Taking time out to study, and not worry about commercial constraints, had a huge impact on Joanna Fowles. In Sydney she was co-founder of a soft furnishings label, Perry & Fowles. But Joanna decided to return to her native England, and study in London. The process allowed her to explore new ideas. The genesis of these saw her first design sold to Louis Vuitton. Now she is focussed on textile design, and teaching. She has held a residency at Harvest Textiles, and teaches at university and Megan Morton's The School.
Which five words best describe you? Small, creative, observant, passionate, shy.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I've had a fascination with fabric and pattern ever since I can remember. I guess it feels like a constant thread through my various career paths of stylist, screen printer, textile designer, digital crafter and dyer. It's always about fabric. My first real start was setting up a screen-printing studio in Sydney with another graduate. We created soft furnishings label Perry & Fowles printing everything ourselves. After several years I returned to London to work and study textile design at Chelsea College of Art. My focus shifted towards more digital applications within textiles and combining those with hand processes. Time to study to focus on process and not commercial or production constraints enabled me to have the freedom to explore and develop my work conceptually.
I moved back here from native England just over a year ago. My career here has grown organically combining different elements into something really exciting. I freelance textile design, teach at university, host workshops at Megan Morton's The School and at Harvest Textiles and spend lots of time dyeing and printing at my studio. I plan to launch a capsule collection towards the end of this year. No day is the same and it's a exciting time. It's great to be back in Sydney and be part of the creative community here.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Share with others and amazing stuff comes back to you.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Selling work to Louis Vuitton - it was the first design I sold and a really happy moment.
What’s been your best decision? There's been a few. Taking the plunge to go back and study as a mature student: it opened so many doors for me and allowed my work to develop conceptually. Sticking to what you believe in aesthetically, not deviating too far from what you feel. And taking a leap of faith moving back to Australia for love. It felt like a massive leap of faith but it was worth it!
Who inspires you? Inspiration for me often comes from looking intently, finding the bits that excite me and adapting those elements to suit my own aesthetic. It can be a building, place, artist or the environment around me. Artists whose work I regularly return to for inspiration include Yayoi Kusama for her obsessive mark-making, Louise Bourgeois for her beautiful textile art collection I saw in London two years ago, Cy Twombly for his beautiful mark-making and beautiful colour palettes and Ellsworth Kelly for his collages. Also creative friends - these guys are priceless.
What are you passionate about? Good design, geometric pattern, lines, grids and spots. I never tire of them and return to them again and again. Colour, fashion, fabric. My new family here as well as family far away, and cups of tea.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would have loved to have spent time with a woman as fascinating and creative as the French-American artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois. A truly inspiring woman who live till the ripe old age of 98.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? An exhibition is pretty high on the list.
What are you reading? Paul Auster, Invisible.
images courtesy of joanna fowles