Fi Douglas Textile Artist - Glasgow, Scotland

How were you encouraged to develop your personal approach at Glasgow School of Art?

I was so lucky at Glasgow to have a tutor who really believed in me – he was able to pinpoint where my design heart lay and really encouraged me to develop my florals and experiment with my painterly approach.

Can you explain the role NESTA played in your development?

At art school creativity is greatly encouraged unfortunately graduates often leave with little or no understanding of how to run a business day to day. Nesta provided guidance on the nitty gritty with invaluable courses and of course, helped make me aware of and apply for funding.

You commenced working with a leading fabric company, what made you take that leap of faith and commence Bluebellgray?

A desire to produce your own work can never be underestimated as a driving force. My industry experience was great, but there was a real yearning to design from my heart and for myself.

Tell us about the growth from you kitchen table and a one woman show to the company, Bluebellgray is now?

Well, it’s not easy I have been very lucky from the beginning to receive great press.  This in turn brought opportunities to me from great stockists and so things evolved over time.  As the orders grew so did my staff and also premises.  I pinch myself sometimes now when I look around the studio to see a team of great girls!  A real high point for Bluebellgray was being invited to be a part of the John Lewis Design Collective – to sit alongside other well-respected designers and in such a well-known store really cemented for me that Bluebellgray is ‘here’.

My signature Zoneone Arts question – what are the most important design elements?

The Bluebellgray signature style always seems to shine through. Bright, fresh colour is prevalent and also the painterly watercolour style. It’s so important to me that these designs are then produced using printing technology which allows for every brushstroke to be captured, allowing a sense of the designer behind the designs to shine through.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration is all around; especially when I visit my hometown in Northern Scotland, I am surrounded by wild flowers and sometimes sunny days, even in Scotland!   Travelling abroad always reignites my passion for texture and pattern and it’s impossible for me to return from Turkey without an overflowing case.

We all visualize Glasgow as bleak, gray and damp, your work is the very opposite. How?

Firstly, your impression of Glasgow is only 50% accurate! Glasgow is wet but this allows for a wonderful flourish of growth and colour in the spring. At Bluebellgray we keep the studio a light and bright space which always allows for fresh ideas to come to the fore and provides a clean base for the explosion of colour at work in my mind!

Interior design has been so stark and “New York” – your designs are an explosion of colour. Can you explain how you work up a range?

I like to think of Bluebellgray as an antidote to mass production – when I design I really follow my heart and paint with colour intuitively. A range develops naturally, usually beginning with one painting and from this point a colour range evolves.

How many ranges do you produce each year?

We aim to produce two ranges a year but with the occasional extra piece being released in-between.

You have a wide range of products tell us about the process of adding a new product to your range?

It might sound funny but this is a very organic process as well. Often it seems to me that there is something in my life which would benefit from the Bluebellgray treatment. Most recently we produced a range of wash bags and makeup bags which was simply born from a desire to use them myself. Following my heart has never let me down and so I ask myself, ‘Is this something I would use/want?’

Your philosophy of an eclectic mix has long been a signature of English interior design, how do you achieve this into a happy marriage?

A collection of pieces and colours evolve over time and change naturally as my taste develops. I think it’s important not to become rigid with your style; you have to go with what you feel looks right.

You currently have several designs that are exclusive to stores; can you explain their development?

Occasionally exclusive designs are requested and we think it’s lovely to be able to offer customers something extra special now and again.  The development is different depending on the occasion but as an example – we designed the Limited Edition ‘Chelsea’ cushion for Peter Jones in London to coincide with the Chelsea flower show.  I wanted to experiment with a very pink and purple palette to reflect the true floral heart of the show and chose large blooms which are always a customer favourite.

How many countries now stock your designs?

We are proud to be stocked in excellent department stores and design boutiques all over the world; from The Design Collective in John Lewis and Liberty London in the UK to Le Bonne Marche Paris, Bloomingdales Dubai, Lane Crawford Hong Kong and Mitsukoshi Japan. Bluebellgray is currently stocked in 17 countries and continues to grow!


Fi Douglas, Glasgow, Scotland.

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August, 2012