Dominique Davant is one of Neema Crafts' core print designers. Originally from France, Dom is a experienced designer who came to work with Neema Crafts for three years. She's designed many of our popular prints, in particular, Masumbo.
We recently caught up with Dom to find out what inspired the much-loved tropical print which you'll find on our lampshades, tote bag, and cushions.
What was the inspiration or story behind the Masumbo print design?
I had started a drawing when I had once gone for an afternoon swim in the river at Masumbo (a river-side camp just outside of Iringa). It was really lush and green and I was particularly amazed with the bamboo forest and palms just before you get to the swimming spot. I hadn’t particularly thought of using the sketch for Neema first but then Katy (Co-Director of Neema) asked me to design floral prints so this drawing was going to be a good starting point.
A few months later we all went to Masumbo for a retreat with everyone at Neema Crafts and the print (and place) became even more special for me!
Can you describe the creative process for developing the Masumbo print?
I started with drawing what I could see around the river, recreating that jungle like feel of all the different leaves and trees intertwined together. I happened to find the right pen and paper that day as I felt really inspired and quickly filled the page.
After we decided to use the sketch for a print, I had to scale it up to Neema’s largest size of print and then create a repeat by splitting my drawing in half and adding leaves that would interlock when repeating.
Which part of the process do you enjoy the most?
I always like drawing the most but there is also something very special when you finally wash your freshly exposed screen and you start seeing the artwork coming through the mesh. I also really enjoy sample printing and looking for new colour ways.
Neema has such a special place in my heart and I cannot be more grateful for the experience I’ve had there. It helped me grow both as a designer but also connecting with a different culture, getting out of my comfort zone, making friends for life!
How did you go about choosing the colours for the print? Did they come after the sketches?
Yes, choosing the colours is the final step and I always start with a range in my head whether it’s from colours Neema already uses or something I’ve seen elsewhere and we build on that.
Coming up with new colours is a very intuitive thing and I can’t quite tell what makes a good colour range or what doesn’t but when you finally see one on the fabric, you know it’s the right one!
I print lots of little samples of what I think looks good together and then Katy and I sit (for hours!) deciding which final colourway will make the cut.
It’s always hard to pick a favourite but is there an element of Masumbo that you are particularly fond of?
I really like Masumbo’s jungle feel and I loved looking at all my favourite different plants and leaves of Tanzania to try and include them in the drawing. I always tend to use black pens when I draw and love playing with the quality and thickness of the lines. But overall, I like Masumbo for the special memories it also represents for me - a special time and place that’s super close to my heart!
Were there elements to this print that you found challenging?
The most challenging was working out a smooth repeat that wouldn’t be too obvious.
Did you design the print with products in mind or was it afterwards it was applied to specific products?
I think I already had a feeling it would be nice on lampshades but I was surprised how versatile it turned out to be and we created a whole collection of bags and accessories with this print too.
You’ve had spent a total of three years working at Neema as a print designer. What made you want to keep returning to work here?
So many! I couldn’t possibly describe them all here but one of the biggest reason I came back each time is the atmosphere in which the workshop bathed in - there is not one day you can’t find someone to make you smile.