An artist’s eye

The cream, as they say, rises to the top.

That concept was proven once again recently when information about The Vale London arrived at WAG amid the routine flood of emails.

The introduction to the company launched by Melinda Marquardt in 2017 was intriguing from the start.

A London-based artist who, we would learn, had worked in sales for an American textile company, she decided to create a business that would pair her education in fine art with her years of experience in sales. The Vale London would be dedicated to creating and providing textiles and wallpapers for the luxury interiors market.

Once we saw the designs, we were hooked by her reinterpretation of the classics — first, the romantic patterns inspired by English gardens and then, the bolder work inspired by travel farther afield. All, we note, share her dedication to time-honored techniques that focus on fine hand drawings, lavish watercolors and what she calls the “lost art” of Asian marbling, the last being an approach shared with Venetian style.

Soon after our first look, we reached out to Marquardt who graciously took time to tell us more about The Vale London, which has made its American debut.

Please tell us a bit about your background and training.

“Growing up in England, the school system allows you to concentrate on the subjects that you love from the age of 16. I chose textiles, fine art and business and never looked back. I attended university in upstate New York at Skidmore College and majored in fine art with a business minor. After graduation, I immediately got a job at Fabricut in New York City. I fell in love with textiles and worked my way up to sales manager of Europe and Russia. After seven years at Fabricut, I had the opportunity to design a pattern for the New York Botanical (Garden) collection with Vervain. I fell in love with textile design and decided to partner my education in fine art with my experience in the textile world.

“In early 2014 I returned to London (after being promoted to the sales manager of EU/Russia) as I needed to be closer to my territory. I (now) house my design studio in my flat that I share with my pup, Milo.”

Tell us about The Vale London — when it launched, what is its focus and the meaning of the name.

“Named after the street I grew up on in London, The Vale’s first collection launched in September 2019. The majority of the collection was inspired by a trip that I took to Tanzania with my family. I am obsessed with African textiles and British colonial style. The Oakley collection is a modern twist on traditional and classic themes celebrating African textiles, plants and wildlife.”

Can you give us a glimpse into your process, walking us through one design, perhaps? Please share a bit about inspiration, development and the rewards of seeing a final product.

“Sugarbush is my personal favorite in the collection, a gorgeous embroidered textile based on the wildflowers of Africa. I brought my trusty watercolor palette with me to an island off the coast of Tanzania and spent the week painting local plant life. On my return to London, I met with some excellent technicians, who artfully translated my paintings into an embroidered textile. Seeing the finished product was so rewarding for this pattern in particular because it shows off the benefits of collaborating with the finest mills and artisans.”

What are your enduring inspirations — and how does contemporary life/culture influence your process?

“I talk a lot about inspiration from my travels, but I also pick up details in everyday life around London. I’m surrounded by beautiful architecture (and) find myself staring out the car window at the facades of gorgeous Georgian and Victorian buildings in juxtaposition to modern skyscrapers. The beauty is in the juxtaposition of aesthetics, and I think The Vale encompasses that balance of traditional with a modern twist.”

How do you think being an artist as well as a designer distinguishes your work, from your approach and perspective to your goals?

“The goal with all of my designs is to provide art for the home. I want every piece to show the hand of the artist and for the viewer to discover more details in work, the longer they look at it. Every brush stroke and ink stain of the original art is transferred unedited into the final product. As you look closely at each piece, you will discover another brushstroke you didn’t see before or the echo of a pencil mark that was erased. The story in the development of the design is there if you look closely.”

And finally, what do you think about your work, from textiles to wallpapers, “going global.” What do you hope American customers connect with most — and what can we expect in 2020?

“2020 is going to be an exciting year. Over the past three months, I’ve signed distribution deals with 15 road reps and 25 showrooms globally. I am excited for designers to get their hands on the product and see my textiles and wallpapers used in projects. I think American customers will appreciate the quality of the product. Every pattern in the collection is 100% natural and built to stand the test of time. In a world where sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, The Vale aims to provide a luxury and environmentally friendly product.”

For more, visit thevalelondon.co.uk.

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