Saltie Crafts – With Molly Mahon
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
Here at Saltie HQ we have a bit of a love for block printing. Having discovered Molly Mahon through Instagram we’ve since endlessly poured over her beautiful block print designs that feature across textiles, wallpaper and home accessories. We can now learn more about her craft with the launch of her book, 'House of Print'.
And the book could be yours to win! Head over to our Instagram to find details of the competition and how to enter. And continue scrolling to find an At Home Potato Printing tutorial, with love from Molly.
What journey did you take to become a textile designer?
I have always been creative, but for most of my life I have seen creativity as a hobby. Block printing became some crazy love affair! I fell upon it years back when I was searching for a creative outlet and came across a block printing workshop - something that at the time I had never heard of. It was an instant hit of joy from the first time that I lifted a block and one that I continue to experience to this day. I am completely self-taught and have worked hard on training and educating myself in this area. From apprenticing with Tobias & the Angel, to spending time with Marthe Armitage, researching archives on Peggy Angus and asking for help from people I admire such as Helen at Tissus d’Helene and Cath Kidston.
What do you love about block printing? Tell us a bit about its history?
I love the instant gratification of lifting the block. I love seeing a repeat pattern growing along the print table and I love the versatility of where the designs can be used-through cushions, curtains, lampshades, into fashion and bedding etc! I am very passionate about the hand printed look and the freedom that is created by using this method. There is no doubt that a hand block printed piece of fabric carries the passion and story of each printer. The beauty lies in the simplicity of the process that in India has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
What are your design principles?
Fun, colourful and happy. I want to create joyful prints for joyful people!
Do you have some favourite prints within your ranges?
My Jaipur Collection has just launched in the US with Schumacher and I feel I have fallen in love with it all over again. It is a capsule collection of hand block printed linens and the colourful designs really capture my love of India, mixed with my love of England and all that inspires me here. One of the most popular designs from this collection, ‘Luna’ won me my first award which will always remain with me as a very special achievement.
What are your style principles for a welcoming home?
I think that every home should reflect its inhabitants and that your home is your home, even if you’re only in if for a short time. Our house is perfectly imperfect and we wouldn’t want it any other way!
Your textiles layer and team together perfectly. Do you have any tips in terms of pairing patterns and prints – especially when it comes to making a beautiful bed?
Be brave and have confidence in yourself! Creativity is so positive and important in our lives so just go for it and enjoy it. There is a strange unspoken understanding that our beds should only have white linen….no way. I find pattern sheets & pillow cases and fun printed quilts make them so much more inviting and snuggly!
How do you relax at home?
Printing in my studio! Otherwise I might pack a picnic and head to the coast or a walk on the Downs with my husband, children and the dog.
You travel to India a lot, working with local Indian artisans. For someone travelling to India for the first time, do you have any must-see places or spaces?
Well, I only know Jaipur well, but it’s the perfect place to start. Between November and April the climate is perfect, warm and sunny by day and as it’s in the desert a little chilly at night (which I like). My top places to see include fabric printing in Bagru (where they lay the cloth over communal drying fields) or Sanganeer (where they hang the cloth from hugely high bamboo pole structures), then get up early and jump in a Tuk Tuk and whizz through the quiet streets of the old city (trading doesn’t start until about 11am), go to the Phool Mandi – the flower market – it’s a sight to behold and the heady scents of roses and marigolds carried in large fabric bundles is a joy to see. The City Palace is a must for those seeking pattern inspiration and a cocktail at Bar Palladio around the fire pits is the perfect way to end the day.
Thank you Molly! Head to her website to see more of her amazing creations and to get a copy of her new book.
Potato Printing At Home
You will need:
- Some paint and a brush. This can be any paint you want to experiment with such as sample pots or children’s poster paint,
- A potato, for cutting and carving your design,
- A knife, spoon or biscuit cutter to cut and carve your design with.
First cut your potato in half so that you have a nice flat surface to start carving or cutting into. If you are working with children make sure you do the knife work for them, the rest of the process is child friendly.
Start with a simple design, the simplest designs can look fantastic when repeated or flipped in different directions to make geometric patterns.
Cut into the potato using straight cuts from the outside in, removing whole pieces of the potato to create your design. You can even use a biscuit cutter to create round shapes by removing areas of the potato with your cutter.
Load up your carved potato with your chosen paint, using your paint brush to paint it on evenly.
Once your potato is covered you are ready to print. When printing with wooden blocks I usually use blankets to pad the table but potatoes are great as they have their own springy texture that is perfect for printing with.
Line up where you want to start printing and go for it! Press firmly on your potato to transfer the paint to paper.
Lift your potato up, holding the edge of your paper so it doesn’t stick. Now you have your first print, you can use this as a guide for printing a whole piece of paper with your repeat pattern.
Every time you make a print remember to re-load your potato with more paint, this is important to achieve a nice crisp print each time.
Repeat until you have a whole page of pattern. Look at the white negative space that is created when it is repeated. These negative spaces can be really interesting when working with small geometric patterns. In this star design you can also see rectangles and small diamonds, adding elements to the design that you didn’t have to carve!
Now keep experimenting, cut and carve lots of designs and let the meditative power of block printing calm you.