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Young designer wins Alternative Flooring and British Wool competition

Lily Mullen the winner of The Bradford Textiles Society Competition sponsored by Alternative Flooring and British Wool tells us the inspiring story behind creating her design and what this award means to her.

Tell us about yourself

I live in Edinburgh and recently graduated from Printed Textiles at Leeds Arts University.

The last 12 months have been somewhat different in so many ways due to Covid-19.  One such area with regards to the course was the lack of access to the traditional print making tools, this pushed me to consider other methods such a digital print.  This has allowed me to develop my skills in this area and I now really enjoy creating digital prints.

When coming back home to Edinburgh during the holidays, I found inspiration from hidden modernist buildings as I was walking around this beautiful city.  My inspirations are Ray Eames, Anni and Joseph Albers and Frank Lloyd Wright.  We often become desensitised by our surroundings and stop seeing the beauty within them, it’s fascinating what you can find when you fully embrace your surroundings.

Lily's design visualisation

Tell us about the inspiration behind your entry?

My entry was inspired by my desire to bring joy to the interior setting through playful and bold design.  My inspiration comes from patterns that occur in the manmade world, looking to Modernist architecture specifically for this design.  Crafted Pattern represents what's at the core of my practice; pattern, process and colour.  Pattern is part and parcel of our everyday life - from the ornate to the mundane - it is my passion. This entry seeks to share and celebrate this and the concept behind the design was to invite consumers to embrace colour and pattern in their home setting.

Why did you choose to enter into to the Alternative Flooring and British Wool Rug category in the Design Competition?

With my entry being screen printed, a focus on process is central to my practice. I was very drawn in when I started learning about the wool fibre and the processes it goes through to become a finished product.

This category really plays into my passion for interior design. I love how the tactile nature of the end product, the bold colours and the striking design all combine to hopefully help bring someone’s home to life.

The winning carpet 'Albers' by Lilly Mullen. Photography © Ben Robertson

What do you like most about working with British wool?

I have learnt, the UK has more breeds of sheep than any other country in the world!  In order to produce a beautiful rug there are many processes the wool needs to go through once it leaves the farm.  I was amazed how little I actually knew about wool and what a valuable and versatile product it is.

Choosing to work with British wool supports small businesses in our rural areas, the farmers, who are the custodians of our countryside and look after our landscape and the animals that roam on it. It also means choosing and supporting an environmentally friendly fibre that does not need to be shipped here from abroad and supporting all the many companies that are part of the supply chain in processing wool, from farmers to shearers, wool graders, wool washer, carders, spinners and carpet manufacturers.  All based here in UK.

Ultimately, my work is informed by a fundamental belief that a product should be as equally beautiful as it is functional.  Hence working with British wool has been really exciting the fibre is not just the best fibre for flooring products for its natural bulk but also sustainable, ethical and 100% natural.


Lily's design development. Photography © Sarah McLean

How did it feel to win the award?

I was both surprised and delighted!  Designing for interiors spaces is what I love.  Being given the opportunity to see one of my designs realised on a larger scale item such as rug is so exciting! Winning this competition and having organisations such as Alternative Flooring and British Wool recognise and produce one of my designs, felt very affirming.  It really gave me a confidence boost to continue doing what I love.

What's next for you?

I have recently graduated from my textile design course and I am back home continuing to grow my portfolio - .

I have spent time growing my online presence and sharing my work with people all over the globe via Instagram -, this has led to opportunities to collaborate with companies and designers as far afield as Australia. I have also been developing an exciting range of interior and lifestyle products, which I'm looking forward to launching soon. Alongside this I have begun to establish a brand for myself as a young designer.  

Above all, I am looking forward to my local Printworks opening again so I can get back to doing what I love doing and create some bespoke screen printed goods for my store.  Encouraged by my success here I have digitally entered multiple other competitions that have arisen as a result of lockdown.  When things have returned to the new normal I will be seeking new opportunities to work collaboratively with design studios to help gain valuable experience.


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Young designer wins Alternative Flooring and British Wool competition Lily Mullen, studied Printed Textiles at Leeds Arts University