Artists of Motley: Tess Newall

by Maja Bayyoud on

To celebrate our latest collection with Coline Assade, we teamed up with a selection of hand-picked creative talents, from artists to print makers and designers. We sent them jewellery from the collection with a single instruction – to let their imagination run wild. Inspired by folk decoration and historic patterns, Tess Newall is a London-based decorative artist with a background in set design for film and fashion. Now, working mainly as a decorative painter, she weaves her playful, whimsical style into botanically-inspired interiors. 

I’ve always loved creating space. 

As a child, I was obsessed with my dolls house – I'd decorate it using scraps of wallpapers and fabrics from my mum's sewing box, and make painted furniture using the card from cereal boxes. I didn't have any dolls for it, so I'd take it to the woods near where we lived and imagine woodland animals living in it. 

In film, I learnt how to professionally make props and scenic paint - I couldn't believe that I was paid to do what I loved.

My career began as a Set Designer in film and fashion, where your role is to transport a space to a different reality. My career evolved to become a decorative artist when we had children, as I can do it from my studio. 

I love that I can now transform a domestic space that will be lived in and loved. Film work feels very transient as it is lost after filming.

The idea of infinity sort of terrifies me but also fascinates me. 

I love the artist Rose Wylie – her work has such spontaneity and freedom. 

Someone whose work is always in my head is the illustrator Arthur Rackham. His drawings of insects and creatures are tangled webs of detail – so much so that you really feel like you are inside of them. 

I'd spend hours staring at them when I was young – you always found new things in them, going deeper and deeper into the page. 

I love museums, and how varied they are all over the world. 

The Decorative Arts museum in Paris is a treasure trove. But I also love "living museums," where old buildings have been maintained exactly as they would have been. 

In Florence, there is a medieval palace full of frescoes called Palazzo Davanzati. There are some tiny ones in Austria, full of folk painted furniture. In London, Denis Severs' House recreates the life of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from the 1720s. The V&A also provides endless inspiration – you can make appointments to view particular parts of their archive for free.

The planning stage of projects can feel endless at times. But the feeling when something works out as you hoped it might, and when it brings the customer joy, makes it worth it. I recently moved from a shed in our garden into a huge studio, which feels a bit daunting and involves making lots of new workbenches and shelving areas to try and keep organised. It's also really exciting – you need to take leaps of faith sometimes. 

I love the creature who wraps around your finger as a ring.

For my interpretation of Motley x Coline Assade, I wanted to give the feeling that the jewels were bathing under the midsummer full moon, nestled like creatures amongst strange plants and vines and fruits. 

I painted large backdrops with splatters of wax to resist the paint, creating an effect of a lunar landscape or a celestial sky. I then photographed them in completely natural light – some at sunrise creating strong shadows, and others in the late evening moonlight giving softer shadows.

Discover the full Motley x Coline Assade collection.

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