If you aren’t one of her followers on Instagram, then there is every chance that you won’t have heard of artist and decorative painter, Flora Roberts. For fans of surface pattern, Flora is the artist behind many highly successful floral wallpaper and fabric designs for companies such as Lewis & Wood.
Creative Scottish family
Flora comes from a family of creative and artistic women brought up in the Scottish borders but who now live in Dorset and Somerset. Flora has quite an apt name as she is inspired by and paints flowers and floral designs for a living.
“I studied printed textiles at Glasgow School of Art and went on to do an MA in mixed media textiles at London’s Royal College of Art. I began my career working on textile designs for the fashion industry. Then a mural for the fashion boutique Paul & Joe in London led to further commissions in private houses and other commercial projects.”
Winifred Nicholson (married to the artist Ben Nicholson) was Flora’s grandfather’s cousin and good friend. “Winifred lived over the border from us in Cumbria. She died before I could meet her sadly, but when I was little, a visit to her brother’s Cumbrian house full of her paintings left a lasting impression. My grandparents were very fond of her and were early supporters of her work. I love Winifred’s wonderful depiction of flowers, atmosphere and her clever use of colour.”
Flora says, “My mother Anne went to art school and came back to painting again later in life. She paints for the pleasure of it. She is influenced by Winifred and she connects with the landscape of Dorset, and of Cumbria in Winifred’s paintings and takes her paints with her when she goes north.”
Flora’s sister Amy Roberts worked for several years in the fashion industry (Head of womenswear at Mulberry, Head designer at Ghost as well as being Deuxieme Designatrice to John Galliano at Christian Dior) but has now retrained as a garden designer. Which brings the family focus nicely back to flowers and the inspiration that both sisters love getting from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as well as other open gardens. “I take lots of photos!” says Flora.
Town v Country
Flora grew up in a remote rural part of south-west Scotland. “We were always outside on a sunny day making the most of it, so I did like sitting and doing observational drawing and painting of flowers and nature from a very young age.”
“I live in Notting Hill but all my family lives in Dorset so I do go and stay with them a lot. I get lots of inspiration from the countryside there. There is a wildness and a feeling of history imprinting itself on the landscape similar to parts of Scotland I am fond of; I love the woods, the sea, ‘holloways’ (sunken labyrynthine paths, a particular feature of Dorset) and the ancient hills. I live a stone’s throw from Portobello Road in Notting Hill. I have lived here on and off since I came to study at the Royal College of Art in the year 2000. I have always liked the energy here; I get more done!”
Art Workers Guild
Flora loves going to exhibitions and galleries. “I am a member of the Art Workers Guild, founded by William Morris and his contemporaries. This is a wonderful place where members and guests meet every two weeks for a talk on a diverse range of subjects.
“There are very interesting exhibitions and events there, such as ‘the table top museum’, and outreach ideas from darning workshops to ‘thinking with your hands’ symposiums. It’s an amazing place that draws from all ages, and from many art and design disciplines. I find it very inspiring.”
2018 trend for murals
Murals whether contemporary or traditionally inspired are becoming a much stronger interiors trend in 2018. Flora has experience of both freehand directly painting onto a client’s wall and also designing murals for wallpaper companies who she says are braver in their use of mural formats and styles.
“It is a leap of faith for someone to commission one to paint all over their fresh walls, but once they do, the collaborative process of working with an interior designer and their client can be really rewarding if everyone is listened to. The first day of a more spontaneous freehand mural is daunting and I do feel like a performer going on stage sometimes. But like them, I’d be a little concerned if I was complacent!”
Flora’s preferred garden style
“I like wild gardens but not to the point that they look abandoned. At the Royal College of Art we went to Dan Pearson’s private garden which I found so inspiring. I really liked the way he celebrated and brought out the beauty of flora and fauna all through the year, with textures, autumnal colours blending in the mix. I can see why people compare creating a garden to painting a picture.”
Flora’s favourite flowers
“I can’t commit myself to just one, but I do love blue flowers: iris, forget-me-nots, cornflowers, the blue Meconopsis (blue poppy)…
“I love to see the translation into print. Digital methods have got so much better recently, but it’s fun to see how the companies make different colours in different ways. When I then see how they are used and how they can change a space, that is great too.”
Flora’s art exhibition in Dorset
“Design work takes up a lot of my time. Painting pictures informs and influences my designing. I love doing exhibitions as I find it helpful to get feedback from a wider audience and assess what’s working. I am doing an exhibition with my mother Anne in Dorset at the end of May as part of Dorset Art Weeks.”
Tickets for RHS Flower Shows
Don’t forget to book for other nationwide RHS flower shows in July.
The National Garden Scheme
These are the lesser known jewels in the crown of British gardens and they are the ‘secret’ or private gardens that form The National Garden Scheme. They open with all proceeds to charity through the Summer and Autumn (some with homemade cakes and tea).
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