Designs and prints by Kiran Ravilious

From the moment we caught sight of Kiran Ravilious’ beautiful prints and designs on aprons, tea towels, nakpkins, cards and shopping bags, we beat a hasty retreat back to HQ to make sure she was included in our list of “must have” things for the kitchen and dining room. We love her use of bold colours, simple, naive imagery and striking patterns: they are fresh and inviting and suitable for both the contemporary and vintage home.

This is how she describes herself in her website, with the kind of beguiling modesty that only a truly talented artist would use to describe their work:

“Kiran Ravilious is a designer and printmaker who specialises in hand printing on fabric. In 2009 she picked up a book on hand printing and hasn’t looked back since. She carves her designs on Japanese lino and hand prints them directly on to the fabric making each item individual and unique. Kiran works from her studio in Leicester, England. She is inspired mostly by plant forms, her upbringing in tropical Singapore and by her husband’s grandmother, artist Tirzah Ravilious. She lives with her husband Ben, their two daughters and a little dog called Daisy.”

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Her husband, the talented photographer Ben Raviliousis the son of James Ravilious , creator of hauntingly beautiful black and white photographs of landscape and country life, and grandson of Eric Ravilious, the eminent painter, designer, book illustrator and engraver. Skill and aptitude flow like rivers in the DNA of this family.

We sent Kiran a few questions to find out more about her life and work, and this is what she told us.

The Foodie Bugle: Kiran, where do you think your talent in design comes from?

Kiran: Oh I don’t know if I’m talented! I put it down to years of doodling, practising and a steady hand!

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TFB: When you were growing up were you always good at Art at school?

Kiran: No, I really wasn’t, because I can’t draw people. I was so bad at life drawing I thought I was going to fail my first year at art school.

TFB: Did you ever meet your artist mother-in-law Tirzah Ravilious, or were you just inspired by her legacy of work?

Kiran: Sadly not, Tirzah died in 1951 at the tender age of just 43. I am inspired by her work and her story.

TFB: How and where did you start your design and printing career?

Kiran: I started printing on fabric three years ago just as an experiment. I began by carving little designs on lino and my designs ‘grew’ bigger and bigger and I was soon printing big bold patterns on cushions. I trained as a graphic designer so I knew very little about textiles. I Googled ‘printed fabrics’ once and came across Marimekko (whom I knew nothing about!) and said to my husband Ben, “If they can do this, why not me?” I guess ignorance can be bliss sometimes!

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TFB: What were your first commissions?

Kiran: I got my first commission this year. A cosmetics company called Gazelli commissioned some of my cushions for their treatment room at Urban Retreat, Harrods. They also commissioned me to design and print linen bags for the customers for an event they held at Harrods.

TFB:  Do you exhibit in galleries and at textile fairs?

Kiran: Yes, I have some of my work in galleries. I was selected to attend Top Drawer in January this year and will be exhibiting at ‘Home’ London in January next year. I definitely plan on attending more fairs next year.

TFB: Your work is obviously influenced by nature, earthy colours, the seasons, repeat patterns and symmetry. Where do these ideas and influences come from and how do they become so graphically powerful when you commit them to textiles?

Kiran: I think my designs have more than a hint of the tropics. My ideas and influences come from growing up in tropical Singapore and spending time taking photos at the Botanical Gardens. I suppose when you print something big and bold on fabric, it is bound to stand out and I hope mine stand out for the right reasons.

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TFB: Which other designers, outside of the Ravilious family, have inspired and informed your work?

Kiran: I’d say Peggy Angus is definitely an inspiration. She hand printed her lino designs on fabric and wallpaper. The uneven tones and textures definitely make her work very special. I also love Henri Rousseau’s jungle paintings.

TFB: What sort of illustrations do you prefer to create when you are drawing and painting for pleasure?

Kiran: Apart from intricate line drawings, I also like painting big bold patterns on canvas using gouache. Many have ended up in the bin but two hang in my studio.

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TFB:  Where do you work? Do you have a studio at home or are you based in a gallery or communal studio?

Kiran: I have a little hut at the end of the garden where I hand print my designs. I do most of my carving and drawing at home where I am most comfortable and at ease.

TFB: Can you describe your work process from the moment you pick up a pencil and linocutter, and how your artwork goes from an idea to the finished result?

Kiran: I normally spend days or even weeks drawing in my sketch book before I move on to lino. Most of the time the designs in my sketch book never make it on to lino but it is a great way to get ideas off my head. When I decide to carve, it is usually a spur of the moment decision. I pick up my pen, draw directly on to lino and start carving. The drawing is usually a rough idea and I add the details as I carve. I never know if a design is going to look good or not until I’ve printed it. Once I’ve finished carving a design, the next step is to do a test print. Peeling the lino back from the fabric for the first time is always very exciting no matter how many times I’ve done it.

TFB: What sort of work would you like to do in the future – what are your plans?

Kiran: I would like to continue what I’m doing, working on commissions, expanding my own range and to keep working on new designs. I enjoy carving my designs and hand printing them. At the moment, I’m working on designs for wallpaper and textile.

TFB: If you had to advise a young person who wanted to become a professional printmaker or textile artist what would your advice be and why?

Kiran: A line from my favourite quote “Love what you do. Make who you are.” – Suzanne Shade

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