Louisa Loakes is a textile artist based in Peckham, London, specialising in printmaking and the traditional block printing. Louisa trained as a painter at Wimbledon School of Art. Her art continues to feed her hand-block print patterns through harmony of line, form and composition. Louisa takes inspiration from various cultures, including th -block printing heritage of Northern India. Louisa collaborates with her partner and furniture maker William Waterhouse on exclusive pieces for The New Craftsmen.
Louisa Loakes is a textile artist based in Peckham, London, specialising in printmaking and the traditional block printing. Louisa trained as a painter at Wimbledon School of Art. Her art continues to feed her hand-block print patterns through harmony of line, form and composition. Louisa takes inspiration from various cultures, including the block printing heritage of Northern India. Louisa collaborates with her partner and furniture maker William Waterhouse on exclusive pieces for The New Craftsmen.
Linen fabric is the canvas of Louisa’s work, with each block print twisting and turning to make simple geometric patterns, finished with hand-painted details. The block is covered in dye and then pressed onto the fabric to create a pattern over the surface. Louisa works within a strong and limited palette for her collections, only adding sewn dots or handpainted flecks as careful accents. There is a freedom and simplicity to her work. Each run of fabric is unique.
1. What motivates you to make?
I came to block printing from a more traditional fine art background, but had always been drawn to more abstract, repetitive forms. I think I’m still always exploring this same kind of visual language, whether I’m working in paint, drawing or printing. I find printing gives me such a direct connection to the surface I’m working on; there is this sense of immediate transference of energy through my body to the fabric, which I’m continually fascinated by. Above all I think I’m motivated by a love of pattern, of working with textiles to try and make beautiful, functional things that leave my studio and are adopted by other people and woven into the fabric of their everyday lives.
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
Some years ago I was able to spend some time in India and am still incredibly inspired by the wonderful colours, patterns and textures I found there. My work is very influenced by the processes involved in traditional Indian block printing (hand-carved blocks, natural dyes and dedication to a slow and very human kind of precision), and I try to find ways of blending that with more contemporary western modes of abstraction. Over the years I have drawn inspiration from a range of different artists, painters and sculptors. Discovering the work of 1920s block-printers Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher was a revelation, and their archive is a fantastic touchstone for thinking about my own work. Similarly, the wonderful designs of Enid Marx (1902 –1998) always seem particularly relevant, fresh and exciting to me.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
As a self-taught block printer I have found that my approach to the craft has been largely guided by intuition, experiment and play. I was immediately fascinated by how embodied this kind of making is – from the hand carved blocks to the physical act of printing itself – and I try to embrace all of the imperfections or irregularities that this very human element introduces. I carve and make my own linoleum blocks and am always experimenting with natural materials, which more recently had involved exploring natural dyeing processes myself. This focus on natural materials allows me to maintain a very careful, slow approach to the craft, building up a kind of meditative rhythm that is totally unique to each work.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I’m still very proud of my first collection. It really defined a period in my work where I crystallised my printing practice and was feeling my way through things very intuitively. My daughter had just been born and slept in a basket with me in the studio while I worked. I felt so open to experimentation, and to all of the possibilities of where working with textiles could take my visual art practice.
5. What is your dream project?
When I was in Rajasthan I saw the most incredible traditional tents. It would be amazing to print a tent in my fabric – and stay in it of course! India has shaped my relationship to textiles so much that it would be very special to see my work there in that context.
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