Today I’m continuing my series of interviews with independent artists and makers by chatting to Amy Murrell, the founder and designer behind East Sussex lighting studio Chalk Path Studio.
I first came across Chalk Path Studio while browsing Instagram, and by chance I happened to be on a train journeying through the Sussex countryside at the time. I’ve always been fascinated by design that’s rooted in a particular place, and I could instantly see how Amy’s beautiful creations are borne from the local coastline. Handcrafted from materials such as chalk, limestone and paper, her pendant lights combine calming simplicity with organic forms and tactile surfaces. They look elegant and lightweight, yet at the same time almost as if they’ve been hewn straight from the wave-pounded cliffs which inspired them.
Over to Amy herself for more about the story behind Chalk Path Studio, the importance of place, her creative process, and how sustainability shapes her work…
Hi Amy! Please can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your background?
“Hello! I’m based in Brighton and work from a lovely shared studio space in Hove. My degree is in photography and I was an artworker for many years before deciding to make a career change – the big 4-0 was looming and I needed a seismic shift. I studied interior design online in my spare time and fell in love with the world of interiors, but towards the end of the course I realised I didn’t actually want to work as an interior designer. Instead, I had a really strong sense that I wanted to physically make homewares myself. I started off with smaller sculptural pieces and developed my technique into making lighting pendants.”
When did Chalk Path Studio begin life?
“I started Chalk Path Studio during lockdown. I was finishing off my interiors course and wanted to get started on creating before it ended to keep my momentum going. Being in lockdown gave me a lot of time to experiment with my process. It was really exciting to be working this way in my kitchen at home – it just felt right, and I knew I needed to pursue this form of making.”
Have you always been creative?
“Pretty much, yes – although I’ve never really expressed it as much as I do now with Chalk Path Studio.”
How would you describe your designs?
“The words I would use are ‘calm’ and ‘connected to nature’. That’s what I try to bring to my work when I’m making and also through the style and feel of the finished products.
“My work is directly inspired by the landscape of the South Coast, and I get such a sense of peace and belonging on my walks along the shoreline. Being in an open landscape gives me the space to reflect, to feel calm and unbound, and I channel those moments into my designs.”
Sustainability is also central to your work. Please can you tell us more about that and how it enhances the finished products?
“I feel it’s important to give people the option to buy sustainably crafted pieces that have a minimal impact on the Earth’s limited resources, so conscious decisions guide my practice. I use found materials, recycled paper and by-products such as stone dust, as well as low-energy processes like air drying.
“Using natural and gathered materials allows for the beautifully unexpected. I love how they transform each piece, and they give an organic dimension to my work. I like to focus on their qualities and find ways to bring out the best in them.”
What inspires you?
“My local environment, the Sussex coast. The chalky, craggy, ever-changing coastline is my biggest inspiration and its textures, forms and colours are something I try to reflect in my designs.
“It’s really important to me that my work has a sense of place to it. Crafting with the materials available from my surroundings means each piece is rooted in the natural world and has a direct link to the landscape that inspired it.”
Do you have any personal favourites from the designs you’ve created so far?
“I really love the chalky textures of the ‘Hope Gap’ and ‘Birling Gap’ shades, named after two of my favourite summer swimming spots. You can float around in the sea looking back at the majestic cliffs as you bob about.”
What does the creative process look like for you? Do you go through any particular rituals or stages? And do you need to be in a certain mood or place?
“My creative process always starts with a walk along the coast, gathering and observing as I go.
I’m deliberately slow with my processes, and the making itself is slow as each stage takes time to dry out. Nothing happens quickly in my studio! I also allow ideas to sit with me, taking time to try things out and start again until I’m happy with where they’re headed.
“I absolutely have to be in the right mood and will often choose not to make at all if it’s not the right day for it. Things tend to go wrong if I try to work in the wrong headspace, so at those times I focus on prep and planning instead.”
What’s next for you? Any new designs or exciting plans on the horizon?
“I would definitely like to develop some new designs and expand my homewares range this year. I’m not quite sure what that looks like just yet though, so I’ll let you know!”
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for others looking to launch their own creative ventures?
“Absolutely! My first nugget would be that nothing is ever wasted. Every step you take will teach you something and contribute to who you are and what you create. Secondly, stay in your lane. Don’t worry about what other people are doing – just make what feels right for you. And last but not least, just start! Don’t wait until it’s all ‘perfect’, and be prepared to make mistakes. Who knows what might happen…?”
Great advice! Thanks Amy.
Browse Amy’s beautiful designs on the Chalk Path Studio website; prices start from £210. You can also find her on Instagram at @chalkpathstudio.