“Sarah Fennell is a textile designer who hand prints bespoke fabric for interior objects. Having mastered the process of silk screen printing, she hones this ancient craft to create unique compositions of colour and object which showcase exceptional craftsmanship and integrity.”
How did you get into textiles?
I knew I wanted to work in a creative industry so I enrolled on a Foundation Diploma where you try your hand at lots of different specialisms. I enjoyed the tactility of working with fabric and knew that textiles was the route I wanted to take. Three years at Bath School of Art let me experiment and develop as a designer.
What type of techniques do you use to create your screen prints?
For my large bespoke screen prints, I mostly use stencilling. This means each piece is a complete one off. Stencilling these large scale pieces gives me the flexibility to play with composition and they grow organically once I start printing. Although I’ve worked in my sketchbook and played around with flow and composition, until I start printing I don’t always know how the finished piece will look: it’s often about the physical process of printing influencing the final design.
What are your favourite fabrics to print on and why?
Heavy, thick canvas or linen with plenty of natural character. My prints are so full of life in their composition and colour application that they need a sturdy fabric to give the full effect. I love fabric with a dense weave, a subtle texture that gives depth to a print.
What’s your least favourite fabric to print on?
Something lightweight or shiny. These fabrics will work in a less conventional and predictable way with the screen printing pigment.
What’s the biggest piece you’ve worked on?
A 3m long x 1.5m wide bespoke panel that was exhibited at the London Design Fair 2016. It was a mammoth effort to print but I enjoy the process so much. It received a wonderful reception at LDF so I was really happy that I put in the hours to get it finished for the show.
What’s your work space like?
I have two rooms at the moment: one contains my 3 metre print table and all the screens I could ever need for printing. The connecting rooms houses all my pigments, binder and a wash-out booth for cleaning the screens. There’s also a small seating area where I can meet with clients and talk through commissions. I feel very lucky to have such a large studio and it was something I dreamed about while at university.
If you do how do you plan a new piece of work?
All my printed pieces start out as collages. Working with paper gives an efficiency to my ideas. Once I have worked out basic motifs and several compositions I move over to fabric and start printing with the stencils; growing the composition directly onto the fabric, as the colours and shapes sitting together on fabric can create unexpected results which I like to work with. So the piece grows organically and responsively.
What other ways have you explored print?
I’ve developed a range of giclée prints but would also like to develop screen prints onto paper which you could frame and adorn your walls with. This is something I’m looking to develop really soon.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
I love Anthropologie for their eclectic mix of colours – walking into an Anthropologie store is like heaven on Earth. I also really respect Heals and would love to work with them in future; they have worked with so many fabulous designers and have an amazing platform for discovering new talent, a girl can dream!
What other textiles techniques would you like to learn about and explore?
I’m interested in exploring how my prints could work in a fashion and apparel context, working with digital techniques to produce prints on lighter fabrics and that are suitable for everyday wear. It would be such a contrast to the textiles I usually work with, but I get so many comments from people telling me how they would love my prints on oversized smock dresses or made into knitwear patterns!
What do you love about textiles?
It’s the combination of colour, shape and form with the inherent texture that comes from printing onto fabric. There’s a tactility that informs the design. Textiles has a huge potential, once it has a design on it can become something for the interior, an art piece or be used within fashion. The final outcome can be resolved into so many avenues and I think that’s really exciting.