Interview with Textile Designer, Lynne Tanner. It’s A Colourful Life!

In celebration of three new textile & wall covering designs by Lynne Tanner for Materialised, we asked her 12 questions about growing up in Australia, her inspiration and her flare for colour.

Lynne Tanner textile designer, new designs, Materialised

1. Tell Us A Little About Where You Are From

Growing up in a coastal town in NSW in the 50s I was surrounded by patterned laminex, bubbly, flecked vinyl, “asterisk starburst” patterned upholstery, tropical leaves, textured wallpaper and wavy hourglass patterned curtains.

Kidney shaped coffee tables with hairpin shaped legs, brightly coloured plastic radios in the shape of bloated rectangles, TV chairs with parabolic arch shaped legs - plus all those clothing textiles! It was a style now known as "retro".

All of that "modernism" had an effect on my young, creative mind. To a greater or lesser extent its influence tends to run through most of my designs. 

New Design: Carnival

2. How do you draw design inspiration from your local area in particular

After living in the cool, temperate UK for a year and then quiet, sleepy Noosa, QLD for some years, I now live with my husband in a buzzy subtropical city (Brisbane). So, there is the interesting juxtaposition of the hard-edged built environment and the softer lushness of the natural landscape.

Colours here need to be strong to survive the strong light and busy-ness of the visual world. Just consider the gorgeous flowering shrubs and trees! Pattern and shape are also all around us.

I see pattern in almost everything, whether a brick wall, an office building or even a leaf. There is always, in some way, patterns in our field of view. In grids, textures and colours. Our world is full of pattern and it's the organisation and reproduction of these shapes that particularly interests me. 

3. Tell Us About Your Career Path

Early on I studied graphic design in Sydney. My very first job was as a surface pattern designer for the glassware industry. Soon after I worked in various ad agencies involved in corporate identity and logo design then became an art director for a national women's magazine.

After leaving the hectic world of magazines and computers I wanted to do more hands-on design work so I experimented with hand printing fabric which lead me into the furnishing and upholstery world.  

I had really found my area . . . designing patterns for furniture coverings to fit the style and shape of the chairs, all with a variety of styles – anything from regal to retro. My love for textile design definitely grew because of this experience.

New Design: Wattle

4. How Does Your Personality Translate To Your Designs?

My personality is usually shy & restrained but underneath it all I'm big & bold, I have never been afraid of colour and most of my designs are on the larger scale. I suppose I am thoughtful and critical with colour. I can be almost forensic about colours and how they are blended. I have always had an eye for colour and have always been confident in its use.

Early on I made mistakes, but that is how you learn. I think it is a shame that so many people are afraid to make mistakes and so never try anything other than safe solutions. My feeling is that most people just don't have the confidence in using colour to create schemes and let their own personality shine through rather than be influenced by trends that play it safe with neutrals.

Friends always say that our home is uplifting, relaxed and happy to be in. I don't believe in trends and fashions either but I like to create designs with personality. Trends come and go, but my designs will stick around. 

Sputnik design, Lynne Tanner

Sputnik Design

5. Your Work Is So Beautifully Intricate – How Do You Go About Developing The Designs?

These days I source photographic images either of my own shots or comb the net and then break it down into complex shapes. Modern computer programs are incredibly powerful and my technique with them gives an almost impressionistic, painterly quality to the design.

It's not always as easy as it sounds and it will usually take me a few attempts and days sometimes before I am satisfied with the feel of a design, but the flexibility of designing in the digital realm is mind-blowing and often I feel I am overrun by the flow of ideas. 

6. The amount of colour you use is incredible. I don’t think you’re a fan of following trends so how do you go about selecting these?

My mind is a smorgasbord of colour! There are millions of colours to choose from in my technique and it takes a long time to get the right blend, sometimes it comes accidentally, which is always a nice surprise but mostly I try to keep with my basic palette that has been tried and tested over time. Although discovering new colour blends is always very exciting.

Floreale Design

7. Describe A Typical Day For You

I don't have planned days, I have never been a routine person, I guess that comes with being creative! If I am out walking and see an urban type pattern or a particular colour in a park or garden, I take a photo and store it in my 'ideas' file. . . which is very full.

When I need inspiration, I go to that file and work with many images until the right one comes along then there is no stopping me. During that process I can often come up with something completely different and change the concept all together.

8. What is your process for when you feel creatively blocked?

I work at home so the best thing is to get out in the world. Go for a walk. Meet friends for coffee. Go to a gallery or museum. Travel is always a fantastic trigger for new ideas. I just need to reset my mind. Every time I do this the ideas flow more freely and new connections are made.

Tropicana Design

9. Everyone Experiences Blunders During Their Career (we’re all human!) Describe Something That You Struggled With But Learnt From

In my early years of hand printing I worked with a fantastic interior designer who was decorating her clients beautiful 100yr old stone cottage in the Cotswolds in the UK. Having already printed metres of bespoke fabric in my studio in Noosa for the furniture, she asked me to print some rich velvet cushions with the family's monogram in gold leaf.

I had never worked with gold leaf before, never mind on fabric, so there was a lot of practising and expensive wastage before I achieved the result she was after. It was a close-run thing, but I loved that challenge and learnt a new skill into the bargain.

Lynne Tanner necklace

10. What Is Your All-time Favourite Design From Your Own Collection?

That is a hard question because my recent styles have varied from modern contemporary retro to soft organic botanicals. My favourite contemporary retro design from my Social Fabric Contempo range is called 'Sputnik' because it has all the modernist shapes and colours straight from my childhood.

My favourite botanical is my design called 'Floreale' from the Materialised Premium range. I love the depth of colour, especially on the velvet and the large scale of the roses, close up it just looks like a collection of graphic shapes but at a distance it becomes a collection of beautiful roses. I love that transition.

11. Can You Share An Image Of A Project / Piece Of Upholstery You’ve Seen Using A Lynne Tanner Design Which You Absolutely Love?

We have a client in Melbourne who has used my fabric extensively throughout her house and this is my favourite chair, it is called a Signet chair, an original and very popular import from New Zealand in the 50's.

The fabric is my 'Tropicana' from the Materialised Premium range. It fits beautifully with the style of the chair. 

New Design: Native

12. What’s The Most Exciting Thing About The Next Thing You’re Doing?

Well, still craving for that hands-on element of design, I am dabbling with reconstructing and recycling jewellery pieces. Keeping within my big & bold approach I turn them into 'statement' pieces. Where that might lead is anyone's guess, but my main love will always be with textiles.

The applications are endless. Yes, my career in the design world has been somewhat unconventional and quite varied, but I believe as a consequence, my designs tend not to be tied to traditional concepts and I will always enjoy pushing the edge of the envelope.

Every year I have the pleasure of submitting new designs for Materialised to add to their Premium range and that keeps the challenge ongoing.


Thank you to Lynne for her time to answer these questions, and we are very excited to launch her new designs, 'Native', 'Carnival' and 'Wattle.'

Please contact us for samples or for an appointment at our Design Studios in Sydney and Perth.

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