patterns is the perfect marriage of expressive drawing and mark making, along with the restrictions of the mathematical approach of repeat design. Creating a seamless pattern is so satisfying!”
Reducing the environmental impact of her business has been hugely important to Emma from the start. “I always thought if I was going to start a business, it would be best to begin with good practices from the get go,” she says. “That’s not to say I think I’ve got things perfect, but I have some good blocks to build upon. I have experience of mass manufacturing, and was always horrified by the amount of waste that was involved, so that was something I really wanted to limit, which led to the development of my Waste Not products, which are made from fabric off-cuts, making each one unique. All of my products are made in the UK, which was borne out of a desire to limit their carbon footprint as much as possible, and support British manufacturing.”
Beyond the creation of her products, Emma is keen to note that these principles are woven into her product packaging as well, having spent many hours carefully sourcing products that are either compostable or recyclable. “I also try to be mindful of my output,” she says, “slowing things down so that I’m not constantly launching new products. I try to launch at a few key points in the year, and then add or take away little bits from my core collection.”
Emma tells me that she was always keen to work for herself, and that the self-employed lifestyle really suits her. “One of the things I love most about being self-employed is how varied my days are,” she says. “Since the start of this year I’ve tried to go for a quick walk at the start of the workday – something I find really helps clear your head when you work at home! I then begin with setting some goals for the day, and doing some bits of admin to ease me in. After that I could be doing anything from freelance design work, to photographing new products, to working on marketing, to cutting fabric for new products and anything in between. I tend to find I get into a good flow in the afternoons and evenings and have a habit of finishing too late, so I’m working on trying to set myself some boundaries to have a better balance.”
When it comes to finding inspiration for her design work, the Northern landscape plays a huge role. “I’m originally from Shropshire, which has classic rolling hills,” she tells me, “so I’ve always found the more rugged landscape of the North a lovely contrast, and so much more dramatic! I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the Peak District in the last couple of years and the scenery is just so beautiful; it was inevitable it would inspire some designs for me. This year I’ll be launching some designs inspired by part of the Pennine way, which feature elements of the landscape as well as some of the smaller details I only started noticing with heightened senses post lockdown. I also have a design inspired by the flora found on some of the walks me and my partner did in Reddish Vale Country Park during lockdown, which I can’t wait to share!”
In terms of the future of her brand, Emma has plenty she’d still like to achieve. “I always have a huge list of products and designs I’d love to develop,” she says, “so I have to be conscious about reining them in! I would especially love to create blankets one day, as I love how they can be part of lots of different everyday moments – picnics outside, beach days, cosy evenings on the sofa or homemade forts..”
“Other than developing new products, I’d also love to grow the product side of the business and create less reliance on freelance work. I’ll be attending more markets this year which I’m really excited about, as it’s so lovely to meet people and talk about my work in person.”
All photography © Emma Alviti, used with permission.
Kate is the founder and editor of Fabric of the North, borne out of her passion for supporting mindful, aesthetic and sustainable small businesses. Based in the North West, by day she helps thoughtful small brands and solo business owners achieve meaningful growth through 1-2-1 guidance, intentional strategy and considered content creation. She is also a veteran blogger, having launched her award-winning interior lifestyle blog Fabric of my Life back in 2009.