Sarah Parris has a background in environmental science and is one half of interiors design duo Parris Wakefield, who create colourful graphic textiles that I first fell in love with at Tent London last year. Order from Chaos was inspired by an interest in science, astronomy and nature, and ponders some big questions. ‘How did the universe begin? Why does the natural world follow the same mathematical patterns? Is it chance or some greater force at work, that brings such order from chaos?’ The geometric pattern follows the rules of the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence, which is applicable to the growth of every living thing.
Before becoming a designer you studied environmental science – how did this career evolve into your current one?
My career path has gone in several directions and ending up in design was really very much by luck. I had always intended to work in conservation. My first job was leading a summer holiday club at a country park. I loved it so, I went back to uni and got a PGCE in secondary school science, specialising in environmental education. After a few years though, I realised teaching in schools was not my calling and I needed to get out. Thankfully I met Howard who was looking for an admin and project manager at his design studio. He worked with world renowned designer Peter Saville, I slowly got more involved and was increasingly asked my opinion about colour and imagery which led to me creating my own digital imagery for the studio.
How did you research the geometric shapes for your piece Order from Chaos?
It is something I have always been amazed at, nature’s mathematical patterns are so fascinating and beautiful. A few years ago we worked on a graphic identity proposal for the Discovery Channel, which we based on the Fibonacci sequence, it didn’t go ahead but I learnt a lot about Fibonacci. This time, I didn’t want to simply recreate the classic spiral pattern, preferring the shapes based on the principles of the Golden section, Golden triangle and Fibonacci which are all interlinked.
What scientific ideas boggle your mind the most at the moment?
The fact that just yesterday a probe landed on a comet is quite mind boggling. The Rosetta spacecraft was launched more than 10 years ago, has travelled more than 6bn kilometres to catch up with the comet, which orbits the sun at speeds up to 135,000km/h. – wow!
How do you create your unique patterns?
The patterns start with the colours, this is why I rarely recolour a pattern. I work with the selected colour palette straight away in photoshop, the pattern evolves quite organically, building up the pattern on different layers which we interact with each other. Working this way, I know how to manipulate the colours to get the effect I want, but also the unexpected can happen which is exciting.
Your business is a partnership with your husband Howard, how easy is it to work together and what is your secret to a harmonious business relationship?
Working with Howard is the easiest most natural thing, we have been working together for 13 years and I wouldn’t want that to change. We are on the same wavelength but have different skills, I cannot do what he does and so I have a huge respect for his graphic design knowledge. Equally he couldn’t get on and focus on his work if I didn’t do all the invoicing, marketing admin side of things. Our patterns are always a collaboration between the two of us, we often sit together and work on the pattern or share the file and work on different layers and then together decide on which ones to use and interact. With Order from Chaos I was really happy with the ‘Big Bang’ background but couldn’t get the geometric shapes right, the final combination and position was thanks to Howard.
What has been the best bit of relocating to Suffolk?
Suffolk is such a beautiful county. We are very lucky to live surrounded by one of the few remaining large common lands that is still grazed and rich with wildflowers. The school is a short bike ride away and our studio is in the attic of our barn. Moving here has given us the best work life balance that we could imagine with the bonus of allowing us and the kids to get up close with nature.
What next for the Parris Wakefield design business?
There are many products I would like to have the opportunity to design and the idea of collaborating with other creatives is really exciting. One that is already in the pipeline is our collaboration with Camira Fabrics and printing one of our designs on to wool. But I would also love to do carpet and ceramic designs so any companies out there looking for a new collaboration do get in touch…
#TWWDNU, Camira Fabrics, Discovery Channel, Fibonacci, Interior Design, Order from Chaos, Peter Saville, Rosetta, Sarah Parris, Suffolk, surface design, Tent London, Textile Design, That Which We Do Not Understand
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