We work with many incredible fabric houses, and Jim Thompson is one of our favorites to incorporate into our clients’ interiors. Their luxurious fabrics add a beautiful layer of texture, uniqueness and quality to our projects.
I am thrilled to share a glimpse behind the scenes in our Insider’s Insight series from Jim Thompson’s Senior Design Director of Home Furnishings, Susan North.
Before joining Jim Thompson, Susan previously led creative teams at Schumacher, Thibaut, and Scalamandre, and she is one of the most respected textile designers in the business—a mixmaster of color, texture and pattern.
Susan shares below her Insider Insights into the business.
What are you seeing in the design industry that has you excited?
I’ve been excited to see a lot more unexpected use of bold, deep color to transform rooms—from dark doors, dramatic ceilings, more black in interiors, and brilliantly hued furniture pieces.
Designers also seem to be playing with lots of pattern mixed together in single spaces with often amazing results.
It’s perhaps just starting as a trend, but with everyone home a lot more this year, it’s my hope that there will be more interest in investing in better furnishings and textiles that are both luxurious and lasting, more high-level quality and a lot less throw-away.
Tell us what inspires your Jim Thompson designs…
Inspiration comes from so many different places for me; like threads that you pull together to create something new—a bit from fashion, from art, or from favorite books, all mixed together.
But I would say the colors, textures and patterns from nature are what inspire me the most.
No one else hand-weaves Thai silk, or any silk for that matter, quite the way that we do at Jim Thompson. They are some of the most beautiful fabrics on earth, and behind each one is a skilled artisan weaver.
It’s the rich texture, the ‘humps and bumps’ of the silk yarns, as Jim Thompson used to call them, and also the nearly iridescent cross-dyeing of colors that makes them so amazing.
Of course, we don’t just produce hand-loomed silks; we also have a lot more to offer with beautiful velvets, prints, wallpapers and trimmings. But it’s the approach to color and a high level of quality that begins in the silk that comes across in all the products we offer.
Tell us about one of your favorite career collaborations or accomplishments…
I love the story behind one of my favorite prints ever, Pyne Hollyhock Print, which I developed at Schumacher.
Nancy “Princess” Pyne, who was a good friend and client of Albert Hadley’s, showed me scraps of fabric, all faded and in pieces, that she saved from the original room Albert designed for her in the early 1960s. I remembered it from Hadley’s book and had always thought it was one of the most beautiful chintz florals.
She kindly lent me her pieces, and I had it developed into a new chintz print, piecing the design together from all the scraps, and mostly using the colors from the original at the scrap edges, but adding some new colors, too.
Along the way, I would get these phone calls from Albert, who kept recalling what the pattern looked like when it was new, especially the color. In the end, I visited him to show the pattern in progress and he seemed very pleased to see it brought to life again. Albert was delightful to know; charming, funny and with such an incredible eye for design.
Do you have a favorite Jim Thompson pattern?
I love the hand-loomed silks. Thai silk weaves have a beautiful dry texture that makes them simply elegant but unfussy. And of all of these, I am especially fond of the ikats, which are hand-tied and dyed and hand-woven.
Some of my favorites are Anais and Thalia, which haven been in the collection for years, and also the newest ones, like Serengeti. They are like works of art, each one beautifully crafted.
What is one thing you absolutely can’t live without?
This year has somehow made a lot of things seem a whole lot less important, or even necessary. But I can’t live without nature and its beauty. It’s always inspiring to me, for colors and patterns – but getting outdoors and being immersed in nature also calms and feeds the soul in a way that nothing else can do.
I hope you enjoyed learning in this month’s Insider’s Insight series about the amazing process and artisans behind Jim Thompson fabrics. I know I certainly did.
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