Creative collection Textile treasures by NZ designer Margot Bawden
TEXTILE DESIGNER MARGOT BAWDEN OF HEART ETHICAL CREATES HER OWN DISPLAYS OF NATURE’S BOUNTY WITH AN EMPHASIS ON MAKING BY HAND
“I want things to be made for longevity. You can like things that aren’t based on a trend” ~ MARGOT
It’s difficult to imagine a more idyllic location for an artist to practise their craft. Standing outside textile designer Margot Bawden’s creative studio on New Zealand’s North Island, your breath is taken away as you view the undulating greenery that is Maraekakaho Valley in Hawke’s Bay. The stunning location for the artist’s workspace was decided one evening at book club; Margot was searching for a studio, and her friend, Jenny, suggested they move her husband Mike’s fishing and camping equipment aside and lend Margot the space she needed to start her fabric and wallpaper business, Heart Ethical.
Margot now spends most days of the week screen-printing or dyeing fabric in her studio. Organic and natural shapes – all dreamed up by her – cover metres of fabric, cushion covers and an assortment of linen for the home. “I grew up in a family of sewers,” she says. “Getting to go into a shop to choose my fabric for my outfits when I was young, and just being around bolts of cloth, was a total highlight. I just adore fabric and now I get to play with it all the time.”
A mostly self-taught screen-printer, Margot learnt the basics of her new trade a decade ago at a course in Auckland. “It was just enough of the knowledge I needed to get me on my way,” she says. The rest of her understanding was gleaned through experimenting – and hours on YouTube – but the processes came naturally to the artist, who used to work in digital printing and design.
At the centre of Heart Ethical is the emphasis on having the smallest impact possible on the environment. “When I first looked at having my own textiles business, what I really wanted was something that was natural and to make something with the least amount of chemicals possible,” she explains. Through a fair-trade organisation in
India, Margot started working with a hand-loomer, who now supplies her with the beautiful Belgian and French linen she prints on. Her cushions and products are also made by hand in India, then shipped to New Zealand, where they are handprinted and dyed by Margot. “It’s a nice little global circle of handmade,” she says. By printing orders by the metre, there’s also minimal wastage, and she can offer the added option of customisable pieces by colour or fabric. “I don’t think I should dictate to people what they should like,” says Margot. “I don’t want to necessarily be trend-based.”
While there are bespoke elements to Margot’s work, Heart Ethical’s core collections are purely the result of her artistic whim. “My inspiration usually comes when I’m relaxed, so often on holidays,” she says. Case in point is her latest series, ‘The Lake Collection’ – all of the designs were the product of one camping trip at Lake Taupo. The shadows of Kōwhai trees cast onto the tents, and discovered “jaunty” ferns in the undergrowth, all became sketches and in turn part of Margot’s textiles.
It’s easy to get a sense of the joy that was felt when these designs came to be. “I walk into my studio and time disappears,” says Margot. “It’s so special to be able to do what I love. In time, my growing business will help me to look after my family, and in a way that doesn’t impact the Earth.”
THIS PAGE: Heart Ethical sits atop the rolling green hills of Maraekakaho Valley in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay. OPPOSITE, TOP LEFT: A batch of ombre-dyed cushions, which is part of Margot’s ‘The Lake Collection’, are hung to dry before they’re handwashed and ironed ready for customers. TOP RIGHT & BOTTOM RIGHT: Margot (pictured) in her studio surrounded by fabric samples such as the ‘Blossoms’ design in black and white on oatmealcoloured linen. BOTTOM LEFT: Shelves overflow with washed, pressed and ready-to-ship napkins and tea towels.
THIS PAGE, TOP LEFT: Margot in action as she screen-prints. TOP RIGHT: Glorious views of the valley provide plenty of inspiration. BOTTOM LEFT: Quick pencil sketches work together to help feed further design ideas. “Often I just design with pencil first,” explains Margot. “The colours come later when I start experimenting with the inks – that’s the fun part.” OPPOSITE: Silk screens and printed samples line the walls of Margot’s studio.