This week I had the pleasure of interviewing print designer Katie Charleson; her colourful botanical designs are screen printed by hand in her South London Studio.
Woven: First of all when did you become interested in Textiles?
Katie: I’ve always been into Art, loved it at school and did it at high school, but I thought I wanted to do fashion. I went to a little Art school called Leith School of Art and did a foundation there. We did more textile-based stuff there and I came around to the idea that actually Textiles would be more fun and creative. Fashion is great as well but I always found manipulating fabric and sewing really interesting. And then I got into Glasgow. (Glasgow School of Art)
Woven: Do have any favourite artists or textile designers?
Katie: So my favourite Textile designers at the moment are…I mentioned earlier Claire de Quénetain who’s work is beautiful, she does fabrics for interiors and she is an RCA graduate, I really like Laura Slater’s kind of work her abstractions are really interesting
Woven: Yes I’ve seen Laura Slater’s work, quite graphic
Katie: yeah she’s from up north I think Leeds or somewhere like that. In terms of favourite artist, I don’t think I have any up on my wall at the moment. I should really amend that. I like a mixture of things but it is usually abstract work that I’m interested in, quite gestural. I’ve been looking at a lot of Agnes Martin recently so I should get some of her work up on the wall.
Woven: A lot of your products that we have here at Woven are floral or botanical is that a personal interest to you?
Katie: Yes…I don’t know what happened. When I was at Art school, when I was at Glasgow I didn’t do any florals at all, I didn’t do plants. I was like eugh florals I will never do florals. A couple of years later I started drawing flowers and they sort of crept into my work, my own work. I think I was working for different companies at the time and they were always after florals. Then it started to creep into my own work and now I love it!
Woven: Your stuck!
Katie: Yeah, I spend a lot of time at kew gardens I just love being in nature, I am from rural Scotland as well so any excuse to get out in the fresh air.
Woven: Of course. Your prints have an illustrative feel to them, is drawing an important process in your work?
Katie: Yeah definitely, I always draw everything by hand a print will always start as a painting. I do watercolour stuff as well so I usually start from that sort of thing, I pair it down a bit so it is more illustrative and graphic as screen-printing usually works the best like that. Unless you want to do a ten layer extremely complicated print. Yeah it’s really important, it’s definitely the part I really like doing. I’ve just started learning how to use a Wacom as well, you know like the tablets for drawing.
Katie: So that could be an interesting step forward as well but I think its always going to start with me physically drawing.
Woven: Is all your work hand screen-printed or do you do any digital?
Katie: Yeah, I do design Fashion prints for some small UK based labels, just really loyal clients that have been with me since the beginning they usually get my stuff digitally printed because it usually tends to be a bit more watercoloury. Digital printing is the best kind of medium for that really. But for my own work everything is screen-printed.
Woven: In some of your cushions I’ve noticed you have a different back to the front, with contrasting patterns or textures of fabric. How do you go about deciding that?
Katie: That was like an editing process, You know when you start a collection you always end up with more prints than you actually need, maybe some aren’t as strong as others. It was just a case of paring them together, I quite like clashing textures and patterns as you can tell from my wall hahah. I’m not really one for paired back minimalism really, I wouldn’t say that my stuff is particularly garish.
Woven: No not at all, I guess when doing something that’s traditional like florals its nice to have a twist.
Katie: Yeah, definitely.
Woven: There is so much freedom that comes with printed Textiles as it can be applied to so many different contexts. Is home ware something you have always been interested in, would you ever want to try out different surfaces?
Katie: Oh yeah I would love that, I would like to start doing tiles actually, that’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while although I think that’s for after the summer. But I always thought I would work in Textiles for Fashion, and I did work in Fashion for a couple of years after I graduated. But with my own stuff when I started my own label I found you could be a bit more experimental with home wares in some ways. I think it can give you a bit more freedom of expression. I suppose that does apply to fashion as well, I always think cushions and interiors are an investment you make into artwork. There are labels that are doing that really nicely with clothes, I don’t know, I saw my seamstress last week and she was like “You should start doing clothes” it’s a can of worms and I don’t know, so that might be coming later.
Woven: I think colour is so important for every Textile Designer, how do you create your colour palettes? Are there particular colours you are drawn to?
Katie: I go through phases where I will really get into a particular colour. So 2015 – 2016 I was really into cornflower blue and then last year I got really into odeneal so it is everywhere! I used it in the piping of my cushions and the borders of my throws. Its my favourite I love it, I still haven’t quite shaken it, but I think some more brighter colours are beginning to sneak in a bit. More turquoises and a bit more red than I usually use. I don’t know whether the next collection will flip on its head and go really garish. But that emerald and teal I use a lot of. Its funny because I mix my colours myself so I buy little tubs of highly concentrated colour that you mix with a binder to print with. And I always run out of blue first, and then yellow and I have this bottle of red left that I barely touch. Apparently I love green!
Woven: What’s your typical workday like?
Katie: It depends what I have got on, I usually do my marketing stuff on a Monday or a Tuesday and set up my emails for the week. And then save printing for Thursday, Friday, as that’s the fun part. If I have a big run of printing things get a bit crazy as I don’t have time to tidy up sometimes, but I’m getting better at it.
Woven: Sustainability is definitely the future for textiles, is this something you incorporate into your work?
Katie: yeah, I mean I only use water bade mediums. I make all my stuff to order so I have full control over the amount I am making, also I keep my production very local to London or Reading is the only other workroom I use. My main seamstress just lives up in Edmonton so that means it keeps the wastefulness down and makes sense financially as well. It works for the planet and it works for me! Textiles is always going to have an element of waste as that is the nature of the product, if you can control your output of the product then it helps.
Woven: Whats your favourite thing about being a textile designer?
Katie: I get to print! I love printing its my favourite thing! I get to draw and do artwork. I feel very lucky because I have a good core group of clients that are really loyal to me but just the community of other textile designers is really nice. I have friends that do similar things to me, I wouldn’t say its cutthroat and competitive everyone is here to help each other out. And just the options you can do as well its limitless, it’s fascinating!
Thanks Katie, for letting us have an insight into your busy everyday life.
Click here to see Katie’s products that Woven stock.
Be sure to have a look at the rest of Katie’s work here and keep an eye out for her forthcoming collections which might be more home ware, clothes or hand printed tiling.
We will have to wait and see!