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  • Charlotte Raffo, founder of The Monkey Puzzle Tree

    Charlotte Raffo is the founder of The Monkey Puzzle Tree, collaborating with Yorkshire artists to create award winning fabrics and wallpapers with a twist and a conscience.

    Here Charlotte shares her story…

     ‘I’ve always had a passionate interest in textiles and interiors since being tiny. When visiting my parent’s friends houses as a child I would always ask to go to the loo so I could have a peek at the rest of the house!


    Our family didn’t know anyone who worked in a creative industry, and by the late 90’s the textile industry was in decline. So I went to the University of Leeds and studied Colour and Polymer Chemistry.


    After graduating my unlikely dream first job was working in the Pittards tannery in Leeds.

    I created finishes on leather for luxury leather goods and shoe brands like Louis Vuitton and Camper, working at every stage of the many finishing processes. I was allowed to experiment, but it was also my responsibility to ensure that the designs I made could be produced by the factory. It was an absolute pleasure to be involved in a hands on manufacturing process, but I was one of the only females on the shop floor and it was quite an experience!


    When the tannery closed in 2006 everyone lost their jobs and all the skills were lost. This made me very passionate about supporting local heritage industries. 

    I then worked designing a quirky range of high end pushchairs for a niche brand owned by Mamas and Papas before becoming their textile buyer. My favourite projects were collaborations with Donna Wilson and Liberty, it was a shame our kids had grown out of pushchairs by that point!

    I started working on the idea for The Monkey Puzzle Tree in 2016 after being made redundant following a restructure at Mamas and Papas. The idea for the business came about when I realised that I knew lots of artists who were struggling to make a living from their work but had never created patterns or products from their work. 


    Friend and artist sarah Thornton  suggested collaborating on designs and paying a royalty back to the artists. 

    ‘Rita does Jazz’ velvet was our first collaboration. That design is still selling really well over 8 years later.

    We pay each artist we work with 20% of our sale price as a royalty and make everything, including most of our packaging within 100 miles of our Leeds studio. 

    The journey to grow this business, staying true to our values has been one of the most challenging but also rewarding things I’ve ever done. We have a long way yet to go, but we’re getting there!’


    Charlotte Raffo regularly takes part in speaking events, and has also run workshops and mentored students and post graduates at Leeds Arts University. She also consults on design strategy for product brands in the interior design sector.

    In her spare time Charlotte enjoys spending time with her two teenage children in the Yorkshire Dales. She also plays indian harmonium and suitcase percussion in jazz band The Devil’s Jukebox, which has been delighting and terrifying audiences since the early noughties.

    You can contact Charlotte at