In patterns: Teresa Moorhouse

People March 13th 2013

In patterns: Teresa Moorhouse

Photos: Robert Lindström and Teresa Moorhouse

Teresa Moorhouse is an experienced textile designer, who has worked with Marimekko since 2004. Her newest design is called Onnen omenapuu (apple tree of happiness), and it is part of the Marimekko 2013 spring collection. The colour combinations of this summery pattern were inspired by Impressionistic art.

“Colour makes a powerful impression and lets us experience different moods. With the Onnen omenapuu pattern, I wanted to capture my favourite moments of summer – the clarity of morning light, a bright summer day, and the magic of Midsummer.” 

Apple tree. “I’d sketched the apple tree a year before it was chopped down. The original sketch hung over my worktable, but I was not ready to work on it yet.”

The sketch was inspired by an apple tree in the courtyard of Teresa’s childhood home, a flat in Helsinki. Over the years Teresa had grown attached to the old tree. “Two generations of Moorhouses have climbed and swung on the branches of the apple tree, as my family and I live in the same block of flats where I grew up.”

The inspiration to refine the sketch came after the apple tree was chopped down unexpectedly. Teresa wanted to immortalize the tree’s deep leafy green and the plump shape of ripe apples. Once she had made up her mind, Teresa was quick to put the finishing touch on her cherished pattern idea. To create a powerful contrast, she placed apples made of solid colour blocks on a detailed yet sensitively drawn background. The finished pattern also shows the subtle influence of Surrealism and Teresa’s skill to combine different techniques fluently. “I have to admit that I was nervous when I showed Onnen omenapuu to Marimekko’s design team. I had invested so much in the design on a personal level that I was relieved when I heard that they liked it.”

Designer at work. Having graduated as a fashion designer from a Parisian school, Teresa went on to complete her master’s degree at the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Her first job was designing knitwear, though soon she was also working as a graphic designer. This detour sparked her interest in illustration and textile design, and encouraged her to show her sketches to the former managing director of Marimekko, Kirsti Paakkanen. Kirsti liked what she saw, and Teresa started designing for Marimekko. Her first patterns were called Metsänhenki (Forest spirit), Koirat (Dogs) and Englantilainen puutarha (English garden).  Almost ten years have passed since Teresa joined Marimekko. “Time flies like that.”

From the very beginning, Teresa’s design work has been characterized by a clear yet highly personal style. “I’ve always had my own style. I like to be playful and fanciful – while also being sensitive and distinct at the same time.” Teresa draws all her pattern designs by hand. After sketching and scanning the design, she literally shuffles selected details and motifs around on her computer. It’s an approach that can lead to a very multifaceted and imaginative design. “The final stage is always the most interesting! I never know what will emerge from my drawings when I’m spinning them around on my computer.”

Teresa has honed her work process over the years. In the past, sketching and drawing took up most of her time. Today she likes to think longer and harder on what she wants to accomplish with her design work rather than just draw for the sake of drawing. “It’s funny that even with my experience, I feel like I’ll never design again once my pattern is selected for production.  But you always get over the feeling and become inspired by something new.”

The best of two cultures.  In their childhood, Teresa and her sister, photographer Joanna Moorhouse, would spend their summer holidays at their maternal grandparents’ cottage, rollicking in the Finnish countryside. They would also draw inspiration from their English father and his relatives. 

At their grandparents’ cottage in Finland, the two city girls experienced the pastoral side of life, witnessing cows give birth and running barefooted in nearby meadows. The family also enjoyed reading fairy tales to the girls, which meant that Teresa and her sister were introduced to a world rich in imagination and creativity. She has continued this storytelling tradition with her own children. Teresa also says that fairy tales play an even more pronounced role in her design work today.

A room of my own. Teresa works from home and her workroom is the designer’s own personal space. When things are especially hectic, no one is allowed in the room – not even her three- and six-year-old children. “I often ask my children for their opinion – especially when it comes to choosing colourways for a pattern design. I like their spontaneity, even though I can’t take all their comments seriously. My husband is an architect, whose opinion matters a lot to me. When I start working, he is the only grown-up person I will show my unfinished pattern sketches to. His comments can get me to rethink my work, and sometimes the pattern design begins to go in a completely new direction.”

But now back to the apple tree in the pretty courtyard. A sapling has been planted near the stump of the old apple tree. The new tree will grow and strengthen in the coming years until the next generation of children take to its branches and swing with joy.