Molly Mahon has set up a successful small business practicing the craft that she loves, block printing. Block printing is the ancient Indian method of printing with intricately hand carved wooden blocks. A repetition of pattern is transferred onto fabric or paper to create handcrafted designs.
Molly creates beautiful, original fabrics and wallpapers which we often use in our schemes at Firmdale Hotels. As fellow lovers of craft we spoke to Molly about her design inspirations:
Block Printing is a traditional Indian craft, how did you get into it? What was the starting point?
I actually learnt to block print in the UK. I lived near a gorgeous shop in Barnes filled to the brim with block printed fabrics. On a rather faded piece of paper in the shop window I noticed the shop owner offered courses. I was so quickly caught by the beauty of the result. Block printing hooked me from that moment and I haven’t looked back.
Your designs often take inspiration from the British countryside, what are your other sources of inspiration?
My three main inspirations are India, nature and the Bloomsbury Group or more specifically Charleston Farmhouse. I am fascinated by the patterns and the colour palettes. I am currently working on a new fabric and wallpaper collection that celebrates the garden and will also include some block printed weaves. I love the textures of tweeds and weaves.
Like us, you clearly love bright and joyful colours. What are your favourite colour combinations and why?
I love the clashing colours that people say you should never use together – red and pink, blue and green, brown and pink! I think it’s the clash of these colours that create energy and vibrancy that fills me with joy. I react to colour by gut instinct, if it doesn’t make my heart sing I don’t use it.
We love craft of all kinds and believe it should be preserved and celebrated. What is the future of block printing? Has the rise of digital printing put this craft in jeopardy?
I can see a real resurgence with block print, I certainly don’t find myself explaining what it is as much as I used to. We are all asking more questions about how things are made and we are all interested in the story and provenance behind the things we buy. This is helping to preserve block print.
I run block print workshops and during these I can see how people find the process incredibly therapeutic; they leave calmer, more relaxed and inspired. This connection between humans and craft is incredibly important. We need to be doing things with our hands to keep connected to our roots.
The thought of going to Jaipur and not having that liveliness of the block carvers, the printers and the swathes of fabric drying in the sun on the streets would be awful. Even though the digital world can be useful, I don’t think it will ever fully take over, it is innate in us to want to be ‘makers’.
Design evolves and the journey can be quite exciting but also bumpy. What advice would you give to your younger self?
My business is still quite young and I still have a lot to learn. When I started out, I wanted it all and was terribly impatient, pushing beyond what was reasonable and achievable. Now I would say, take a deep breath, do one thing really well first and then the next. Keep it simple, less is more – all those mantras are so true!