My wood block ‘Honoria’ for the Virginia White Collection was in this months ‘House and Garden’ and it reminded me that I’d written a blog all about how the design came about and developed from a messy wood block into a finished, beautiful fabric and wallpaper.
It was a fascinating process for me as it was the first time I had a design produced commercially. It was also very special as I was the hand printer working on the sampling table at the wonderful Ivos Print when the design came to be sampled – basically sorting the colour and scale of the final print out. So I got to sample my own design – a real thrill!
Virginia wanted something lacey for her fabric collection and kindly asked me if I could design anything. So I went away, rummaged in my old fabric collection (a fabric black hole) and started work on a woodblock design based on a piece of antique french lace. I didn’t work straight from the lace but made shadows with it, which were slightly wonkier and got under the skin of the pattern a bit more. Doing this gave me the kind of information I needed to start drawing and cutting the block: sometimes it helps to make things look a bit strange first, then you see them in a fresher way.
Once I’d cut the block and taken the print, I scanned the prints and worked to scale up the design using photoshop. Photoshop saves a lot of time scaling up repeats but I’ve never been able to make very good marks with it so always prefer using hand made art work. Then Amelia in the Ivo design studio helped me transfer my print onto a large screen, advised by factory manager and general print genius Podge and produced by screen maker extraordinaire Chris.
This part of the process can be very tricky as you have to balance the hand made marks of the block print with the requirements of the commercial screen printing machinery. Luckily, Ivos have a very skilled team to do this as this would have been impossible for me to do on my own.
When it came to sampling the new design – basically exploring the best colours, scale and materials to print on – I worked with Monique and Jo on the hand-table, and then Chris and Ian took over to print show lengths on their galli machines. Virginia’s bold use of colour was sometimes a bit of a challenge for me, as she often told me she didn’t want anything crafty looking, but this was great as it shifted me out of my comfort zone.
The whole process, taking many months – was a real team effort and opened my eyes to the reality of designing and making – which always involves drawing heavily on the expertise and knowledge of others rather than sitting designing on your own in a little bubble.
The experience also brought together my two different worlds – working as a hand printer at Ivos and producing my own designs. It’s helped me to understand the pressures and constraints of commercial production and overall helped me become a better designer.
Since designing Honor & Honoria, I have produced two more block print designs – ‘Sompting’ and ‘Tirzah’, all available from the Virginia White Collection
Time for lunch time with the factory girls!