Introducing Petra Börner
Petra Börner Q&A 2017
Tell us about your great grandfather, who seems to have been an early inspiration.
I never met him, of course, but I’m interested in stories I’ve been told about him. He was entrepreneurial and creative. He liked to paint, photograph and make amateur films. He was lucky to have the financial stability to be able explore his passions and ideas, especially during hard times of rationing. He had a keen interest in promoting health, he was a naturist, loved to sunbathe, wasn’t shy, and he liked to lead a good life.
Were you never tempted to follow family tradition, and go into medicine?
I have always wanted to be an artist. As a child I spent a lot of time in the hospital environment, accompanying both my parents (it was their work place) and I wasn’t hooked, but wasn’t deterred either. Ultimately, I found it intriguing and mysterious, but it wasn’t the option for me. I made my decision very early.
How did you discover cut paper was your ideal medium?
It was at a stage when I was working in fashion and started to sell my prints and ideas for textiles to companies within the fashion industry. I was working by hand and I was looking for a way to create vibrant colour designs in a stylish way, away from painting. Collage became a natural progression. The technique bridged my illustration and print design and I started to get commissions form a wide clientele.
You also sometimes work in a more painterly, illustrative style – how do you decide on which style to use for a commission?
The cut paper technique has become something of a signature style for me and I get most of my requests for this type of work, but I use all sorts of media in my work. I love painting, drawing and sewing, it’s a great way to get ideas on paper. It’s immediate, energetic, fun and spontaneous.
You studied fashion at Central Saint Martins. How did your fashion background influence your work?
I decided to study fashion design as a more secure pathway that would feed a more solid career. I have now come full circle and, though I work in fashion still with commissions, I focus on art. It helps to have had my fingers in different industries, as I am happy to apply my work to various fields and it enables me to reach out to a wide variety of clients.
You worked for Sherald Lamden, who set up the fashion label Seraph. What effect did she have on your thinking?
She was inspiring to work with and to be around. She was (is) a role model for me in many ways – beautiful, fun and creative, but also mysterious. It made me realise the potential of creating your own dreams and fulfilling them. It also gave me a great insight into the struggles and energy needed to pull collections through to the end, to sales and to making a living.
At one point, you had your own fashion and accessory brands. Do you intend revisiting them at some point?
I grew up with an artistic ambition, always drawing and making things. My mother and her sisters are very skilled at making things by hand using a wide variety of methods. They taught me and showed me how to create anything from printmaking and textile techniques to painting, weaving, dying, candle-making and woodwork. It was what we did when we spent time together.
The act of making makes me feel fulfilled and relaxed.
I love making products and I would love to revisit making a collection, accessories in particular, at some point in the future. I have so many ideas for applying my work to useful and beautiful products and exploring materials and surfaces for these.
Watch this space!
You also explore using other media, especially ceramics, but only for private works at the moment. Do you want to start exploring other mediums in your commercial work at some point?
In collaboration with clients I have had the opportunity to explore a great variety of material and applications, in different scales, surfaces and form, from tube trains, murals and ceramics to textiles, home-ware and work published on paper.
I am now collaborating with clients exploring ways of turning illustrations into 3D using metal, ceramics and textile materials as a base, but also exploring the possibilities of using existing patterns in our homes in other more dynamic and transient ways.
I make short, lo-fi, stop motion films (#petrashorts) sometimes in collaboration with clients. It’s really fun, time-consuming and exciting to get my illustrations moving.
What awards have you won for your work?
– Gold Award in illustration / Kolla! (Sweden) Svenska Tecknare / Category: Advertising (for year – campaign for Systembolaget (2013).
– Shortlisted for the V&A Illustration Awards (2014/ 2012/ 2006).
Tell us about what you did for the Oscars.
I created an illustration around the theme of moviemaking as storytelling. Ampas produced the campaign for the Oscars 2014 and I was selected as one of ten illustrators to create an artwork promoting the event. The illustration was used for posters around Beverly Hills and the red carpet during the week leading up to the Oscars and was featured in the form of animated films during the presentation.
With my artwork I’ve focused on the interaction between people and how storytelling and sharing ideas through visual communication creates mystique and allure to the audience watching and taking it all in.
What projects have you got coming up in the near future?
A lot of my focus at present is dedicated to collaborations within the interiors industry, exploring potential methods and new media to apply to my work.
I’m also involved with a wonderful project for one of Britain’s most treasured gardens, Kew, a collaboration which will become public this year.
I continually create personal work for limited editions and exhibitions.