Artist, Craft, Design, Designers, Interviews with creatives | 03 May 2020
Molly Mahon — block printer.
We meet Molly Mahon next in our Creatives’ interview series.
We get an insight into her life as a textile designer, her passions and her current projects from new book to potato printing tutorials.
What’s your web address?
Molly designs and creates beautiful original fabrics, wallpapers and functional art pieces to enhance the home. Join us as we find out about her love for India and Charleston Farmhouse and what sparks her creative energy. We learn about how and where she works and how she designs for joy.
Molly, can you tell us in a few brief lines what you do?
I am a British Textile Designer who is passionate about block printing.
When did you realise this was what you wanted to do professionally?
I have always been creative. My business started as a passion project while I was at home (London then) with my first two children. I was so inspired by the bursting shelves of wooden blocks at a printing course I attended, that I soon became obsessed with colour and pattern and found a way to create my own designs.
How did you get started?
I started designing and printing at my kitchen table, but it wasn’t until a friend actually ordered something I was making, that I realised I could turn my passion into a new career!
What are the rhythms of your working day?
My days vary so much, and I have no set timetable other than getting my children to school on time and walking the dog. My time is divided between the studio in my garden which is where I do my printing, my workshops and meetings in London, and trips to India. My one daily ritual is a quiet cup of coffee at 10am!
Do you work on your own or with others?
I couldn’t manage without my team. Our Sussex office comprises of my husband Rollo, who runs the finance side of things, Sarah, our Brand Ambassador, Maud who does just about everything and Lucy who supports me with my workshops. Additionally, I work with block printers, fabric and wallpaper printers, stationary makers, seamstresses, lampshade makers and more. I work very closely with all the people that help transform my designs into finished pieces.
What environment suits you best / where do you create your best work?
My studio in my garden. Our home is in the middle of the Ashdown Forest so I can come into the studio feeling inspired by the surrounding nature and wildlife and get designing and printing. There is no Wi-Fi or computers and my phone has no signal, it’s just me (and usually Radio 4!).
Can you share a time or place in which you felt truly happy during your creative / working life?
My love for colour and pattern is reignited whenever I visit India. Every time I visit, I learn so many new things and come away bursting with new ideas. It’s the most incredible place and I can’t wait to plan my next visit.
“Right now, I think it’s helping people create a home that can offer comfort and joy when the world around us does not. ”
What matters most to you in your work and why?
Right now, I think it’s helping people create a home that can offer comfort and joy when the world around us does not.
Can you tell us about three things that give you creative energy?
Nature: All the wonderful leaves, trees and plants that surround the house where we live in the heart of the Ashdown Forest. There are streams all around us, and the banks are full of ferns and mosses and lots of nature’s treasures. I often collect these things and take them back to my studio to draw.
The Bloomsbury Group: Specifically, Charleston Farmhouse the wonderfully decorative Sussex home of the Bloomsbury Group. Their use of colour and pattern is so unique and the way it created such warmth in their home is forever enchanting to me.
India: The architecture, the patterns, the colours. All of these wonderfully uplifting elements of India can be seen more and more in my work.
Where do you find your inspiration?
So many places! Locally at Charleston Farmhouse, across the water with all the Californian textile designers who embrace colour, a walk in the forest, my trips to India. It’s never ending — I see pattern in everything I do.
“Sketchbooks are such important creative memories.”
How do you capture your ideas?
I have lots of sketchbooks! When I travel to India, I always take a small one with me and I have a number of them in my studio at home. I begin all my designs by painting in watercolour, so I always have my originals to refer back to. I’ve also recently started a new sketch book that I’m filling with my potato print designs during the lockdown. Sketchbooks are such important creative memories, and we have recently started selling them on our website for exactly this reason.
“It’s my love letter to block printing.”
What are you working on at the moment?
I have my first ever book coming out soon called “House of Print.” It’s my love letter to block printing and covers my inspirations, my design journeys and then there’s a whole section on how to do it at your kitchen table…
I’m also busy working on a new fabric collection. It’s called “Garden” and is a wonderful colourful collection of floral prints and garden inspired abstract patterns in a colourful palette of greens, blues and pinks. The designs all started as pencil drawings which we sent ahead to India to be carved into wooden blocks. I travelled to India at the beginning of the year to play with the blocks, work out the placement on the fabric and the colour combinations — utterly, utterly thrilling and I can’t wait for the final printed pieces to arrive. We are shooting them in a dreamy house set deep in a green valley near the Cotswolds. The collection will launch either this autumn, situation allowing or Spring 2021.
“There is no doubt that a hand block printed piece of fabric carries the passion and story of each printer.”
How do you design for joy?
I would like to think that all my designs are uplifting and joyful. I am mad about colour and pattern and very passionate about the hand printed look and the freedom that is created by using this method. There is no doubt that a hand block printed piece of fabric carries the passion and story of each printer and I think that is incredibly joyful too.
How do you approach sustainability in your work?
I have spent hours researching and testing the best materials. For a typical block print workshop, for example, there will be wooden blocks carved in India in my designs. The fabric paint I use is sourced from the only Soil Association approved company so it’s non-toxic and okay to wash down the sink. Finally, I use linen / cotton fabric that has been woven in Scotland and is in its natural form.
In what ways do you think your work speaks to human needs?
We encourage our clients and followers to fill their homes with pattern, nourish themselves in colour and make their home a home. To appreciate the joys that the imperfections of block printing brings, to offer beautiful items for the home that they can have a sense of pride to own and to know that has been made with integrity and passion by a loving hand.
What item in your home speaks to you of great design?
My Everhot! My large range energy efficient cooker. Designed with the environment in mind, our Everhot is the heart of our home, where we cook, toast, boil the kettle, dry our clothes, warm our cold toes…
It’s also a lovely thing to look at and was an investment I have never regretted making.
“It was like falling in love the first time I tried it. I felt dizzy with excitement and have been hooked ever since! ”
Finally, is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your work?
It’s always felt completely natural to me to fill my spare time with creative activities. Block printing offered the perfect medium to fuse my love of pattern and stationery together. It was like falling in love the first time I tried it. I felt dizzy with excitement and have been hooked ever since!
To find out more about Molly Mahon, please visit www.mollymahon.com and follow her on Instagram @mollymahonblockprinting. Look out for Molly’s new book, House of Print and try one of her potato printing tutorials, they are wildly popular on Instagram and have been developed to encourage creativity whilst we’re all physically isolated.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Molly’s work as much as we did.