Enthused by the exuberant vegetation that surrounded her growing up in south-east Asia, as well as the more muted flora of England, Kiran Ravilious hand-prints beautiful designs for fabrics, wallpapers and stationery at her studio in Leicester. Her work is a ‘mix of both worlds’, drawing on the traditional hand-printing techniques of Asia and the artistic legacy of the Ravilious family that she has married into.
Tell us about your background.
I was born and grew up in Singapore where I went to art college and did a degree in graphic design. I moved to the UK when I was 22, hoping to have a bit of fun for two years. Soon after moving, I met Ben, now my husband of 13 years. He comes from a very artistic family [Ben is the grandson of the artist Eric Ravilious] and has always supported and encouraged me to keep doing what I love.
When did you first discover printmaking?
When I was at art college. We had lessons in lino printing, which I enjoyed very much. I had a go again 10 years ago and, after a lot of failed experiments, finally worked out how to hand-print onto fabric.
What inspires you?
When I first started printing and designing I was very much inspired by my Asian roots. However, having lived in England for almost 15 years, I think my work is now a fusion of both. Eric’s legacy of wood engraving and printing is always present through Ben’s family and I love English folk art. When out walking my two dogs, I spend time looking at plant life, then come back to my studio to draw and carve. When you’re a foreigner, even stinging nettles are beautiful!
Talk us through your process.
It’s a simple method of drawing directly onto lino, carving the motif, then inking up the block and printing onto fabric. My favourite part is choosing the colours. I love the murkier shades that were popular in the 1930s. Once the design is complete, I digitize it and create repeat patterns for wallpaper and fabric that are printed here in the UK.
Describe your studio
It’s on the top floor of an old factory – ‘The Penthouse’ as we call it! It has a sloping roof with black and white beams. It’s filled with things I couldn’t possibly sneak home without Ben noticing! I love collecting old furniture and vintage objects and my studio is mostly where they end up. It’s also filled with my wallpapers, fabric cuttings, stationery and printing press, carving tools and printing blocks.
What’s your proudest moment?
I’m lucky to have had many good things happen in my career. I have lots of wonderful independent shops that stock my work, which I feel very grateful for. My proudest moment so far, though, was when I was approached by Heal’s to design a range.
Which artists do you admire?
Ben’s grandmother, Tirzah Garwood, and her friend Peggy Angus. Tirzah designed beautiful hand-marbled papers and a range of paintings and collages with a naïve feel, which I’m very drawn to. Peggy designed the most wonderful hand-printed wallpapers, tiles and more. I admire the simplicity of her process and respect how arduous it must have been to print it all by hand.
Pictures by Jesse Wild