Rowenna Mason: Studio Tour and Interview

September 16, 2016

Rowenna Mason Textiles, studio tour and interview

Image: Design Soda

 

Sometimes design is just like love at first sight; your heart skips, you have to have it, you spend ages thinking about it, it’s there in your mind at the back until you actually have it. For me Rowenna Mason’s designs are just like that. I see lots of graphic patterns in great colours that give me heart eyes, I usually pin them to my textiles board on Pinterest and add them to my rainy day list (why does that never come around?!). When Rowenna’s pieces popped up on my Twitter feed via Campaign For Wool at the start of the year, my excitement went beyond that. They were beautiful, absolutely stunning. I knew I had to buy something. Choosing was the hard part as they are all so beautiful but I plumped in the end for a Southbank cushion from her Colourful London series. It’s been one of my very favourite purchases this year (maybe ever). I have owned my cushion for over 6 months and I see different things in it all the time. It’s a really exciting piece of design craftmanship and one which I see as a future heirloom to hand down through the generations of our family.

 

 

Rowenna Mason on the loom

Image: Design Soda

 

Rowenna is a very impressive new designer, having been awarded the Laura Ashley Family Foundation scholarship she completed her MA in Textile design at Chelsea College of Art last year and has spent the 12 months since establishing her unique brand and scooping a fair few awards along the way. She has been awarded the Campaign for Wool award 2015,  a foundation award by Cockpit Arts which allows her to establish her business at one of their studios (Eleanor Pritchard is on the floor above!), commendation in the British wool category at the Bradford Textiles Society and she has also recently garnered an Etsy showcase award for Best Newcomer. Oh and she was also picked for the prestigious One Year On showcase at New Designers this year being selected by Rheanna Lingham of Luna & Curious. Fairly busy for a first year in business then! Having done a little weaving workshop earlier in the year, and being such a fan of Mason’s work, I asked her if I could visit her at her workshop to see some of the process behind the design and have a chat with her. She was super lovely and I reckon I’m not alone in wondering how these beautiful textiles are created, so today, on the blog, I’m sharing my interview with Rowenna. Enjoy!

 

rowenna-mason-southbank-design-detail

Image: Design Soda

 

Many of Rowennas designs are inspired by London architecture and each pattern from her colour collection is named after a district of our city with its own colour palette inspired by these particular area impressions. I love the narrative of this, I can see the Southbank design exactly as a modernist and mid-century design hub and thriving cultural space, but I can see the Festival of Britain itself in the weave, the large diamond to me mirroring one of its famous structures. Brick Lane inspired by the graffiti of Shoreditch and taking a colour point in my eyes from the Asian culture of this part of London, Kings Cross in warmer more muted tones that makes me think of the cosy, almost grubby, Kings Cross of 10 years ago. And Waterloo the pattern based on the roof structure above the platforms (I’ve been looking at them with new focus since we met!). These designs are so layered and magical, in fact layers are Rowenna’s starting point, exploring the relationship between layers and narrative.

 

Rowenna Mason pattern sourcebooks

Image: Design Soda

 

Design Soda: Can you explain a little about your starting point for design, particularly in reference to your colour textiles named after London districts? How did you start this design process?

Rowenna took me through her amazing source books (pictured above) which include block prints, yarn wrappings, paper studies and photos of architectural details from her wanderings around the city, buildings she likes ranging from the impressive structure of The Gherkin to the small details of a Paul Smith store in Marylebone, her research makes great use of layers in the urban environment in hyper detail.

Rowenna Mason: My starting point is usually layers of different structures against things. By focusing in on things and looking through them you start to see new patterns within larger patterns. I experiment with the drawings as a source that ideas for pattern come from. I try and start a project drawing and not thinking about weaving too much. If you start to constrain yourself too early you start to loose some of the fluidity. Sometimes you can get ideas from the weirdest places so it’s nice to try different things.

 

Rowenna Mason Chevron wool pattern

Image: Design Soda

 

DS: Rowenna developed her signature distinctive style working with British wool on double cloth geometric pattern which gives her work an almost 3D element. The pointed draft in double cloth using both shapes and stripes adds such depth to the pattern and makes her work totally distinct. I love the elements of texture in your work, much of your design is based around the idea of layering, can you explain a little more about that?

