Painter and designer Flora Roberts
In a fine case of nominative determinism, Flora Roberts is the artist responsible for some of the finest examples of floral wallpaper and fabric designs you’ll find in the modern world. She’s designed both for Lewis & Wood, Sanderson, Mulberry Home and GP and J Baker. And more recently, she’s been working on her own wallpaper collection, available exclusively through Hamilton Weston Ltd.
Flora’s path started at Glasgow School of Art, where she studied printed textiles, before going on to do an MA in mixed media textiles at the Royal College of Art in London. This led to her working on textile design in the fashion industry, before she was commissioned to create a mural for fashion boutique Paul & Joe, which in turn led to further private commissions. In 2010, she was elected as a member of the Art Workers’ Guild, which had William Morris as one of its founding members.
She describes her style as treading a fine line between traditional and modern, often inspired by what she sees on visits to historical homes as well as the natural world itself. Her work can range from realistic depictions of flora and fauna to bold, abstract patterns.
We talked to Flora recently to find out more about her work and its inspirations.
Were you always artistically inclined from a young age?
Yes, I copied what my artist mum and big sister were doing at first. I caught the bug and couldn’t stop drawing, painting and making after that.
What drew you to floral designs in particular?
I grew up in the Scottish countryside and I think my first exciting experiences of colour must have been the natural world. Flowers provide me with an infinite subject matter to explore my love of colour, pattern and decoration.
Was there a key moment early in your career that led you to what you do now?
My sister moved into a house with a tiger mural on the floor that needed repairing. I had a go and ended up extending the design, painting murals all over the staircase walls. It made me want to explore the world of decorative painting and wallpaper design further.
What are the biggest inspirations for your work?
I love particularly English historic houses, paintings that belong to these houses and, more often than not, the beautiful faded patinas on the walls the pictures are hanging on. Lately, I have noticed I have also been inspired by people in their spaces; their personality, which informs their individual style. When people’s authentic selves are reflected in their interiors, to my mind it always works.
Do you have a favourite historical building you like to visit?
I love Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria. My favourite chinoiserie wallpaper is there. Today it has colours that look like tarnished precious metals. The wallpaper has really not aged how the artist/artists had intended, but I’m sure they would be very pleased with what it has become.
How did it feel to become a member of the Art Workers’ Guild?
I feel so honoured. Some of my favourite artists and craftspeople are fellow members. The fact that William Morris was a founding member is so wonderful.
What is the décor in your own home like?
My studio is filled with my ongoing ideas, pattern and colour, but my home space is minimalist with small bursts of colour and pattern. I find the balance calming.
Are there any other artists you’d like to work with one day or collaborate with?
There are some wonderful photographers I like. Hana Snow and Sarah Edwards are two I’ve been enjoying lately. I can see my painting and wallpaper fitting with their atmospheric image making.
Are there any companies that you admire that work with hand-painted wallpaper and fabrics? De Gournay springs to mind, but it must be a very niche market?
My friend Melissa White makes exquisite hand-painted wallpaper. It is really original and I think her work has a lovely English folkloric spirt.
Are you any good at putting up wallpaper?
I’ve never put up wallpaper in my life. There’s reason why it’s a specialist skill!
Can we ask what has been one of your favourite private commissions to date?
I worked for a wonderful person who wanted her garden outside her kitchen to be reflected in a mural in her dining space. She loved her flowers and I really tried to do them justice. We’ve made friends so I really do hope so!
From working with individuals and their homes, are there any houses that particularly stand out for you and can we ask why?
I loved working at Garsington Manor. It’s a house steeped in history. Originally the home of Ottoline Morrell, a patron of the arts in the Bloomsbury set and beyond. I read lots of books about her while I was there and got really caught up in the history and atmosphere of the place. I hope my research fed into the work I did there.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I would like to keep trying to design beautiful wallpapers. I would also like to do more fabric design, returning to some of the interests I had at the beginning of my career. I want to find some magnificent gardens to paint in, but my long term ambition is to create a garden of my own to be inspired by.