Today I’m thrilled to share with you an interview I did with painter and textile designer, Helen Hallam. In this post, Helen talks about her creative process and shares her thoughts on how technology has impacted the textile design industry.
This is the second time Helen’s beautiful watercolor flowers have graced the pages of my blog. Back in July, 2017 I featured her in a post I did on inspiring Instagram feeds.
I’m so excited to share her work with you again! Enjoy!
Hi Helen! Please tell us a little bit about your background as an artist and how you got to where you are now.
I’ve always loved painting, color and textiles, so at eighteen I went to Art College and studied Textile Design. I absolutely loved it and have been painting and designing textiles ever since. After university I worked for a Fashion print studio in London and then moved into home furnishings and worked for many years for Designers Guild. I’m now freelance and work for various clients on commission. I also recently launched my own textile and home accessories collection.
How would you describe your signature style? What has the process been like discovering your style?
It all begins with the painting. I started designing textiles pre-technology when everything was painted by hand. I have painted and experimented in lots of mediums – in Inks, Acrylic, Gouache etc. My recent favorite is watercolor. I love its fluidity, that it has a life of its own and the beautiful imperfection of every mark. My work has developed over time but I would say my style has always been painterly and vibrant.
Your watercolor paintings are vibrant! Can you tell us what brand of paints you use?
I use Winsor and Newton watercolor paints (the tubes), acrylic inks and Dr Ph Martin inks.
Do you have any tips for designers who want to use their watercolor art in textile design?
Use a good camera or scanner to scan your work as you want to capture every movement and nuance of the painting. I use photoshop to separate my artwork from the background, then its ready to play around with and put into repeat for my textile designs.
Can you tell us a bit more about your design process, from inspiration to a finished piece?
Most of my inspiration comes from nature. However, I do find inspiration by searching old book shops, going to museums and visiting vintage clothes shops and flea markets. I work from my garden studio and my process begins with a blank piece of paper. I set out my materials and begin to paint. It may be a flower in front of me or a vision in my mind of what I want to paint. When I’m happy with the result, I scan my artwork into photoshop and use digital technology to create my designs. I’m careful to keep my designs as true to my original paintings as possible as I find so many designs these days are over digitized.
What are your thoughts on technology and the impact it has had on textile design?
I think technology has been good in a lot of ways for textile designers. Pre-technology everything was painted/drawn by hand – repeats, color ways etc and it was very time consuming. Its much easier now as we can experiment with color, scale, placement, effects etc. However, I personally think its taken the art out of it and a lot of designs are very digitized.
I suspect that a lot of new designers are struggling to take their work and manipulate it on the computer in a way that it does not become over digitized. What advice can you give them?
I would say keep your designs as true to your scanned drawing or painting as possible. With all the options available in photoshop its easy to get carried away with digital effects and destroy the personality and unique quality of your work.
What are some challenges you’ve faced so far in your career?
The biggest challenge for me has been finding good and reliable suppliers and makers for my own business. I’ve always been the designer and not the product developer, from finding a good textile printer, sourcing the right fabrics, paper printer, cushion maker and all the things associated like labels, zips etc.. this was a challenge for me.
What advice can you give others who are just starting out and hoping to follow a similar path?
If you’re a graduate and starting out I would try and get as much commercial experience as possible, work placements in different studios and for different companies. Visit trade shows and exhibitions. Always make time for painting, creating and designing.
Can you tell us a few fun things about you that we wouldn’t already know?
- I drink too much tea!
- I eat too much chocolate (the dark stuff is healthy…right?)
- I’m married with 2 children and 2 cats!
- I love Cornwall
- I had a really cute vintage ’60s VW camper van. It was lots of fun but kept breaking down…that part, not so fun! So unfortunately we had to part with it. (lots of good memories though!)
- Now I have a teeny caravan which we take away whenever possible. It’s our get away from everything bubble! We love it!
Want to see more of Helen’s work?
If you liked this interview, please check out other featured designers.
And make sure you share this post far and wide! Let’s support Helen and help spread awareness of her work!