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Interview with Virginia Armstrong

Can you tell me who you are and what you do?

I have been a designer all my working life. After a degree in graphic design I worked in branding and packaging for many years and I am still a freelance graphic designer. That’s my main job. About 8 years ago, when I moved here and found that I had the space I decided to do a course in screen printing and set up a print studio. I was used to working on computers and I just wanted to get back to doing something a bit messy. I started printing on textiles and really enjoyed it. I started selling a few pieces and I’ve taken it from there.

When did you first become interested in design?

It’s always been around me. My mum worked in the arts and we were surrounded by works of art and design.

What was the starting point for your business roddy&ginger?

About 5 years ago an interiors magazine wanted to do a feature on my mid-century house and they told me it would be a good way of promoting a business. So I had to get it off the ground and up and running with a website and online shop by the time the article came out. The name, roddy&ginger was coined by a friend’s little boy, it seemed like a nice name and now I’m stuck with it! I got a bit of publicity by being in a magazine and it went from there.

Where do the ideas for your designs come from?

I have always been interested in mid-century design and have gathered quite a collection over the years. It’s good, innovative design that has lasted the test of time. It has also become very fashionable again so I could see there was a market for it when I started roddy&ginger. My collections of textiles, ceramics and illustrated children’s books from the 1960s and 1970s are all a big influence on my work.

Your designs are spread across different forms – cushions, trays, wallpaper. When you are creating a design are you thinking about where it will be used?

I’m not that organised, I felt that some of my textile designs were particularly applicable to wallpaper so I decided to give it a go 2 or 3 years ago, I now have a small range of two wallpaper designs which are printed in Holland.

Do you have any particular favourites of the designs you’ve done, that you think are particularly successful?

Although I still keep printing some of my older designs I am more interested in my current work which tends to be more abstract and geometric.

What are your new products for Dulwich Open House?

I’m hoping to get some new textile designs ready for Open House. The nice thing about Dulwich Open House is that you can showcase new ideas and get instant feedback. That’s how I started my wallpapers, I printed a prototype length, stuck it on the wall and got lots of positive comments.

Last year it was a new geometric design that sold well. This year it may be something different. I tend to do special prices for Open House and I try to empty my stock cupboards. There will be plenty to buy from as little as £5.00 as well as seconds and miss prints.

What do you enjoy about being involved in the Dulwich Arts Festival and how many years have you done it?

This will be my 5th Open House, I have watched it grow since I started. I like the fact that you meet lots of people. I use my house as a location house so it has been great to meet journalists and stylists who are interested in my work and the house. I really enjoy taking part in Open house, it gives me motivation to do something new and it’s very relaxed because it’s at home.

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