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Shore-ly not: Whose design collection is inspired by beach rubbish?

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Georgina Wilson-Powell

14 April 2017

Kirsty and Pete Thomas set up design studio Tom Pigeon in 2014 on the Scottish east coast. The abstract and modernism inspired team produce jewellery, prints and stationery and have worked with London Design Week, Selfridges, the Tate Modern and others. They’ll be showcasing their Shipwreck collection, inspired by local beach debris, at London Craft Week in May.

Handmade at Kew info and tickets

“Around us in East Fife there are lots of different beaches where debris gets washed up,” explains Kirsty. “The rope and nets from boats, the driftwood...each beach has different things that wash up - on one it’s mussel shells or on another it's seawashed glass from the bottle factories toward Edinburgh. Another has white shells but no other shells - it’s all down to the tides and the weight on the object. We wanted to do something that reflected the colours, shapes and rhythms of objects that get washed up.”

The new collection entails paired back and pastel prints, a rug, wooden mobiles, model sailing boats and stationery. It's not what you'd first think of when seeing Tom Pigeon's coastal inspiration.

“We made the prints last year. Our style is abstract so we strip a theme back to its most simple form and go from there,” Kirsty explains. “We wanted to work with bigger objects so we worked with a local Indian rug maker, our in-house jewellery team and Edward Smith who is a north coast model boat builder.”

And while their Scottish location is an influence, you might not recognise it in Kirsty’s work.

“I did a harbour series inspired by places near us, looking at the geography of typical villages but made it geometric and reduced it to circles and triangles. That’s our reflection of our area,” she explains. “I love abstract perception, taking shapes you see every day and thinking about composition and colour.”

Tom Pigeon Design Kirsty Pebble Magazine
“Our style is abstract so we strip a theme back to its most simple form and go from there”

Tom Pigeon are one of a few Scottish design studios and makers (alongside knitwear designer Hilary Grant and textile designer Laura Spring) who are finding success on an international stage,

“When I started out seven years ago we were all working small scale and had small UK stockists and over time we’ve all grown at the same pace. Now we are all working at international level and doing the same shows like Milan Week and London Design Week. There's nothing particularly Scottish about us, but it's nice to all work at the same level."

Tom Pigeon Design Pebble Magazine 3

The streamlined Shipwreck collection can be viewed at London Craft Week

The rise of the semi-professional crafting movement is where Kirsty is looking for her next round of inspiration,

“I want to start looking at weaving and tapestry, getting into more crafted things. Dovecote Studios are amazing weavers who run wonderful workshops up here,” she explains. “I would love to do more stuff with furniture and upholstery and fabrics. It’s interesting to spread your wings a bit.”

Perhaps that’s the pigeon in her.

Tom Pigeon will be showcasing Shipwreck at London Craft Week at Fritz Hansen. Kirsty Thomas will also be in conversation with award-winning design writer Katie Treggiden, British-based designer Sebastian Cox, designer Jane Norris and Simon Goff from Floorstory, about the crossover between craft, design and manufacture on 3 May at 6pm.

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