BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design & Styling student Emma Payne took on the challenge of a lifetime, tackling Kilimanjaro to raise money for a charity close to her heart, and inspired by local tribes came back determined to promote sustainability in her designs.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain on earth, it's also classed as a dormant volcano with three main peaks, with the last volcanic activity recorded just over 200 years ago. Tackling the route to the summit sees climbers facing adverse weather conditions, including heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, as well as altitude sickness and incredibly difficult terrain.
As part of a small group of six, Emma spent a week hiking through rainforest, rocky desert and snow capped mountains to reach the Uhuru peak, and along the way she was taking note of colours, textures and ways of living that would eventually inform her work when she returned to the studio.
We caught up with Emma to find out more about the climb, her work as an artist and how the experience will continue to influence her collections...
How would you describe yourself as an artist, what are your usual influences and style?
I would describe my designer style as maximalist as I am massively influenced by colour, print and pattern. I love companies like House of Hackney and Cole and Son, both known for their sublime prints and decadent colours, and I love referencing their pieces in my designs.
You usually spend your day surrounded by patterns and prints, so why did you chose to do such a tough climb?
The idea was all down to my Dad, he has done the climb twice before and was eager to do it again. I’ve always wanted to do it, ever since he did his first climb back in 2009, but I've never really felt old enough until now. We went along with a group of six people and raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support, we raised around £4,000 total which we were really happy with!
Why did your group choose Macmillan as the charity to raise money for?
We chose Macmillan as most of our group have been affected by cancer in some way, my Dad’s mum passed away from it and my Nan was also treated for breast cancer last year. So Macmillan is a charity pretty close to all of our hearts.
What was the highlight of your climb?
The highlight of my climb was definitely reaching the summit. The rest of the climb was amazing but the feeling of having reached the top after walking eight hours through the night in -25 degree temperature was a massive achievement for all of us!
So what kind of challenges did you come up against while you were out there?
In terms of challenges what I struggled with most was the altitude sickness, around day three or four I started getting pounding headaches and nausea which persisted pretty much until day six. The 250-metre vertical climb called the Barranco Wall on day five was something else I was pretty nervous about, as we didn’t use any ropes or clamps, but as with everything else on the climb our guides were amazing and we all really enjoyed it.
That sounds pretty scary! How will the experience influence your work?
I went on the trip hoping that it would inspire my future design work, and I’ve come back with great ideas for my next project. I was most inspired by the different environments of the mountain, beginning with the traditional Tanzanian villages, the rainforest, Moorlands and finally the peak. The inspiration I gained is going to influence a restaurant I am currently designing for a module project, where I’ll use my images to create wallpaper and fabric designs.
I was further inspired by the ethos around the Tanzanian culture, they are very focused on a no-waste and sustainable lifestyle, which is something I aim to translate into my design as well.
You mentioned that you're now looking to be eco-friendly in your work, why is this important to you?
I noticed a big focus in Tanzania on their focus toward being sustainable in the way they live, there was very minimal waste and the use of recycled materials was everywhere. It’s so important to me as I feel in design we need to reach some sort of solution to the amount of products we are consuming and the waste we are producing, so in my current project I am aiming to create a sustainable restaurant franchise, sourcing elements like tables and chairs from companies who are using recycled materials to produce sustainable products.
Do you think you'll do another climb in the future?
When I came off the mountain I was adamant I would not be climbing again, however I’m starting to forget the hard bits and think I would definitely do it again! I’d love to take friends up or go with some of my family members.
You can view more of Emma's work by following her on Instagram: @interiorsbyep.