Del Rey textile designer Fiona Howard translates local flora into patterns for home décor entirely by hand
By Kelby Vera
Textile artist Fiona Howard knows the value of taking her time. For 30 years, she has crafted colorful and crisp contemporary patterns for home goods, fabrics, furnishings and wallpaper, working completely by hand. While many other artists in her field have migrated to computers for ease, Howard never abandoned the organic charm of hand-designed pieces.
“It’s tactile,” she says. “So much design today is done by computer, but I just couldn’t do that. I need the feeling of the pencil and the carving of the lino and the printing. It’s beautiful. It’s a lovely creative way of working that’s not even work. It’s play.”
Working in her Del Rey studio two blocks south of Washington Boulevard, Howard utilizes techniques such as linocut, monoprint and watercolor to convey a range of lush botanicals with abstract curves and charming seascapes, balancing powdery pastel neutrals with tangy statement colors like royal blue, citrusy yellows and punchy greens.
Her process begins with hand-drawings, which she repeats again and again to conjure a sprawl of design. Then she organizes and cuts together her pattern to create the basis for an engraving. Each color in the pattern gets carved into a separate slab of soft linoleum, later to be printed one layer at a time. With every intricate step, the whole process can take up to a week or longer to complete.
“People ask ‘Don’t you run out of inspirations?’ but for me it’s too many things. I’m whittling it down and asking ‘Actually, what am I going to do?’” she says. “There’s only so much I can do, so I have to be quite creative when I choose.”
After completing university studies in textile design, Howard hopped right into the professional world, working for the likes of Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn and Laura Ashley, where she maintained her dedication to a hands-on approach to design.
After working for top clients in the home furnishings world, Howard is now striking out on her own with her first wallpaper collection inspired by her surroundings — particularly California plant life.
“I love being in California,” says the U.K.-born artist. “I would dream of bushes with flowers this big. When I go for a walk around the neighborhood, I just want to pick everything and draw it.”
In addition to wallpaper, Howard’s new locally inspired designs adorn mugs, tea towels, tote bags and other kitchen accessories. View the collection at fionahoward.com.