I am Emma Iles, founder of Seaforth Designs, a countryside and coastal-inspired cushion company, which features British favourites such as a fox, hare, pheasant and a range of lovely coastal birds
How did you begin sewing as a girl? What was your first ‘make’?
My mother and aunts always sewed and made their own clothes and outfits, so it was natural for me to learn to create as well. I cant remember exactly the first thing I made, but I can remember helping my mum cut out and make a 'ClothKits' dress for my seventh birthday.
How many times do you sketch and cut out a design before it’s perfect- or do designs just drop into your head?
My designs can either be instantaneous sketches which work straight away, or be a 'work in progress' that develop over a period of time. Either way, it gives me great satisfaction to then be able to transfer them into fabric designs which then come to life on a cushion.
You’ve been featured in Country Living and at The Country Living Fair several times now, do you still get excited?
As a young teenager, my friends would be reading 'Just Seventeen' magazine on the bus but I would be studiously flicking through Country Living magazine so it definitely still remains a great thrill to see my designs being featured in their magazine.
What would you say to those people who are passionate about making but aren’t sure whether to make that step into making it a business?
Make sure the product is as professionally finished as possible. Your friends may say 'that's great, you should sell them' but ask them to be as genuine and honest as possible to determine if this is a viable product to sell. Then, go for it! What have you got to lose?
You’ve only been trading as Seaforth Designs for a few years- what was your first moment where you felt like you’d ‘made it’?
Being invited to showcase my designs at the Country Living Spring Fair in 2014, with 20 other chosen newcomers. Having been a seamstress for over 20 years, this was my first realisation that Seaforth Designs could be successful.
Being creative, or having a creative outlet is so important to your happiness, did you feel a loss when you stopped sewing for pleasure and made the move to sewing for business?
I have been lucky that creating and making my cushions has remained a pleasure and not felt like a chore. As I hand make each cushion individually, I hope my customers feel that the item has been specially made for them plus I get to sew for pleasure on my days off!
We know the wildlife and history in Pembrokeshire has inspired your designs, but who are the artists and fellow makers you admire?
Having worked for the William Morris Society doing curtain restoration, I admire the way he taught himself each craft and design skill before asking anyone to make something for him. Of the current designers, I particularly like Angie Lewin and Hannah Nunn.
Do you have a favourite piece from your own collections?
I recently created the Twilight collection and the Leaping Hare has become a particular favourite. The Dunlin design is also a favourite, so much so that we chose it to become the Seaforth Designs symbol.
Do you ever worry you’ll run out of designs?! Or are you always brimming with ideas?
Yes, I sometimes worry that I may run out of designs, but at the same time, my head is always spinning with ideas and is hard not to be inspired by the nature and scenery around me.
What would you like people to feel when they own a piece of your work?
That it has been made especially for them, which it has, from my sewing room in Pembrokeshire to wherever they may be all over the world.