RM: The starting point for me is the word layers. There’s a theorist who talks about layers of narrative and how that attaches us to an object which is a lot more theoretical than what I produce. But I like that word – layering – so I started to look at architecture and how shapes from that might translate into layers in the cloth. I think some days you’ll look at the design and one thing will pop out and other days you’ll spot another thing. I’m hoping I’ve achieved something more complex and less linear using this technique.

 

Rowenna Mason monochrome textile design on loom

Image: Design Soda

 

DS: Which is your favourite of your designs?

RM: My favourite is Southbank. I’m always drawn to really bright colours so probably the Southbank colours are my favourite. But I also love Waterloo which is one of my designs which developed out of something that went wrong. I set up a loom to weave my fabric but I put the yarns too close together and because they are wool and fluffy they were sticking so I couldn’t lift up the yarns, I had to spread them out to make the pattern bigger and I was really happy with the result, I love the mid-century lines of it.

DS: Do you have a favourite part of London inspiration wise?

RM: Brick lane, partly because I love graffiti, it’s often really bold and exciting. Or a good row of colourful houses, so maybe Notting Hill. I love the architecture of the city of London, the shard and the gherkin etc, It all inspires me.

 

 

Rowenna Mason Studio Tour Loom

Image: Design Soda


DS:
How did you discover that you are a weaver?

RM: As an undergraduate in textile design I chose to focus on print as my first exploration when a tutor suggested that I try weave as my specialism. On textile design courses you can quickly tell who are weavers because they like straight lines!

DS: I wondered if being a textile designer who weaves as a business is as therapeutic an occupation as it may look on the outside. Having been given a tour of Rowenna’s studio and seeing the horrendously intricate set up of the loom I had an inkling that this was not as therapeutic as I may first have imagined. Rowenna explained that long days, especially when the loom is playing up, can be the very hard both physically and on perfectionists which weavers tend to be. Describe a typical day in the studio for you, What do you like about weaving?

RM: It’s a role where you put a lot of time in to pattern design, you start off weaving a design and you really don’t know how it’s going to look so it’s really rewarding to see my patterns take shape. When I set up a loom I have an idea in my head of what I want to achieve from it but you get a lot of suprising elements in practice and sometimes my favourite designs have resulted from something going wrong which you have to work around and get different things coming through from what you expected.

 

Rowenna Mason monochrome textile design on loom detail

Image: Design Soda

 

DS: What are your design influences?

RM: Missonni for colour and pattern, I also love the work of Sonia Delauney. I really love the Bauhaus textiles, so Annie Albers & Gunta Stolzl, again for colour and pattern and design that is distinctive.

DS: What do you like in modern textile and design?

RM: I always love weave over print, I love Eleanor Pritchard, Wallace Sewell, traditional Welsh woollen blankets. I recently bought some Scottish woven mohair blankets that are full of beautiful colours, I always love a vintage textile, there’s something about an object that has lasted time and has a history.

 

 

rowenna-mason-loom

Image: Rowenna Mason

rowenna-mason-textiles

Image: Design Soda

 

DS: Where would your work look best?

RM: I think in simple interiors where it can pop, not somewhere that is already complicated by other elements. I feel like my work needs space around it, sometimes you need space to bring something out and not drown it.

DS: Who would be the dream stores to sell through?

RM: Easy! Heals & Liberty.

 

 

Rowenna Mason Monochrome textile designs

Image: Design Soda

 

DS: Tell us about your new monochrome designs:

RM: Working with British wool has been great, I really like that it’s undyed and natural. It’s the first time I’ve done something monochrome and It brings something different out in the pattern, quite a graphic and simple Scandinavian look. I like ethically using what we have, it not travelling for miles, the heritage behind British weaving, so it’s a really nice working with this material alongside my love of vibrant colour.

 

 

rowenna-mason-cushions-collection-

Image: Rowenna Mason

 

DS: Finally, where in the world would you most like to visit for design inspiration?

RM: If I could go anywhere for design inspiration it would have to be somewhere in Asia, probably India. The colours and textiles look amazing, such a rich source of pattern.

As a part of winning the Etsy showcase this year, Rowenna’s work will be on display as a part of London Design Week at the London Design Fair (formally Tent London). Do go and check her work out, it truly is stunning in real life. You can view her work next week at The Old Truman Brewary (Shoreditch) from 22-25th September. Or visit her website here: http://www.rowennamason.co.uk/

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