Molly Mahon is a British block printer and textile designer who marries the traditional craft of Indian block printing with a modern English aesthetic. Inspired by nature, India and her home in the Sussex countryside, Molly’s patterns are designed exclusively in her studio and tell a very personal story. Her preference for beautiful, bright and bold colour allows her to stand apart from the crowd.
As fellow lovers of craft, we spoke to Molly about her design inspirations ahead of her upcoming Creative Workshop at Ham Yard Hotel. Join us as we ‘Meet the Maker’…
Block Printing is a traditional Indian craft, how did you get into it?
I stumbled upon block print in my twenties when I found myself at home with my first two children after having previously run a successful events company in London. I wove my way through various evening classes (from book illustration and pottery to life drawing and beyond) until I found print. It became something of a passion project for me and I haven’t looked back since. Inspired greatly by the bursting shelves of beautiful wooden printed blocks at a printing course I had attended, I became obsessed with pattern and this wonderful craft.
Your designs often take inspiration from the British countryside, what are your other sources of inspiration?
My main inspiration is India. With its architecture, patterns, colour, the incredible craftsmanship and nature it has. I’m also inspired by the wonderful leaves, trees and plants that surround my house in the English countryside.
I have a brand-new fabric collection launching soon which I’m incredibly excited about called ‘Bloom’ – inspired by my obsession with the abundantly blooming dahlia. The collection of 5 fabric designs and lovely cushions are all hand block printed in India.
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 and this fills me with joy. I react to colour by gut instinct. If it doesn’t make my heart sing I don’t use it. My new fabric collection, ‘Bloom’, celebrates the wonders of flowers in all their multitude of joy and colour. I am introducing a few new colours too that have caught my eye recently, from peachy tones to sap greens.
We love craft of all kinds and believe it should be preserved and celebrated. What is the future of block printing and has the rise of digital printing put this craft in jeopardy?
Block printing is one of the oldest known methods of transferring designs onto cloth and I love that my craft has such a rich history. I never tire of lifting the block and seeing the impression that has been left. The perfect imperfections created during the printing process is what gives the fabric or paper charm and interest. The odd movement between each placed block is what brings the piece to life and gives it an energy – something that simply cannot be achieved by the ‘exactness’ of machine printing. This ‘by hand’ approach allows the cloth to breathe a life lasting quality with a strong personality to be cherished and adored for years to come.
There is something special about block printing which has stood the test of time and I don’t see that changing any time soon. With people now making more thoughtful choices with their purchases for the home, my choice of small batch printing allows us to work in a controlled and sustainable way. At Molly Mahon even a snippet of cloth is never wasted and printing always continues until the pot of paint is finished.
Design evolves and the journey can be quite exciting but also bumpy. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Molly Mahon Studio began, in 2012, as a passion project, but is today a global lifestyle brand whose mission is to keep the art of block printing alive. 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. Today we are still very much a family-run business but we are also inspiring global interest, capturing the imagination of like-minded people interested in design who are looking to make their house a ‘home’. People like me who believe the items in their homes should be well made, thoughtfully designed and full of cheer.