biophilia - nature inspired design business, Hannah Nunn
As part of my biophilia series I want to share small businesses which feature a love of nature and wellbeing a their very foundation. Nature inspired patterns and surface designs are subjects close to my own heart having run my own design business for seven years. Over these years I have had the pleasure of meeting some very inspirational designers and artists along the way whose work I greatly admire.
One such artist is Hannah Nunn. I first met Hannah back in 2013 when we both exhibited at an interiors show in Manchester. Hannah was showing her range of beautiful paper cut lamps and I was instantly drawn to her delicate nature inspired craft.
Hannah has developed a wonderful collection of wallpapers, fabrics, window films, decorations, paper bouquets, tote bags and has also written two beautiful books. The whole collection is inspired by the tiny fascinating details found in nature and her delicate art can be found in homes all over the world.
Hannah creates from her studio in Hebden Bridge, a vibrant market town well known for being a creative hotspot . The town is surrounded by moorland, woodlands and meadows, with the tiny details of these landscapes ever present in Hannah's work.
The stories behind how an artist finds their creative muse are always so fascinating to me, so I asked Hannah to share how nature has inspired her to create her beautiful business. Over to you Hannah...
You wouldn’t have called me a nature lover when I was growing up. I was a city girl, born in Leeds. I liked going to the shops with my Mum and being at home, drawing pictures and making things out of cardboard boxes.
I do have an early memory of being at the bottom of the garden, making rose petal ‘perfumes’, with my Mum’s face popping up every now and again at the kitchen window to check I was ok. But actually, I was too afraid of insects and bugs to really settle in to being outside. I wanted to climb trees but the thought of the creepy crawlies didn’t let me climb very high. Our neighbours' treehouse was so cute with its spiral staircase and its picture windows but it had way too many spidery corners!
I’m not sure how I ended up with pet stick insects – maybe to try and help me make friends with the insect community, but they really weren’t any fun at all and I’m not sure they
Despite my fears I did play out a lot. At the back of our house was a leafy lane and all summer the local kids were in and out of each other’s gardens; each one with a different character and a different kind of nature. I remember Kathy’s wild roses climbing up the wall and our old lilac tree that hid the dustbins. I remember the smell of Pat’s greenhouse and Jessica’s tree with a hole in, that collected stinky water. Norman’s garden was the best. It was wild. He had a pond, where we would look for newts and frogs and water boatman. He had a beehive, and taught us about the incredible community of bees. He also took us on walks to identify toadstools. Those experiences planted a lot of nature loving seeds in me.
As a teenager, nature was ‘boring’, although looking back, the memories of heady summer nights are not just of my mates or the cider in the park! I can bring back the humid air and the scents of sticky sycamore sap and honeysuckle wafting over next door’s wall. I remember awesome starry skies on holidays and the smell of the rain on the Yorkshire paving slabs.
Nature was working its magic, whether I was aware of it or not.
On my art foundation course, I was drawing belisha beacons and street signs, bus stops and
buildings. The city was expressing itself in my work. I loved art college and really thrived, but after failed attempts to get onto an art degree in the cities of Liverpool, Glasgow and Brighton, I ‘ended up’ going to Carmarthen in West Wales to do an HND in Crafts. It sounded like the perfect course for someone who was always making things. I remember thinking that living in the countryside would be a big adventure and that perhaps I could get some chickens!
As it happens, I didn’t complete my college course and I never did get any chickens but I did fall in love with living in the countryside. I loved woodland walks to collect kindling for the wood burner, I loved seeing the tidal estuary through the trees with its mud popping and curlews calling. I loved sitting in fields and identifying flowers and even plucked up all my courage to climb the big old oak tree in the middle of the meadow and sit and draw. In fact, bugs became pretty interesting too.
After seeing one of my drawings in his friend’s kitchen, a man commissioned me to illustrate an illuminated alphabet for his collection. He had a cabin in some woodland and let me draw there. ‘A’ for anemone and Annie’s garden, ‘B’ for bluebells and birch trees, ‘C’ for campions, the castle and cockleshells. As I started to draw those dear little wood anemones with my fine liner pens, time stopped. The sounds and smells of the woodland were heightened. This meditative experience took me to a deeper place I loved and I knew that was it.
Shortly after leaving college, I had my two children, Ffion and Euan and I often say that my urge to make things and the dream to start some kind of creative business, was like my third (very persistent) child, pulling at my skirt and saying, “don’t forget about me Mum”, so I was always trying to make work as they grew, even though that was challenging at times.
After seven years in Wales, we moved back up north and settled in Hebden Bridge. This bustling creative town, nestled in a deep wooded valley was a lovely bridge between town and countryside.
When the kids started school and I began to have a little more freedom, I got myself a space in a shared studio and began to really make things. First handmade paper cut cards and eventually my paper cut lamps which I have become well known for. I didn’t know then that twenty years later, I’d have a whole collection of wallpapers, fabrics, window films, books and so many other treasures. All a beautiful way to express my love of nature.
In this valley, there are so many walks through woods, meadows and moorland. There are streams, rivers, reservoirs and a pretty canal. Whichever direction you leave the house, you will find somewhere beautiful to wander. In fact, this whole lockdown year, I have barely left this valley at all, and apart from the occasional sea craving, I want for nothing. Having lived here 21 years now, I am delighted that I can still discover new paths to this day.
And now all these paths hold stories for me, as the tiny details that I notice find their way into my work. It was that elder tree that offered me its beautiful blooms, it was that foxglove by the allotment, that helped me figure out how to stylise it after many failed attempts, it was that clover that opened its fresh green leaves out to the sky in a joyful pattern.
My hedgerow wallpaper holds all the memories of those daily walks when I watched the spring unfurling leaf by leaf; when the sky was so clear and the birdsong so loud. I looked closely, took it all in and walk by walk found a kind of peace in this strange new world.
I didn’t know that by Autumn the plants and flowers I drew would be on a wallpaper in four colours and feature in a best selling window film. And I didn’t know that I would find a kinship with others as they told me how they too had found new paths or discovered a family of foxes that lived down their lane. How they had found solace in nature, some discovering it
for the very first time.
I feel so lucky that there are people all over the world who love my work. They take comfort in the warm glow of a lamp, or they buy their friend a snowdrop candle cover to get them through a dark January. Some ‘turn their living room into a summer meadow all year round’ with my wallpaper to get inspired by my Tiny Treasures book and take the kids out to the woods to find treasures of their own.
We love nature and we want to bring it into our homes. This serves as a gentle reminder of how it soothes us and how we need to get out in it often. To be filled with awe and wonder. It brings a deeper sense of connection to this precious thing that we are a part of and hopefully inspires us to respect and protect it too.
Sometimes people who I have never met send me photos of grasses silhouetted against the sky and say, “I saw this and thought of you”. What a wondrous thing to be associated with. I owe it all to nature and give thanks for my capacity to see and feel its beauty.
Hannah’s creations can be found on her website www.hannahnunn.co.uk and she posts her work all over the world. She also writes her ‘Three Something’s’ email every Thursday; Something she has made, something she is making and something she has noticed. It’s a great way to watch ideas unfold and see what is inspiring her and share her walks in the woods and meadows. Sign up here.