Mosney Mill - nature inspired home accessories
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 January 2017
The wildlife around Emma Sutton’s home at Higher Walton near Preston inspired her to pursue her life’s dream. Emma Mayoh reports.
All it took was a drive down the bumpy track to Mosney and Emma Sutton was taken. Hook, line and sinker. The land may have been overgrown and the buildings in a state of disrepair but this patch of land, a peaceful riverside idyll just outside Preston, had to be hers.
‘It was really overgrown but the hedgerows were absolutely teaming with robins,’ remembered Emma. ‘There were blue tits and finches and it felt like they were showing me and guiding me onto the grounds.
‘This was the very first time I set foot on Mosney ground. You couldn’t see more than a few metres in front of you. I was walking our Labrador and two roe deer leapt out in front of me. If I’d held out my hand I could have touched them. I don’t know who was more shocked. There haven’t been many days since then that we haven’t had a visit from the deer.’
Emma, with husband Dave, spent a few years renovating an old barn at the riverside site while they lived with their children, Skye and Tom, in a run-down bungalow next door. But Mosney has become much more than a family home. Not only have Emma’s parents and sister built their own homes on the same land, it has also been the inspiration and catalyst for Emma to pursue a lifelong dream – to design and make her own products and run her own business.
‘I’ve always been creative and I’d always wanted to be an artist,’ said Emma. ‘But I was never brave enough to go for it. When we built our house it developed my confidence to project manage and to get something that I really wanted.
‘I ended up going back to college and did a foundation year in art. I was naturally drawn to textiles. I absolutely loved it. I thought about doing another course but I couldn’t afford it. And, by that point, I had my first wallpaper done. And people were also interested in my work. It got me thinking there could be more to this.’
The 47-year-old adores nature and, aside from her domestic animals, she has developed a bond with some of the wildlife. It is this abundance of nature that lies at the heart of Mosney Mill, the interiors and homewares brand launched by Emma last year. Emma picked up her pencils and began to draw animals from the gorgeous scenery she was immersed in. A range of whimsical animals began to emerge, each with a story and a special place on the family’s 11 acres of land.
Sitting at a desk in her studio, which overlooks the land at Mosney, she can watch deer, dozens of varieties of birds, butterflies and other wildlife. She has coined names for some of them and brought them to life through her different ranges of fabrics, wall coverings, bone china, stationery and kitchenware. There’s Mosney Bob, a little robin who follows Emma around the land and twitters to her from a tree each morning at the chicken coop. There’s also Reg the pheasant, other birds and butterflies that call Mosney home and a range with deer on it, inspired by that very first encounter.
‘My kind dad took to feeding all the birds that come to the large pond he built on the land. Every morning he would set off across the fields with an enamel bucket full of duck feed. He’d never get more than a few metres into his journey before Reg and his harem of lady pheasants would appear from the woodlands and waddle behind him. This gave me many wonderful opportunities to sketch Reg in all his splendour.
‘Mosney Bob the robin is very special to me, too. After a really sad time in my life he followed me around for days. Every time I left the house he was there twittering away, bobbing from fence post to fence post, making me smile and filling me with hope. He’s a real feature here at Mosney, and I hope he will become a much loved part of people’s homes too.’
Emma is uncompromising on quality and she has sought out the best British suppliers and makers to produce her exquisite products, which include a stunning wallpaper featuring Reg, priced at £124 a roll. Emma illustrates using watercolour pencils. Her hand drawn designs are then transferred onto different materials by master craftsmen including several in Lancashire. Her products have already gathered quite a following.
But the former teaching assistant has also revived part of Mosney’s rich history. It is the site of a former print works which was in operation from 1780 to 1788 and it was at the heart the printing industry developed. Thomas Bell, of Mosney, invented his method of printing six colours at a time. Then John Slater, a calico printer at Mosney, patented a press for printing onto cotton. It was a move that paved the way towards modern day fabric printing.
‘These developments were seen as important to print as Richard Arkwright’s inventions were to the Industrial Revolution,’ said Emma. ‘It was technology that was taken on by other people and became used widely.
‘It was a sign, too. I had to bring printing back to Mosney. I’m very proud to have been able to do that.’
Some of Emma’s products are now calico printed, as they would once have been in the site’s past. Her pursuits have breathed new life into the Mosney site. But Mosney has also brought her new life.
‘It feels incredible to be doing what I love most at the place I love the most,’ she said. ‘I feel incredibly lucky. I love seeing the designs come together and to be able to show them to other people. People seem to really like the Mosney characters I have in my ranges and that makes me very happy.’