With a name becoming of a rock star or fabulous fictional character it is not that surprising that Sunny Todd comes from a creative heritage. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, Sunny got his big break when Topman commissioned him to design wallpaper and fabrics for their stores. Realising that his bold and unique style of prints was best suited to interiors he went on to create Sunny Todd Prints with his wife Emma. Together they design striking pieces for the home from cushions to washbags and the fabulously named Toddstool poufs. Sunny chats to The LuxPad below about what it’s like to work with your wife and what’s next for the brand…
Growing up did you always know that you wanted to work in art and design – what were your earliest influences?
I grew up in a very artistic household- my parents were chefs and ran restaurants around the country in places including London, Bristol, Cornwall and Herefordshire. My parents always took a keen interest in art and design; the house was full of music, good food, art, fashion and interior books and magazines, beautiful furniture and a lot of bright prints from artists such as Hockney, Matisse, Hodgkin, Frost and Heron. My mum was particularly passionate; she would often tear articles from magazines that she thought I might like and would often take us to Heal’s and the Conran shop. She always encouraged my brother Leo and I to be creative, and although we were initially more interested in Football, we have both ended up working in creative industries.
What was the best and hardest aspect of working in the fashion industry, and do you ever miss it?
After graduating from the RCA I spent time as a freelance designer in London and most of the work I did was in customising garments using silk screen prints. I really enjoyed this period but the turning point came when Topshop commissioned me to design wallpaper and furnishing fabrics for their stores. I realised that my prints were really suited to interiors and that, in contrast to the fast changing world of fashion, the longevity that comes with creating patterns for this market really appealed to me. But I still love fashion! We can’t wait to make the cross over and we are currently working on a collection of silk scarves and have great plans for a range of simple garments that will beautifully showcase our patterns.
What was the turning point that made you decide to create your own business with your wife Emma?
Emma and I have always worked really well together, we love discussing ideas, drawing and printing together but having a young family and demanding teaching jobs meant that we had little time to pursue freelance work, especially living outside of London. We knew that the work we were making was unique and was getting stronger and stronger so we decided to take the plunge and set up Sunny Todd Prints in 2013. Initially we wanted to concentrate on furnishing fabric but very quickly started to develop a small range of products including bags, wash bags, cushions and paper prints to help bring our patterns to a wider audience and to help establish our brand. The birth of our second child in 2014 gave us a real push as Emma was able to use some of her maternity leave to concentrate on setting up our studio, building relationships with local suppliers and makers, and establishing links with some companies on our dream collaboration list which has led to some very exciting projects such as our recent collaboration with Flock.
What are the biggest challenges you face working together and what is the best part of working with her?
Working with Emma is fantastic. We work together on each stage of the process, from initial designs right through to colour selection and printing; ideas move on so quickly as we can bounce off each other and be completely honest, because we know each other so well we can work in a very harmonious way. It is dream to work with my best friend, we have the same energy, drive, enthusiasm and vision for where we want our business to go and it is incredible to enjoy the highs of success together and to be there to support each other when things don’t go to plan. The most difficult aspect is having to juggle child care (we have Rosa who is 4 and Lucian who is 1)- we often work through the night once the children are in bed.
How would you describe the Sunny Todd Prints brand ethos?
The process is incredibly important to us; we draw and cut each shape and then arrange into a pattern or repeat by hand. We don’t use computers during the design process and this gives the finished print beautiful irregularities. Our patterns are characterised by bold, clean, graphic shapes that are fun and dynamic. Our signature ‘offset’ gives our patterns extra energy and makes the shapes take on a 3D appearance. We are inspired by everything around us but we want the work to speak for itself, we avoid discussing the story of a pattern as we want people to fall in love with the aesthetic and then interpret and enjoy the design in their own way. The quality and sustainability of our fabric and products is paramount, we always use the highest quality materials that are sourced as locally as possible, we print using environmentally friendly, water based inks, and our products are handmade by local seamstresses.
Can you take us through the process of initial idea to finished product – how long can it take?
Some of our designs have evolved over years whilst others come about through happy accidents whilst we are drawing or even experimenting with stencils on the print table. Once we have an idea we will cut out the shapes from black paper and lay them out over white paper on the dining room table at home. Over the following days we will move them around and even chop into them to explore composition and scale until we are completely happy with the pattern, the relationship between and the movement of the shapes. The selection of colors is as important and this is a real labor of love. We mix pigment inks by eye and create a range of color swatches to explore how they tones work together. We’ll then experiment with the color combinations for each pattern before deciding how these fit together as a collection. We hand print our paper prints, bags, wash bags and cushions in our Herefordshire studio and the longer lengths of fabrics that are available by the meter are printed in the UK.
You lecture at Hereford College of Arts on the National Diploma in Art and Design course, how did that come about and what do you mostly enjoy about it?
My own Foundation degree at HCA was a real turning point for me; I had some incredible teachers who really encouraged and inspired me, they made me realize that there is no right or wrong approach, which was so refreshing after the constraints of the endless still life drawings of A Level Art. When I moved back to Herefordshire I was keen to share my passion for design; the HCA is one of only 4 independent Art & Design Colleges in the country and is a really exciting place to work- I’ve taught some outstanding students over the years. Teaching continues to be really important to me, so much so, that I set up my own the silk screen printing workshops and courses from our Herefordshire studio, they have proved extremely popular and I really enjoy helping people to rediscover their creativity.
What is your most treasured possession?
Our box of photographs is certainly my most treasured possession, although we take endless pictures we print out less and less, but the images I have of our children and of our family- particularly of my late mum, are so precious to me.
What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday?
We really enjoy having a leisurely breakfast together whilst listening to the radio and trying to read the papers. The kids love being creative so we always spend time drawing, making or cooking together, and as they get up so early, we might make it along to an early car boot sale too. We’re surrounded by beautiful countryside so Sunday will usually involve meeting up with friends for a walk and lunch, maybe on the Malvern Hills or at one of the beautiful National Trust properties nearby. Hopefully we’ve worn the children out and can get them into bed early, so Emma and I can enjoy a bottle of red wine whilst cooking dinner together.
What’s next for Sunny Todd Prints and where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
We are excitedly awaiting the launch of our first fabric book, our exclusive, hand printed cushion collection for Heal’s and hand tufted woollen rugs in collaboration with Floorstory- all of which will be launched at London Design Festival. We hope that these projects will be well received and that we can put some of our other ideas into production. We’re really keen to see our patterns on wallpaper and to make the cross over from interiors to fashion. In five years’ time we hope to have established ourselves as a highly respected design company, working in both the interior and fashion industries and to have stockists all over the world, perhaps even a store of our own.
Brighten up your home with the Sunny Todd Prints range of home accessories now available at Amara.