In Conversation with Louise Lockhart
This Spring we launched 'Farm Life,' our first collaboration with British illustrator Louise Lockhart.
Based in Yorkshire, Louise's charming illustrations are inspired by everyday objects, folk art, vintage textiles, retro ephemera and the world around us. She sells her cards, paper goods and prints through her online shop, The Printed Peanut, and also works as a freelance illustrator with an impressive list of clients including Marks and Spencer, Anthropologie, Boden, Liberty and Heals.
We sat down with Louise to talk about working together, the inspiration and design process behind our collection.
How the collaboration came about
Louise: We originally met in Delhi in 2015 when I was visiting India with mutual friends. We've been following each other on instagram ever since, but I first reached out with the idea of collaborating in August 2020, right in the depths of lockdown. I knew Safomasi created all their own designs, but at the same time thought our styles would complement each other so I just put it out there!
Safomasi: We hadn't thought of working with another artist before, but had always been big fans of Louise's work. During lockdown we had spent a lot of time quite isolated, so when Louise got in touch we had been feeling the need to connect with others and try something new and different. We thought it would be fun try something together, and it was!
The inspiration for the collection
Louise: I had wanted to make a baby quilt as I just love Safomasi's heirloom baby quilts and that traditional style of Indian cotton quilt which is so versatile and beautiful. We had a zoom call, started an email thread and after a few thoughts settled on the idea of a farm-inspired quilt. My son was around 2 at the time and obsessed with tractors. Farms and animals have universal appeal so we thought it would be a great theme for a baby quilt.
Safomasi: Maninder is from a village in Haryana, just a couple of hours north of Delhi and grew up surrounded by farms and rural life. We loved the idea of designing a quilt that could tell the story of his village in India on one side, with Louise's print inspired by more typically British farm scenes on the other.
Louise: I live in Yorkshire surrounded by farmsteads and small holdings. My print has chickens, cows, sheep, cats and dogs, all the animals you commonly see around here that kids love to point out. I drew tractors and farm machinery into the design too, just for my son!Safomasi: Through our print we wanted to show Indian farm and village life. The composition reflects the geography of Maninder's village, just off the main highway, encircled by trees. The house in the centre is loosely based on his family's home, they keep buffaloes. Then there are fields of mustard, wheat and sugar cane, cow pats, huts, cycles, bullock carts and tractors. We thought the layout would make a really fun backdrop for kids to use as a playmat to play on with farm toys too.
Inspiration images from Maninder's village in Haryana, India
The design process
Louise: I like to start my designs as paper cut outs because I really like the quality of line that you get when using scissors. There's a naive, childlike wonkiness to paper-cut shapes that really appeals to me. It's uncontrolled and also somehow less daunting than starting with a blank page and pencil.I painted paper with gouache to create different colours, then cut out farm shapes and spent a lot of time arranging the composition before scanning it into Photoshop. Translating the collage into a repeat pattern was something new for me, as I usually create single illustrations of just one scene. But I wanted to challenge myself with something different, and fortunately Safomasi were around to help get the print repeat right. Louise with the collage that formed the basis for her pattern.
Safomasi: We also wanted to use this collaboration as an opportunity to try something different. Usually all our prints are repeat patterns, so for this we wanted to create large scale placement print. That had its own challenges as the design would eventually be hand screen printed, and due to the size of our screens and print table we had constraints as to how big we could actually print in one go.
We started by sketching out the composition in full scale before moving onto Photoshop to hand draw the details and finalise the design. We had to re-work the layout a couple of times as it was still too big to print! Eventually we came up with the solution to print the tree border and central village area separately, then join them together.Initial sketch and work in progress design
The colour palette
Louise: The colour palette was really important as aside from the theme it would be the thing that unites both our designs to create a cohesive product.
Safomasi: As an initial starting point we referenced colours from Sanzo Wada's book, 'A Dictionary of Colour Combinations,' which was on both our bookshelves.
Louise: I had a vision for a really warm palette that captured that Indian light. We also wanted it to be gender neutral and joyful.
Safomasi: This was one area where we really enjoyed working with Louise to see things in a different way. Our designs are often quite figurative with the colours fairly true to things or places depicted, so we'd naturally colour trees green, for example. But the palette of yellow, hot orange and rust brown appealed not only because it looked lovely and happy and fit what we were trying to achieve, but it actually reflect the colours of the village too, from the bright mustard fields to red brickwork.
Louise: We initially had peachy pink in the design, but to cut the number of screens we made those areas halftone orange instead. The tiny dots looked similar to pink when printed, effectively adding an extra colour without the extra screen.
The production process
Louise: We're both trained as illustrators but both like designing things for textiles, it's really magical to see it come to life as something you can use in your house.
Safomasi: It's always our favourite thing to see how designs translate from a screen onto fabric. Our products are hand screen printed and made by our team in Delhi and we really wanted to be there for the initial sampling as firstly, it's more fun, and secondly it makes the process a lot faster and more efficient!Mesh silk screens ready for hand screen printing the Farm Life Baby Quilt
We had decided on a Pantone colour palette, but it's always different seeing things in real life, so we worked with colour master Dinesh who mixes all inks by hand to adjust them until they were right.At the same time as mixing colours we also tested the screens to make sure the patterned aligned and printed properly.
One of our first sets of hand screen printed samples
Once the colours were fixed and the screens checked we were ready to print! Ram Pyare and Niraj were the printers who hand screen printed all of the fabric in this print run, working up and down 30 metre long tables to force ink through the mesh screens with a rubber squeegee, one colour at a time to slowly build up the design.Back in the studio Masterji, Sanjay and Sonu and our hand quilters got to work making up the pieces. For the Farm Life baby quilts the first step was to stitch the tree border to either side of our central placement print. A thin layer of cotton batting was placed in between this and Louise's fabric which was hand quilted in a simple diamond shape to allow both prints to show through without distraction. Once quilted, they were washed and the dot print edging sewn on.
We quilted the placement prints on our cushion covers too to make them lovely and soft. These were done with a machine, stitching around the larger elements by hand to emphasise the design. The tote bags were machine quilted with narrow straight lines to make them strong and sturdy yet still soft.
Louise: Safomasi sent photos of the process over email as it went along so we could discuss all the final specifications and details, like the fabric pom poms on the cushion covers, but I couldn't wait to see the final pieces.
Safomasi: It was so fun to travel up to Yorkshire to deliver and show you the first batch of products, and take a few photos together whilst we were at it too!