Home InterviewsMeet the Maker Meet the Maker: Linen Prints
Linen Prints interview, hand-blocked textiles, hand printed textiles, cushions, prints, English, fox, fish platter, studio tour

Meet the Maker: Linen Prints

by Camilla

As the designer and maker behind Linen Prints, Jacqui Watkins creates hand-block printed textiles with a muted colour palette of soft greens and blues and a firm nod to nature. Her pared-down prints are a long way from the traditional Liberty-style florals that she used to design in her career as a commercial textile designer. We talked to Jacqui about her background and how her work has developed over time…

Can you tell us a bit about yourself – where and how did you learn your craft?
I have been a commercial textile designer since I left College in 1977! I studied at Loughborough College of Art and Design, where I did a degree in textiles and fashion. After finishing, I went to work for a large manufacturer, Carrington Viyella, as a colourist/designer, and then on to a London studio. Eventually I ran a textile design studio called Jake Designs. We specialised in classic floral, paisley and geometric prints, which we sold to clients like Laura Ashley, Liberty, Monsoon, M&S and the high street in New York, Japan and Europe. I had my children late in life in my 40s and took a long break to be a mum, but I kept my hand in and continued to draw and use the printmaking facilities at Spike Print Studios in Bristol. Now I have my own design studio called Linen Prints, and create hand-block printed textiles.

Linen Prints interview, hand-blocked textiles, hand printed textiles, cushions, prints, English, fox, fish platter, studio tour

 

How has your style developed over time?
The designs I produce now are much simplified than my previous work – no more intricate Liberty-style florals. The use of lino for fabric printing has its own challenges in paring down the design to black and white with a more open line.

What inspires you?
I love pattern, so I look at the minute detail of everything around me and observe the small textures and patterns.

Are there any artists or designers who you particularly admire?
Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, I was inspired by Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell and Zandra Rhodes, but we can’t forget the legacy of William Morris, with his richness of pattern and colour.

Linen Prints interview, hand-blocked textiles, hand printed textiles, cushions, prints, English, fox, fish platter, studio tour

Jacqui ran a textile design studio which specialised in classic prints and counted Laura Ashley and Liberty among its clients

Can you give us an idea of your creative process? 
I always start with a drawing which might have come from a sketch in the garden, from one of the many photos I take out and about, from an image on the computer, or just a doodle on my desk. When I think my idea is ready to go on to lino, I trace it on and start cutting. I always take a sample print when I come close to what I think is the finished block, as ideas quite often look very different once printed. I then decide on how much more to cut. I like to mix my colours (rather than use them straight from the tin) and test them on different fabrics, as the colour of the fabric base can affect the depth and brightness of the colour – unbleached linen will soften the colour compared with bright white cotton. The lino block is then mounted on to perspex to make it easier to handle when printing. Everything is done by hand – no computer tools so far!

Linen Prints interview, hand-blocked textiles, hand printed textiles, cushions, prints, English, fox, fish platter, studio tour

All Jacqui’s textiles are printed by hand using hand-cut lino blocks

We’ve heard you’re never without your sketchbook…
My art teacher instilled it into me. I was taught: “Never be without your sketchbook – it’s your diary.” So a plain piece of paper will never stay clean for long.

Do you think everyone can draw? 
Yes! I have always drawn and doodled, but I believe anyone can draw – a simple line is as important as a detailed drawing. It’s all about observation and practice.

Linen Prints interview, hand-blocked textiles, hand printed textiles, cushions, prints, English, fox, fish platter, studio tour

Jacqui uses her sketchbook as a diary – a habit instilled by a former art teacher

What are your favourite colours to work with and why?
My industry training has been paramount in teaching me how to use colour, but I’m always drawn back to my favourite cool blues, greys and greens. My first job as a colourist taught me how to put colours together and maintain the balance. Each textile design would have to be produced in six colourways, ie a red way, blue way, green way and so on. The colours were mixed and painted by hand with gouache paint. Quite often when working on an M&S designs we would have to exactly match the M&S colour chart for that season, and I mean exactly, or do it again! Sample colorways would then be printed in the factory and matched to our painted samples.

Where do you work? Can you describe your studio?
I have a small room in the house with 2m print table, drawing board and plan chest, which is jammed with books, magazines and artwork! My ideal space would be a north-facing room with plenty of daylight looking out to sea or beautiful countryside. Hey ho…

Linen Prints interview, hand-blocked textiles, hand printed textiles, cushions, prints, English, fox, fish platter, studio tour

A wall in Jacqui’s home studio, full of inspiration and foraged finds

Is there a tool or piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
I couldn’t do without a pencil or pen.

How will you be spending your Christmas?
Christmas will be at home in Bristol for the first time in 10 years with my daughter (18) and son (15), husband Danny, AND the new member Alfie, our English Springer Spaniel.

Linen Prints interview, hand-blocked textiles, hand printed textiles, cushions, prints, English, fox, fish platter, studio tour

Among the range of Linen Prints products are hand-printed tea towels and cushions

 

You can buy Jacqui’s work in her Folksy shop, Linen Prints >>

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