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Exploring the textiles of Fanny Shorter


We discuss the shift from printmaking to textiles design for Illustrator Fanny Shorter

Fanny Shorter is one of Boxbirds best selling and admired artists. Her work is a masterful approach to detail and scale as she brings an array of bird and animal life to your walls. Alongside a prolific catalogue of silkscreens she has begin producing some exceptional textiles designs. Inspired by the shapes & patterns in nature these beautiful fabrics loop & dive through vines and fruit trees, and feature beautifully illustrated animals and sea creatures.

How did you originally get into illustration & design? Did you study art or fall into it through other routes?

I did art all the way through school then an art and design foundation course and then studied Illustration at Brighton University, so pretty conventional. I fell into textile design through really wanting to make rather than just design. I starting printing onto material rather than paper and it went from there.

Your screen prints are exceptionally detailed, and your recreation of nature’s colours & patterns are wonderful – how did you discover that nature & biology was the subject matter that excited you?

My father was a scientist and my mother a musician (but was also pretty strong in the art department) so imagine I am a 50/50 mutt mix of left/right brain. I used to love drawing a plunge pool or plant cell diagram. Art classes became unnerving when we began to be allowed to paint whatever we wanted. I liked guidelines. Hence illustration, rather than full blown fine art I suppose.

Can you tell us a little about the 'Confessions of a Design Geek' bursary you won in 2014. What exactly did it involve, How useful was it and did it open doors for you?

The bursary was set up by design journalist Katie Treggiden to help one new designer every year as they start up in the industry. In essence, the prize kicks the winner into the trade sector of the design industry. I did my first trade show, had my first photo shoot and received my first wholesale order all through the bursary. It was a fantastic experience. The mentors (for everything from product design to SEO and PR) I met are still supporting me today.

We are completely in love with your beautiful new textiles designs – how does the design process differ from working on a screen print to the repeat pattern for textiles? Can you also tell us a little about the epic looking printing process!

It’s a similar process there are just tighter constraints. My main struggle is limiting myself to just a few colours. When I print my own work I use anything up to 20 colours on a print but this isn’t really feasible when printing textiles. Well it is, but it gets fabulously expensive. You also have to consider the end use, the scale, how the width of the cloth corresponds to the width of your desired design etc etc. and it took me a while to teach myself how to actually create repeat patterns. Luckily YouTube is an incredible resource. You have to consider how shapes in the design will look when repeated. Sometimes there are strong lines or the repeat can form a grid and it takes a while to learn how to avoid this and create a flow to the design.

The cloth is screen printed by hand at a factory in London on 50m print tables. The roll of cloth is attached to the table and then the repeat is printed one on one off all the way down the length. When dry the gaps in the repeat are filled in and then the next colour is printed. It’s a nightmare to get right but the results are so beautiful. I feel the depth of a hand printed textile still cannot be matched with a digital print.

If you had one piece of advice to someone getting into textile design what would it be?

To print by hand you’d have to be in it for the long haul and love it for what it is. It’s takes a long time to get established (I’m not there at all yet) and you have to put a lot in before you get anything out. It is certainly not a career for the impatient. In terms of digital printing or licensing designs I am less experienced but I can only imagine it might be slightly more forgiving. There’s just less to go wrong.

You have worked with some really interesting clients over the years, which commercial project has been your favourite & why?

I did a tea towel for the Cutty Sark and was taken on a hard hat tour of the building site before any of it opened to the public. I was encouraged to use motifs and stories connected to the boat in the final design. There was so much material I couldn’t begin to use it all. It was such a satisfying brief and a really fun experience.

Are there any organisations or commercial clients that you would like to collaborate with??

So many. I’d love to do some wallpaper and illustrate a book. We’ll see!

What designers, artists & Illustrators are inspiring and amazing you at the moment?

Elena Stonaker’s crazy soft sculptures are amazing and I adore Llew Mejia’s illustrations. Both use colour with total abandon and I imagine that’s why I’m probably so drawn to their work.

What was the last exhibition you went to see, and what did you think about it?

The Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London was completely uplifting and joyous. I’ve always loved his textiles and it was so exciting to see so many of them with some of his original drawings and paintings.

Which websites do you visit regularly?

Not so much a website but I am on Instagram more than could be considered advisable. I tell myself it’s work but it’s not. As for websites, I love Ebay. The better part of my wardrobe is from Ebay. There have been some real mistakes (a 1970s harlequin two piece polyester horror in particular) but that’s the most enjoyable part. It’s all a hideous risk.

Can you tell us about your workspace? 

In extravagant fashion, I have two studios. Sadly neither is, in fact, extravagant. I have a printing studio in a workshop at my patient in-laws’ in Wiltshire where I go every few months and print and then the main studio in London at Cockpit Arts in Holborn. I work here most days, drawing and designing and dealing with orders and admin. Essentially one is wet and lonely and one is dry and friendly. 

Do you have any interesting projects on the horizon?

Yes. I have a new watch coming out with Mr Jones Watches in June and I am working on a small clothing project with Francesca Valorsa, my old studio assistant and now firm friend. We’re doing a summer underwater-inspired resort wear mini-collection. 

If we could have asked you any other question what would it have been & what is the answer?!

Can we treat you to a holiday? Yes!


You can view & Buy Fanny's artwork online at boxbird.co.uk and as always if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me on hello@boxbird.co.uk



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