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WOMEN IN CREATION : Fiona Howard & Philippine Poplu

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Plants as a source of inspiration

The tribute to women artists continues in this episode with the portrait of two designers who collaborated with Pierre Frey in the 2000s and 2010s respectively: Fiona Howard and Philippine Poplu. Although their artistic worlds and styles are totally different, they share a common source of inspiration: plants. The patterns they imagine show how much the retranscription of nature is a question of personal sensitivity.
For our greatest pleasure, they agreed to answer our questions.
Focus on these free and inspiring women, for whom creating is as essential as breathing. 

Fiona Howard

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1/ How would you describe your pictorial universe? Do you have favorite themes?
Nature forms the perennial thread running through my designs. Plants, shells, birds, the colours changing through the seasons. In nature there are endless designs.

2/ What is your favorite medium?
I hand carve and print  lino blocks. I love the tactile feel of carving a piece of lino, mixing the oil paints to the exact colour and shade I have in my mind and I never tire of the excitement of peeling back a new print. I love the smells of oil paints and handmade papers, it’s the first thing visitors to my studio remark on.

3/ What are your sources of inspiration?
I am continually collecting things, a hand full of seaweed from the beach, a second-hand book of flowers or a pretty piece of 50’s china from a junk shop. Inspiration comes from many sources. These form the source of my inspiration from which I spend hours drawing. I have piles of spiral-bound sketchbooks which I have filled with ideas and colour reference through the years.

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4/ How does the purpose (fabric or wallpaper) of the patterns you imagine influence your artistic practice?
Good drawing is fundamental to the whole design. It is the essence from which the design grows. The pattern has to flow seamlessly across each fabric or wallpaper. I draw and redraw the design until the continuity of the pattern is effortless and the movement pleasing. Your eye should be taken on a gentle journey.

5/ What is your background? 
I spent 5 years at Art College. I studied Textile Design (BA Hons Degree) at Middlesex University in London. Since then I have spent  34 years working as a freelance designer in California and UK.

6/ An anecdote, a memory of your collaboration with the Maison Pierre Frey?
The funniest thing I remember is arriving on the Eurostar train from London to Paris only to find there was such a long line of taxis at Gare du Nord that I would be late for my meeting with Patrick ( Frey ). So I took the offer of a motorbike courier to strap my portfolios to the back of his bike and we flew through the streets of Paris to arrive on time.

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Is there a drawing you dream of painting?
A while ago, my son, Eddie, who is a painter, and I spent time working together in my studio in California. We set up a still life and both worked in our different media. He painted it and I turned it into a repeating design which became a wallpaper. It was a lovely experiment and we worked so happily alongside each other. I would love to do more of this once we are all free to meet up again !

Philippine Poplu

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1/ How would you describe your artistic vision? Do you have any favorite themes?
My artistic vision is colorful and contrasted with a great attention to detail, the whole is drawn by hand. The images have most of the time a double reading. They work with different layers: a figurative first layer and a geometric second layer. I don't have a favorite theme despite my great attachment to plants.

 2/ What is your favorite medium?
I like to work with gouache or Indian ink on paper. 

3/ What are your sources of inspiration?
They are diverse: Björk, nature and travel. A lot of research is done before creating the images.

 

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4/ How does the purpose (fabric or wallpaper) of the designs you create influence your artistic practice?
The finality of these designs imposes more constraints because you have to find the right rhythm for the repetition to work. However, it offers a great deal of creative freedom. The images not intended for the pattern are more contemplative and the rhythm becomes secondary in comparison.

5/ What is your background? 
I have a degree in Graphic Arts from Esag Penninghen in Paris.

6/ An anecdote, a memory about your collaboration with Pierre Frey?
When I first met Patrick Frey, I was surprised by the spontaneity of his approach. I had never made wallpaper before and he suggested that I make a design based on an existing drawing.

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Do you have a drawing that you dream of painting?
I would love to work on the theme of India or Egypt.