Esther Coombs: Recycling by Design

Esther Coombs describes herself as an artist “who believes that life is a story and that narrative is best told with drawings.” A gifted illustrator, she has found a perfect canvas for her storytelling; old china and fabric. Through her upcycling of vintage ceramics and textiles she creates unique pieces, drawing by hand onto the surface of each item. The juxtaposition of her modern, somewhat minimalist line drawings with the floral and elaborate designs of the vintage china and fabric creates an unusual, somehow provocative look.Esther Coombs studied for a BA in Applied Arts at Middlesex University, graduating in 2003, and since September 2009, running her own business has been her full-time occupation. She lives and works in what she calls a “beautiful, sleepy village outside of Winchester with her husband, where she works in a studio in a shed at the bottom of the garden, all tranquillity and blossom trees.

“I draw with a very fine low-fire top glaze pen straight onto the plates. I then re-fire the china so the fine lines of the top glaze seal themselves to the glaze of the old china, which is already there, then it’s permanent. I draw straight onto the plate, making it up as I go. Working with a tricky dips and curves of the plates, cups and jugs can be really difficult, but practice makes perfect.”

What about the tea towels and the luxurious silk cushions? “All my drawings on fabric are applied by screen printing. So I do the illustrations and then it’s printed onto the fabric for me. I have a fab guy in Birmingham who does this. His small company works solely with recycled, organic or upcycled material with non-toxic green inks, and they have a great policy on waste and a very all-round green approach. I’m not a great screen-printer, and sometimes I think it’s wiser to know when you don’t do something well, so in this case I have found the next best thing, a very eco-conscious man who can!”

Work by Esther Coombs has gone from strength to strength in. Among the highlights was a double page feature in The Times on upcoming names to watch during Design Week.

Esther work has been well received at trade and retail fairs and many are stocked in well-respected London stores, such as Liberties of London. The range is now also stocked internationally from LA to Taipei and are regularly featured in national home-style magazine shoots for desirable kitchen and eco items.

Reusing and recycling is a practice which extends to every aspect of her business- packaging, shipping, printing, manufacture and all 100% British.
Her customers seem delighted to choose a repurposed piece of art over a new, mass-produced one, made in China, art-lovers and design conscience buyers don’t want cheap – they want unique.”

“It is both the physical and narrative qualities of my work—I find vintage pieces and rewrite their stories by adding my own with my illustrations, my main aim is to transform lost gems into new, desirable items”


Great Marlborough Street, London W1B 5AH
National Gallery Shop
Sainsbury wing, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre Belvedere Road London SE1 8XX
Sketch at the RA
Royal Academy of Arts, 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S
Kobe, Japan
Petit Amour
5F 1-4-1 Shiba Kobayashi Building Shiba Minato ku Tokyo
Birdhouse Interior design
Omaha, Nebraska
Lane Crawford
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

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