With a passionate interest in creating aesthetically pleasing textiles for the home, Isla Middleton sources inspiration for her designs from plant forms, flowers and natural colours from her immediate surroundings, focusing on shape, form and texture. We were delighted to find out more about her process and how she hopes to inspire people to take action...
GROWING THROUGH THE SEASONS
Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to work in the world of textiles and printmaking?
I live and work on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, and create nature inspired linocut designs. I studied textile design at Falmouth and specialised in print. I then went on to work freelance for a couple of years designing fabric and wallpaper designs for home furnishing companies, whilst starting to establish my own business. I was drawn to creating linocuts at the end of my degree, a way of creating depth to my repeat pattern designs at the time. I fell in love with the strong yet flowing character that can be achieved with the process. I was also inspired by old wood blocks for textile printing by Barron & Larcher and William Morris. Linocutting was a method I could easily continue after I left university, and soon became my main medium.
I have always had a great appreciation for the natural world, I grew up in the countryside and always spent lots of time outside. Plants, trees from along the hedgerows, woodlands, meadows along with vegetables and flowers from the garden are all sources of inspiration for me. I like to create work that connects and engages people to nature and the passing seasons.
Can you tell us about your growing calendars?
Growing through the Seasons fruit and vegetable calendar has been going for three years now. It’s a collaborative project with my sister Bryony Middleton, grower and gardener at Sharpham estate in Devon. I design and create all the linocut prints for each month and Bryony writes all the growing tips and advice. The idea of the calendar is to encourage, inspire and teach people to start growing their own food and through doing so connect with nature. Whilst also highlighting the importance of food sovereignty. So I hope that in a small way my prints inspire people to take action and engage with the land and nature.
You use Falcon enamelware around the home. What’s your favourite product from our ranges and what do you use it for?
I love exploring the moors and walking up the river dart so rather than in my home I love taking the enamel samphire green mugs along with me, after a dip in the river there is nothing better than warming up with a cup of tea. But in the home I love the elegant tall green jug, I use it for flowers and seed heads, which are inspiration for my work.
What's your process and can you give any tips to anyone wanting to make and create for the home?
I start by roughly sketching the plants before creating different layouts, I reference real plants and also use old plant identification books too, which I have quite a collection of! When I am happy with my design I transfer it onto the lino using tracing paper and then begin to carve away the negative space. Once finished, I use a roller to apply a thin layer of ink onto the block before printing it on paper, either by hand burnishing with a spoon or using a press.
It is a simple process that can easily be done at home, I would recommend getting some good tools to get started. You only need two or three. Pfeil tools are my favourite and for the inks I use Caligo Safe Wash inks. For people wanting to have a go at home there are plenty of things you can create, you can print onto notebooks, greetings cards, wrapping paper, t-shirts or create repeat blocks to print wallpaper or fabric.
Is there anyone you'd like to shout out about in your local area at the moment? Anywhere you source ingredients, any particular restaurants and/or cafes doing interesting things etc?
My local town Ashburton is full of inspiring cafes and small businesses which we really value here. So first up is the lovely Rafkis café serving delicious vegetarian seasonal food with a large outside area which is part of the community owned Arts Centre, a real hub of the town. We then have the Old Library restaurant for great coffee and great dining, Craft Mongers shop showcasing the most wonderful array of crafts, Ella’s Bakery for delicious bread and treats, and not to mention Creamos selling artisan Ice creams and pastries, we are very lucky here! Over the road we have Vital Seeds, a business growing and selling organic open-pollinated vegetable, herb & flower seeds. They have been a great support to my work and their seeds can be purchased online, for any keen growers and gardeners out there.
How have you been keeping during this time? Do you have any tips for small business owners?
This year has been full on, but a great year for me as well.
A highlight of the year was Bovey Tracey Craft Festival, it was an absolute joy to be interacting with customers again and meeting so many makers from around the area and exhibitors that travelled further afield to be part of the festival.
Running a creative business has lots of challenges and it is hard to balance everything, if you're not careful there is no time to create new work.
For other creative one-person business owners I would say share your passion, your process and making with your customers, people love to see what is involved in producing the work. I try to make sure I take time to still enjoy other interests or to take inspiration and replenish, like going on adventures and rambling over the moors, foraging as I go, or sewing and knitting. It's how I unwind, step back and contemplate how things are going. I think this is so important to sustain your business.
Growing through the seasons calendar 2022
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