Founder and creator of the Sequana collection, Mary Shaw describes it through 5 adjectives linked to its origins: unexpected, unique, authentic, timeless and very colorful. She goes into detail about her inspirations and the spirit of the materials and colors she has inspired.
I've wanted to create Sequana driven by an unconditional love of vibrant and saturated colors.
1 - How did you happen to create the Sequana collection?
I arrived in France in 1979 and for years I found the interiors of houses a bit monotonous, with little personality. In order to “not go wrong”, we decorated the rooms in a very neutral way, using mainly white, a color that, in my opinion, has little soul and personality.
It was certainly the fashion of the time but monochrome and the lack of color were inconceivable to me! I wanted to create Sequana without being influenced by trends, remaining myself, driven by an unconditional love of vibrant and saturated colors.
2 - How did you come up with the idea of designing a collection of Donegal wool fabrics?
I’m originally from Ireland and tweed fabric is an integral part of my background. Everyone has a tweed jacket, cap or garment. The weaving is done in Donegal, a region still wild, located in the north of Ireland towards the Atlantic, a sublime place. Every vacation or weekend with my family, I couldn’t resist coming home without buying a tweed piece. So color and tweed have always been a part of my life and it’s quite natural that it became the basis of my inspiration to launch the Sequana collection.
3 - Where does the name “Sequana” come from?
Sequana is the Latin translation of “the Seine”. The name comes from a water goddess, a healer who protected the springs of the Seine in Burgundy in Celtic times. Representing harmony and well-being, her name evoked the values that I was trying to convey in the Sequana spirit.
4 - Can you explain the innovative concept of Sequana at the time of its creation?
I preferred to focus on the notion of atmosphere rather than decoration. I therefore developed a totally unexpected color palette, dense, deep and saturated, but also close to nature, inspired by the tones of the singular landscapes of the Irish lands. The chromatic range recalls the natural beauty of the flora of a wild and free Irish land: plums, dahlias, quinces, amber, honey, lichen and wild flowers. The traditional herringbone and check patterns have been renewed in scale and color to create new woven wool plaids and tartans.
5 - You talk a lot about color in your creations, what is your relationship to it?
Color with all its influence, power and magic is at the heart of the Sequana collection. Beyond its purely aesthetic aspect, I am attentive to its fundamental nature, its power over us and its ability to arouse emotion. Mixtures and contrasts are the best way to fight against monotony. My motto is to never choose a single color but to combine several shades of the same color and contrast them with other colors.
6 - Why did you choose to work with Donegal wool rather than another wool?
I started working with other wools from Scotland but the hand and fall of the fabric was not sufficiently adapted to interior design. So I turned to Donegal wool, which I had known all my life and whose characteristics and finish were perfectly suited to decorative use. Its particularity lies in the fine speckles of bright colors that are part of the wool yarn and punctuate its surface to give it a unique look. First, I had to adjust it a little and technically perfect it for furniture, then I worked a lot on the finishing touches.
My “touch” was to choose very singular colors and to develop a structured and coherent collection. I wanted to propose an innovative concept, to explore a part of my culture by translating a sartorial way of life to a decorative way of life in the search of the same harmony. I think I was one of the first decorators to present a tweed wool collection, which was completely new at the time.
7 - Why did you choose Pierre Frey rather than another textile publisher so that the Sequana adventure would continue?
First of all, Pierre Frey is a wonderful family story whose three sons keep its soul and reputation alive. Moreover, it is a dynamic company, recognized worldwide for its love of know-how and high quality craftsmanship. The choice for me was obvious. I am very happy with this collaboration.
The studio immediately understood how to emphasize the mix of colors, contrasts and tones between the different designs. With the Pierre Frey studio, we added a series of neutral colors to the collection as a tribute to its timeless and authentic style. This touch was done with great subtlety, the collection remains very current and endures as I had imagined it, very structured in terms of associations, color contrasts and different designs that interact.