Charlotte Raffo, founder of The Monkey Puzzle Tree, collaborated with musical artist Drew Millward to create Hit the North, a 2021 Design Guild Mark winner in the 2D Design category.
Established in 2017, The Monkey Puzzle Tree has carved out a new way to harness creative ideas to produce one-of-a-kind design. Carefully selected Yorkshire artists collaborate with Charlotte to create unique textiles and wallcoverings, receiving a 20% royalty for their contribution to the design.
We spoke with Charlotte to find out more about the award-winning design.
What initially inspired you to design Hit the North?
I was working on a series of designs inspired by the Bauhaus movement and loved the tactility of cork and thought it would really compliment Drew’s illustrative style.
Explain its concept.
Inspired by the Bauhaus values of simplicity, honesty and the use of natural materials, I wanted to create a wall covering that worked with these ideals but was new and not just a pastiche of an old style.
I looked at modernist pattern design for inspiration, and the geometric shapes and circular elements influenced the brief for Drew. I thought the cork would make a unique wall covering, sympathetic to 20th century design but used in a new way.
At the time I briefed the concept to Drew I remember thinking it seemed a little bit crazy though it’s much more common now. By including his signature elements such as the skulls and lightbulbs, Drew gave the architectural design more edge and stopped it being predictable. The more you investigate it the more you can see, so it never becomes boring.
How have you struck the balance between function and design with this product?
The natural tactility of the cork brings character and warmth to a space. It’s been used very successfully to add character to new build properties as well as complimenting period spaces. It’s also great at absorbing sound and can help to quieten a noisy space.
Who does this design appeal to?
The design does have a particular affinity to those with a connection to the North of England, often people who have moved away and want to bring that part of their life into their home.
Drew’s musical connection and the fact that the design is named after a song by post punk band The Fall means that it’s also popular with music lovers. The scale of the design also makes it a perfect statement for a bar or creative office space.
How long did the design process take, from initial sketches to roll out?
It took about two years! When I first met Drew he told me that he likes deadlines, but when I’m working with an artist I don’t like to put them under too much pressure. Every design takes its own path, with this one it took a while to come but it was worth the wait, and once Drew had created the design it was quick. There was also a bit of time taken to work out the colours and the printing method.
What modifications did you make along the way?
Initially I really wanted to screen print the design, but we couldn’t get a consistent even finish on the cork so in the end we went with a digital print. We also tried a few different colours and different scales before settling on the final design.
In what way do you think this design is different from anything else available on the market?
When we first launched Hit the North there were hardly any printed cork wallpapers available. The design really embodies the unique and rebellious style of Drew Millward whilst perfectly capturing the atmosphere of the industrial North.
For more information, go to https://themonkeypuzzletree.com/