From a converted barn in a quiet, rural village near Redruth in Cornwall, Amelia Pemberton runs her label Darn, creating vibrant pieces to wear or decorate the home. In the studio space, sketches and paintings are pinned to the walls, while in the sitting room, fluid, cheerful silk scarves float from the beams, diffusing the light that passes through them.
Amelia grew up in a creative family in Surrey; her mother is a freelance textile designer and she often spent time at antique and second-hand markets as a child, along with her four siblings. The imaginative environment has led to them all pursuing careers in the arts, from film score composing to art directing and videography. She considers her work to be very different from her mother’s but still she is a huge influence. The house she grew up in was full of textiles, piled high in cupboards and draped across its interiors, “I wouldn’t be a true Pemberton if it hadn’t informed my work,” says Amelia from her sitting room. She was given a book depicting jockey uniforms by her mother, which has gone on to inspire the geometric patterns recurring through the Darn pieces.
Darn blossomed from her final collection for her fashion design degree at Falmouth University in Cornwall, referencing her moth-eaten clothes at home. “Darning wasn’t trendy then,” Amelia explains. “I would collect lots of vintage fabric with beautiful darns to create the pieces from, reflecting their history.” After stints at various fashion brands in London, she studied for a masters degree in mixed media textiles at the Royal College of Art. “I wanted to spend some more time working out what Darn was going to be,” Amelia says. “After working for lots of companies, I was a bit fed up with seasonal collections and wanted to focus on creating things that were seasonless.”
After graduating, she was drawn back from London to the dramatic coast of Cornwall. She now spends time focussing on her label and meeting people, pursuing new creative avenues. “There is such a nice community down here, and when I used to visit I would always want to stay,” Amelia explains. Despite the rural location of her abode, collaboration is intrinsic to Darn. She meets local creatives by hosting non-profit supper clubs around Cornwall, in old art studios and cafes. They are open to all, allowing people to get together, develop ideas and form connections while sharing food and taking part in drawing games. “It’s so fun, and I find it incredibly motivating as well,” Amelia says.
Having been in contact with TOAST Head of Design Laura Shippey after she graduated from the RCA, a collaboration was conceived for two exclusive scarf designs, as part of the Spring Summer collection. Echoing the TOAST seasonal theme, Elemental Compositions, the two pieces feature dynamic arrangements of vibrant shapes influenced by nature. The Sunflower Chess scarf is illustrated by sunshine yellow sunflowers on a geometric chestnut base. The Moon Fruit scarf depicts a fruit bowl on a vibrant colour-block background. “Colour is really key,” Amelia says, and she created palettes in dialogue with Laura as part of an iterative process.
To create the designs, Amelia first created still lifes with fresh flowers and fruit. Then, she drew the illustrations by hand using oil pastels and ink in her studio, before scanning them to her computer and manipulating them on Adobe Illustrator. “I always draw the motifs on a large scale, then after they are scanned I start experimenting, cutting them out and collaging them together.” She plays with colours both before and after digitising, creating a joyful, uplifting palette. The process led to Amelia celebrating the imperfect nature of her hand drawings, where she would previously have drawn clean lines over her scanned motifs on the computer. She also cut out geometric shapes from paper and arranged them on large sheets, a process that she would often previously have done digitally.
Each scarf is crafted from lustrous silk satin twill and printed with a sunflower pattern in Macclesfield, a northern English town known for its silk production and textile history, then finished with rolled edges. The maker, Adamley, combines traditional techniques with technology to print and finish fabrics, and has a long relationship with TOAST. The resulting scarves are large in scale, like Amelia’s initial sketched motifs, and can be worn in a myriad ways.
Inspiration for all Amelia’s pieces comes from her large collection of books and she often turns to illustrations of folkloric costumes, juxtaposed by the clean lines of furniture by Charlotte Perriand. Also cited are sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, who had her studio in Cornwall, and is captured in photographs often with her hair tucked back with one of her many silk scarves. Reflecting Amelia’s fascination with flowers, another treasured tome is Anna Pavord's The Tulip with exquisite colour illustrations. “I tried to step away from depicting flowers when I was at the RCA, as they are a classic go-to for print design,” Amelia confesses. “But I was always drawn back to them. They are just so beautiful.”
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Photographs by James Bannister.
Watch Amelia Pemberton in her studio in the Cornish countryside on our Instagram and below.
Amelia wears our Cotton Linen Canvas Coat.
Read more about Darn on their website.