From the moment we’re born, patterns draw our young eyes. And experts say they are also key to lifting our mood as an adult.
It is no wonder, therefore, that hand-block printing is experiencing a revival in our homes.
Requiring steady movement and careful hand-eye coordination, the ancient technique of fabric printing, originating in China thousands of years ago, involves the use of carved wooden blocks that are dipped in dye to recreate designs.
Crafty: Sarah Kostoris’s Mini Elephant quilts, £150 and available in pink and turquoise, are hand-blocked in India and feature rows of mini elephants
Part of its appeal is the tiny, easy-to-miss irregularities which highlight the natural imperfections that arise in human art.
Now, these celebrated and beautiful prints are brightening up our interiors, from cushions to curtains, lighting to linen.
Test the water with printed accessories
If you’re nervous about introducing bold patterns, start small with accessories such as cushions or lampshades before investing in a permanent feature.
Hill & May has a joyful collection of pleated silk and linen lampshades in an array of different block printed designs. For a statement piece, go for the Teak Artichoke, in a combination of clashing red and blues. Or, if you’re looking for more muted tones, the Muscat in soft cream and blue is just the ticket (both from £60).
Textile designer Molly Mahon set up her business in 2011 after one block printing session.
She now produces an ever-expanding homeware line of hand-printed fabrics, including tablecloths, cushion covers, lampshades and rugs.
‘It’s wonderful that people have an appreciation of items made “by hand” and understand the true worth of such items,’ says Molly.
‘Not only do we end up with a much more beautiful lively piece of cloth, but we are keeping meaningful jobs and artistic methods alive. Creativity is inherent in us, and it’s vital that we keep this alive.’
Also a fan of clashing prints, Molly’s green and blue cushion with a contrasting loose pink frill is a particular favourite and is guaranteed to bring joy and colour to your home (£72).
Design flair: Molly Mahon produces an ever-expanding homeware line of hand-printed fabrics
Tables are another good place to introduce pattern; printed napkins and runners can lift a kitchen or dining room and make a real impact.
Sarah Kostoris has a huge selection of delightful block printed table linen, including Ruby Stella napkins, patterned in purple and pink star tiles, which will instantly brighten up a dull-looking table (£24 for four).
She says it is the craft’s history which is the most enticing aspect.
‘I started my business after living in India for two years, having met so many incredibly skilled artisans and seen them at work.
‘There has been a resurgence of craft activities over the past few years. Perhaps as we become more aware of the changes that advanced technology is having on our lives, it makes us even more aware of how precious these artisanal skills are.’
Block prints are regularly used on bed linen and are particularly popular on quilts.
Sarah’s Mini Elephant quilts, available in pink and turquoise, are hand-blocked in India and feature rows of mini elephants, surrounded by a beautifully designed border on one side and stripes on the reverse.
Although not hand-crafted, Oliver Bonas has a selection of discounted block print bedspreads, including its Moe Kantha which is made from pale pink and navy fabrics with a white-and-green leaf print (£85).
Do it yourself with a block printing kit
Despite hand-block printing being a way for us all to step away from our electronic devices and indulge in its creativity, its resurgence is mostly down to social media; Instagram, to be exact.
And, in turn, demand for block printing courses and kits is increasing.
‘We are now offering kits for those who want to try it at home,’ says Molly Mahon, ‘Or you can always join me on one of my workshops.
‘My advice to anyone giving it a go is to embrace the imperfections that you get with block printing, because it is these marks made by your hand that create charm and a uniqueness to whatever you are printing, so rare in mass market items available today.
‘And always print left to right, top to bottom. It is amazing how many people start in the middle of the cloth.’
Up and down the country, art schools for all ages have begun to include block printing courses on their timetables, suggesting the passion for this rewarding art form is contagious.
What your home needs is… mismatched china
Key decor movements often start in bars and restaurants.
For example, when superstar chefs began to showcase their creations on white plates, the trend spread to the domestic sphere and ruled supreme for two decades.
Now you must have a mix of white and colourful crockery, because this mismatched look is being seen in smart cafes, and it adds joy to dining in. This can work out cheaply, too.
Hot pots: Habitat’s 12-piece Mix It Up set features blue and red geometric designs (£38)
Buy a simple set to combine with your existing crockery. B&M has a 12-piece dinner set in blush pink or grey (£18), while Marks & Spencer offers a white and yellow 12-piece set (£29.50) featuring a zebra.
Another option is Habitat’s 12-piece Mix It Up set, with its blue and red geometric designs (£38).
Mismatched crockery is also a way to celebrate British historic design.
Spode’s 16-piece Blue Italian has been produced since 1816 in Stoke-on-Trent. It is now reduced from £229 to £130.