Meet the Designer - Mimi Hammill

Meet the Designer - Mimi Hammill

Posted by Solii on 6th May 2019

We've been Digitally Printing Mimi's Fabric since 2014. And became 'internet friends' (I think we actually only met in person in 2018!) after she approached us to help raise money in the best way she knew how, for the Nepal Earthquake appeal in 2015, by using her talents to design a scarf. A project that we like to think is also responsible for one of the best continuing collaborations (Mimi scarves and Susan Castillo Photos) the internet has seen, no word of a lie, these two are a match made in heaven!

It's always a delight to have Mimi's bright coloured designs on Bertha (our printer), and she is both professional and brilliantly funny, her Instagram posts and stories never fail to make us smile. So, because of all of this, we asked her to join our Printed and Co range of designer fabrics a few years back too, so if you're looking for a little geo colour in your life, go check these out after too. 

The metamorphosis from sketch to digital pattern to two-dimensional fabric to three-dimensional product is a magical process. And the most exciting part is when other people take "my" fabric and turn it into a garment. It's genuinely thrilling. The beauty of digital fabric printing is that small volumes can be manufactured quickly and affordably. So if a customer wants to make a single cushion or tote bag, it's possible for them to do so without my having to invest in industrial-quantity bolt fabric. Digital, on-demand printing allows for an affordable and low-waste business model for me.

How would you describe your work and what do you see as your greatest career related achievement so far, something you're particularly proud? 

I really love graphic geometric patterns. And while I often try to incorporate hand-drawn or photographic textural elements in to my patterns, my true love is crisp, perfect, flawless vectors. Often I’ll settle on a mixture of both. Colours? I’ll try anything but almost always settle on brights; the more lurid the better.

My greatest career achievement so far? There have been a few. Winning the Make It In Design scholarship in 2015 was amazing. Seeing The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, wearing one of my silk scarves in the press in 2016 was an enormous surprise. Seeing Mother Pukka (Anna Whitehouse) wear her Mimi scarf in her hair for a Baby Bjorn ad campaign in 2018 was even more exciting! Currently I'm most proud of my latest product; MiMi Bee Wax Wrap kits. With all the knowledge we have about the state of our oceans, I'm really happy to have created a gift product that contains no plastic, with cotton that's printed in Edinburgh and bars of beeswax from a Highland apiary. To have made something that's beautiful, beautifully presented, and that can genuinely changes daily habits, makes me really proud. And I'm thrilled with how well the kits have been received by my customers.

Describe your work space? 

This is a sore point as it happens. I am lucky enough to have a very hard-working spare room with a lovely desk and work table that can fold away when the sofa bed needs to be put up for visiting grandparents. This has been my work space for the past 4 years. But recently I've been struggling. I feel very strongly that I can't carry on working effectively from home, then picking up my children from school and coming home again, then (more often than not) spending the evening at home, and repeating that day after day. Work efficiency starts to suffer because there are always domestic chores to fulfil. Parenting starts to suffer because I have cabin fever from being "at home" on my own all the time. What worked for me once upon a time does not any more. So it's time to move out of my spare room. A few weeks ago I found THE DREAM SPACE. I negotiated, had my negotiations accepted, found studio mates, bust a gut to organise insurance and sort out all the other peripheral details. I had expected to be writing this blog post from my new studio by now. But the negotiations broke down at the final hurdle, and I'm back in the spare room once more. The city that I live in (Aberdeen) is full of empty units and abandoned offices. So I know that there must be an affordable solution. However, finding it is proving easier said than done, but I guess it was a good first try.

When do you work best, are you up with the lark or a night owl? 

I have a very limited working day comprising the hours between school runs. So that kind of forces my hand. What's a middle-of-the-day kind of bird?

Where did your love for art/design originally develop from, what or who, have been your influences? 

Back in my days as a health editor, I couldn’t comprehend how our magazine designers drew perfect, crisp, flawless shapes using only a mouse. It mystified me. That’s why discovering Adobe Illustrator’s vector system of points, curves and angles a few years later was such a revelation. Vector-based geometric patterns continue to be my preferred and most natural style. I love the sharpness of line.

The wonderful thing is that almost anything can inspire a geometric pattern if you zoom in or zoom out enough. Pattern inspiration is all around us.

I love the work of designers who harness clean shapes, strong colours and jumbo scale. Tom Pigeon, Camille Walala, Sunny Todd Prints, Kangan Arora, Gabriella Marcella - these are all people who, to my mind, elevate simple bold patterns to a real art form.

In terms of procrastination, what are you doing, when you should be doing something else and what, if anything is your 'impossible task'? The thing that you struggle most to motivate yourself to do work wise? 

I'll use any excuse to take the dog for a walk and have a small coffee at one of our numerous local dog-friendly coffee shops. Really, ANY EXCUSE. Frothy coffee addiction is the primary symptom of homeworker cabin fever. And the thing that I most struggle to do is fill in forms. My tax return could be done right now, in April, by lunch time today. But I will DEFINITELY leave it until the night before the deadline next January. There's no point in fighting that fact any more.

How do you overcome designers block? 

Doodling. It's the only way. It can be pen on paper or digital, either works fine. And it'll probably be really ugly, but that's fine too.

We like to hear about new and up and coming designer and artists, can you recommend someone new or new to us, that we should know about, and why do you like their work? 

I think you all need to know about Rachel Robertson. I think her brand is a little over a year old, based in Aberdeen, and she makes the most beautiful bags and has created such a classy brand identity. We only met in person recently, but having both recorded podcasts with @creativemepodcast (find them on iTunes/Soundcloud/Google Podcasts, all those kind of places) Rachel and I knew we had some shared career experiences, and thanks to the power of social media we felt like we already knew one another. I really hope we will collaborate one day.

What is the best advice, you’ve ever been given, business, creative or both and who gave it to you. 

I keep an iPhone folder full of notes and quotes that I refer to now and again. The top three at the moment are: - PT Barnum: Without promotion something terrible happens... nothing. - Dolly Parton: Find out who you are and do it on purpose. - Leonard Bernstein: Two things are necessary for great achievement: a plan, and not quite enough time. I don't know where I heard or read those quotes - or even if they're accurate - but they felt worth noting down at the time. Another mantra that I have stems from binge watching the Channel 4 series "Escape to the Château" last year and being completely bowled over by the energy, the glamour, and the inventiveness of Angel. When in doubt about the big decisions I now ask: WWAD? (What Would Angel Do?) And the answer invariably is "she'd just bloody well get on with it".

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Even if the pattern designers making laboriously illustrative hand-painted patterns or kawaii-cute ditsy prints *appear* to be more fashionable and successful, keep honing your own style. Don't try to force yourself into those moulds. You'll do your style better than you'll ape theirs. There's room for everybody and you'll find your audience.

What your favourite thing about working with BeFab? 

Personal service that has turned into friendship, attention to detail, a proactive approach to challenges, and the fact that they address my parcels to "The Lovely Mimi Hammill". Flattery will get you everywhere lol!

Well you are Mimi! hehe... x

Check out more of Mimi's designs in our Printed and Co Designer Fabric Section, as well as her guest blog on 'How to Design a Repeat Pattern on Illustrator

Also see her work here: