Session 16: Hannah Waldron

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Here’s a photo of Hannah weaving her ‘Cloud in Hand’ tapestry – a project that is closest to Hannah’s heart.
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Studio weaving ‘To Houshi Onsen’ map tapestry.

Back in 2010, with just weeks before the opening of our shop at Ann Siang Hill – Hannah Waldron was some of the very first few designers whom we contacted when we were filling up the shelves of our store! We remember absolutely loving her illustration style.

Some of you might even remember her silk-screened owl cards that we had sold at our store, and some of you out there might even be owners of Hannah’s animal finger puppet/fabric brooches. How time flies, with a blink of an eye, 6 years had since passed! Now in 2015, we had the extreme joy to catch up with Hannah – this time we dig a little deeper and find out what inspires her, and also to take little sneaky peeks around her studio!
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Hannah’s animal finger puppet/fabric brooches were amongst the very first few products that were sold at the little dröm store back in 2010.
owl cardsSome of you might even remember her silk-screened owl cards that were sold at our store.

Hello there Hannah! It’s been almost 6 years from since we first contacted you about stocking your products at our store, and it’s so great to be able to catch up with you again now. I think firstly, we’d like to know how did art/illustration became a part of who you are, what started your passion?

It’s great to catch up with you too! I suppose art and making/ drawing has always been a huge part of who I am. I have quite a creative family, my brother is a filmmaker and my father is an architect and I used to love seeing his drawing plans, he taught me all sorts of technical things about drawing. He was quite critical, but in a good way, I think that helped me take it quite seriously from an early age. Also my grandma did all kinds of art and was very encouraging, letting me use her oil crayons and things like that at an early age when I visited her, so I was surrounded by creativity and I think it was taken as a given from an early age that art was what I was going to do with my life as I was always painting, and making little things. Also I was quite shy and found that I could express myself much better through what I made.
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Map tapestries – This series is one of our personal favourite.
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Map tapestries – Big VS Mini!

We really really adore your recent body of works, like your Girotondo scarf and the Map Tapestries!! We love the colours, the intricacies and especially the stories told behind each piece. It’s so captivating and almost cinematic that we get to ‘travel’ with you on your various journeys/adventures through your work. What’s the best thing about being an illustrator/creator?

Ah thank you very much, I’m very happy to hear that, this recent body of work is something I have put a lot of work and myself into so I’m very glad you like it. Hmm I think the best thing is being able to start with a blank page and to not know where you’ll end up. There’s no prescriptive way of being an artist, every artist has to make it up every day, which on some days is scary, but on other days is very exciting. You get briefs and invited to projects out of the blue and also the chance to pursue your own projects which thanks to the support of your audience/collaborators finds a platform and can sustain you. It’s a great feeling when someone gets happy or inspired from something you’ve made.
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(above) Wooden box packaging for Hannah’s Map Tapestries mini series.
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(above left) ‘NYC’ weaving / 15 x 30 cm / Silk, cotton, tencel / limited edition of 10 / hand woven by Hannah. ‘
NYC’ is one of 4 new weaving designs available to collect, abridged from Hannah’s Map Tapestries series. This design is based on her first encounter with Manhattan, and translates her experience into woven form.

(above right) ‘Kreuzberg’ weaving /15 x 30 cm / Silk, cotton, tencel / limited edition of 10 / hand woven by Hannah.This design is based on her time spent living in Kreuzberg in Berlin, and translates her experience into woven form.
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(above left) ‘To Houshi Onsen’ weaving / 15 x 30 cm / Silk, cotton, tencel / limited edition of 10 / hand woven by Hannah. This design is based on a bullet train journey she took to a hot spring onsen in Japan – can you see the little onsen hot springs on this piece?

(above right) ‘Venice’ weaving / 15 x 30 cm / Silk, cotton, tencel / limited edition of 10 / hand woven by Hannah. This design is based on her favourite city in the entire world, Venice – and can you also spot the little Venetian gondolas/boats along the Venice canals?

Elements of nature and of the great outdoors seem very much present in your recent body of works. From mountains to waterfalls right down to Japanese hot spring onsens. What usually inspires you – is nature a huge part of it?

Yes recently more organic natural forms have crept into my drawing, I think mostly because I’m concerned about the impact that we as humans are having on the earth, it’s very scary what is happening right now with climate change, and I can’t help but have these themes creep in to my work. I am mostly inspired by the relationship that humans have to nature, there are so many powerful forces at work in nature, yet humans have so many ingenious ways of existing within it- towering skyscrapers, hi-speed bullet trains, cities on water etc, but it is clear we are going too far now. It makes me become much more inspired by nature itself, so yes I think you’re right and it is a huge part.
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Some work-in-progress elements behind the ‘To Houshi Onsen’ Map Tapestry.
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Final and close up shots of the ‘To Houshi Onsen’ map tapestry.

Do you travel a lot? We saw (quite some time back) that you had visited Naoshima (直島), Japan, and we ourselves loved that island so much so that we went back 4 times! How was your experience like during your visit there, what were some of your highlights there?! Will you be making any products out of your Naoshima trip? 🙂

I absolutely loved Naoshima! You are lucky to have gone 4 times.  It’s such a wonderful place, it would be a dream to do a project there, for example when I was there an artist had designed lace curtains for the local residents’ houses there. I made The Hida Express furoshiki and Takayama risograph print in response to another part of that Japan trip in 2012, but there is still so much about that trip that I have stored up to make new things out of, so watch this space! I do love to travel, and most of my work is about experiences I have had on my travels and on journeys. I am really interested in how experiences on travels exist in our memories outside of our daily flow of time almost, becoming like dreams, or alternate worlds maybe. That’s the way I see it anyway, I love Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, because he writes so beautifully about traveling and relationship to place. Takayama
Takayama’ / 3 colour risograph print. Inspired by Hannah’s trip to Japan in 2012.
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A dreamy and poetic photo captured by Hannah while on a train just before arriving at Takayama (Japan).
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Here’s Hannah inside Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin art installation located at Naoshima Island (Japan).

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Above 2 photos: Follow Hannah’s adventures and journey behind her Japan trip with her ‘Hida Express’ furoshiki. The design follows a journey of a train, through the Japanese Alps along the Hida Express route from the modern city of Toyoma to the small traditional town of Takayama in the Gifu prefecture of Japan.

Your body of works are colorful, – is your home/studio like that as well? Can we have some sneaky peaks to your space? Which is your favorite part to your home or studio/workspace, and why?

Yes it is quite colourful! Well more like little bursts of colour everywhere. My boyfriend and I are in a  lovely live/work space which is an unusual layout as it’s an alley extension to a big townhouse so there’s a long and thin main space which spirals round to a bedroom and bathroom. It’s been beautifully designed by Daniel Hanson who is a luxury nightwear designer who lives next door.

It’s perfect to work in, my favourite part is the main space which has skylights all along and beautiful cherry wood floors. It’s so light and peaceful, and has a beautiful little courtyard garden too.studio-A
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This main space (which has skylights and beautiful cherry wood floors) is one of Hannah’s favourite part of her home.
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Sneaky peeks around Hannah’s home – oh we love how her house is actually being gently wrapped around by warm sunlight! The greenery in and out of her house is pretty amazing too huh!
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A little courtyard garden just outside of Hannah’s home. studio-F studio-G studio-H
Little nuggets of gold found in some of Hannah’s shelves within her home.

You’ve since explored various mediums to express your creativity. Moving from paper into fabric/scarves/furoshiki, and even hand weaving tapestries! It seems like so much fun for you to be so hands on with the hand weaving – seems so therapeutic, considering how illustrators and designers are mostly working behind computer screens these days – almost like robots. How important is it for you to be this hands on, and also how important is it for you to express your works beyond paper?

I find it really hard to design anything on the computer, I can’t get my ideas going unless I start off using my hands so it’s really important for me to be hands on. The move into textiles happened quite naturally, it probably should have happened earlier but unfortunately the education system here in the UK only allows students to choose either graphics or textiles and I chose graphics at school so it took me some time to discover textiles. Working beyond paper with textiles has allowed me to explore drawing in a 3d sense, and develop a sense of materiality. It’s been so interesting to discover what craft can help me learn about the world and discover that weaving is a language in its own right. Every medium and process has its own limits and possibilities which allows for different expressions and I find weaving is one that suits my visual language. And yes you’re right it is very therapeutic, a nice contradiction to modern life.

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Above 4 photos: ‘Maze’ furoshiki designed by Hannah Waldron for Link.

How did your interest in hand weaving came about?

In 2010 I spent 6 months in Berlin where I discovered the woven work of Anni Albers and Gunta Stolzl at the Bauhaus Archiv and fell in love with their work, it made me really want to learn how to do it. Serendipitously when I returned to London my great friend Sally who had studied some weaving was looking at my work and suggested that my mark making, which used a grid structure with a lot of horizontal and vertical lines would translate well in to the grid process of weaving. She gave me a quick lesson and I was hooked. I bought a small loom and began experimenting and immediately could see lots of potential for exploring ideas in that process.

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Above 3 photos: An illustrative ‘San Gimigano Wallpaper’ for Pizza Express (collaboration work with UK design studio Graphic Thought Facility).

Please share with us an all time favorite Hannah Waldron project/creation, and tell us what makes it your favorite?

The favourite project for me is always the current project I am working on I think, that’s the most exciting part, getting a new idea out. At the moment I am designing some new textile products which I am very excited about. But perhaps the Cloud in Hand weaving which was my masters project is the project most dear to me because it celebrates the amazing poem by Patti Smith ‘The Coral Sea’, and I learnt new skills like hand dyeing with indigo in the process. I enjoyed making it so much, it took about 2 months of solid weaving to make, so I’m not sure I’ll get to do something like that again for a while so it’s quite special to me.

I also really loved making my recent Girotondo scarf as it was great to go through all the stages of the manufacturing process, finding the right factory, working with great craftspeople in the UK, designing and sourcing all the packaging, it was so nice to create the product to exist in its own little world exactly how I wanted it and I learnt so much and I am always happiest when I am learning and doing something new.

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Above 2 photos: Hannah with her hands on the ‘Cloud in Hand’ tapestry piece.
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Stages between ‘Cloud in Hand’.
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The finished piece of ‘Cloud in Hand’ tapestry – a project that is closest to Hannah’s heart.
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Elements of graphics, colours and textures behind the ‘Cloud in Hand’ tapestry.

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Details and packaging for the ‘Girotondo’ scarf.
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Extra risograph prints from her ‘Girotondo’ series.

Apart from illustrating/making things, what are some of your other favourite things to do?

Being by the sea is my absolute favourite, or on a journey somewhere new, whether its a bike ride out of town or on a high speed train in Japan, seeing new places and trying to get a fresh perspective is what I love to be doing when I’m not working. stories7
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Pages from the book ‘Stories in the Stars’, featuring some of the constellations Hannah drew. There were 88 constellations in total!

Lastly, is there anything that you can say to advise or encourage all new/aspiring illustrators/designers out there, to those who might’ve perhaps been discouraged & held back by fear to pursue this full time?

I think if it’s what you love doing and more importantly what you need to do in order to be happy then you should definitely explore doing it full time. I think a great thing you can do is take a bold step in some way- go and spend some in new surroundings, take a studio for 6 months or just find a way to allow yourself to devote a period of time solely to it so you can give it all you’ve got, you won’t know unless you try and you only live once.
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NYC artwork – gouache on paper.