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Oxshott designer Maggie Mumford’s ceramic tiles

PUBLISHED: 18:26 04 December 2014 | UPDATED: 18:26 04 December 2014

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Scrummy looking cupcakes, beautiful beach huts and tall birds with skinny legs are just some of the delicate designs created on ceramic tiles by Oxshott designer Maggie Mumford. Janet Donin pays a visit

So how did you get into designing tiles?

I always imagined myself as an illustrator, having gained an honours degree in graphic design in Wolverhampton. Then, when I started working for Fired Earth in their London showroom, I developed a real appreciation of tiles. I loved their range of plain tiles, but at that time patterned ones were very decorative and many people wanted a simpler image. I realised then that there was a gap in the market so started painting tiles to order.

Can you recall your first commission? 
Yes, it was for a large tub of flowers. It was a bit of an experiment but proved quite successful so I gradually accepted more private orders and everything took off from there.

Where do you find your inspiration?

For the bespoke tiles, many of the ideas come from the client. It could be as simple as a vase of flowers or as complicated as their country estate. But I also have a ready-made range that reflects my love of plants – I have several herbs in my garden – and I love baking too, especially cakes. My border terrier, Boris, started the range of dogs, and trips to the seaside with the family inspired the beach huts and lighthouse ranges.

So who are your clients?

Probably 90% of my clients are women – my style seems to appeal to them while the men just roll their eyes; though my wine labels go down well with them! When I first started, the clients were in the 50-plus market, but now I’m also attracting a younger clientele who want more contemporary designs. Herbs, cupcakes and hearts always seem to appeal.

What kind of materials do you use?

When I first started, I worked with ordinary terracotta, glazed tiles and took them to the Fulham Pottery to be fired, but it was a nightmare as I had to fit in with their firing schedule. So after some research, I found my current supplier. Now my tiles are made for me in Stoke-on-Trent, using granular clay, which gives a superior quality. My glazes are white, cream or crackle, but I’m looking into a soft grey glaze, which I love.

Where does the firing take place now?

That takes place in my studio. We moved to this house in Oxshott about five years ago and built the studio at the top of the garden. It’s more like a wooden summer house where I just love to work. The kiln is relatively small, but holds at least 25 tiles, and sits in the corner next to Boris’s bed.

Tell us about the design process?

For bespoke designs, I start with a scaled watercolour painting to ensure the image fits the space available. Once the design is approved, I paint the tiles using water based ceramic paints. It’s quite a long process as each element is painted in stages, to build up the design and colour, with a firing between each stage. Firing takes 14 hours so I usually do this overnight. Finally, I’ll photograph the finished panel of tiles and number each one to correspond with the photo ready 
for fitting.

What about your other designs?

There are some designs, like birds, dogs and cakes, that I found myself constantly repeating so I decided to go down a different route and embrace technology with my Can’t Wait range. For these, I send my watercolour designs to Stoke where they are digitally scanned to create ‘decals’. These are essentially transfers, which I can apply to any of my tiles before firing to make the design permanent.

Is there anything new on the drawing board at the moment?

I really want to do more personalised tiles. I did some representing envelopes with addresses of loved ones, stamps from the places they had visited and postal marks with their date of birth; wonderful! And script is quite popular at the moment as on my wine label tiles.

How do you like to relax when you’re not working? 
I’m always doing something crafty with my daughter Grace who has also designed some tiles – she’s very good! Baking is a passion and I love making cards for friends and family. Of course, there’s always Boris, who wants his walks in the woods or on Oxshott Heath, which is all part of the great thing about living in Surrey.

• Maggie Mumford, Oxshott. Tel: 01372 844586; e-mail: maggie@maggiemumford.com; web: maggiemumford.com

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