Go boldly

Them’s some eye-catching prints! Meet their maker and Bolt of Cloth textile design competition winner Nellie Ryan.

Nellie Ryan’s prints aren’t backward in coming forward, and certainly couldn’t be ignored by the judges in the recent Bolt of Cloth textile design competition: her collection Bold & Beautiful won the annual award. Referencing the jaunty vibe of vintage Hawaiian shirts and the work of two of her favourite artists, Henri Matisse and David Hockney, she’s created designs that look like they’d be great company.

“I wanted to create fun designs that people could connect with and that would have a timeless appeal,” says Nellie. Her winning textiles are available by the metre as well as in cushion form in store and online at Bolt of Cloth.

How did you get into textile design? After completing a degree in visual communication, I moved to London where I gained work experience with UK fashion designer Jasper Conran, which fortuitously turned into an eight-year career with the brand. It was a relatively small studio, so I got to work in many areas, from designing commercial collections for the high street, to helping design prints for the mainline and homeware collections.
I then went on to freelance for the trend-forecasting company WGSN, who are about pushing design and offering directional ideas, and there I was able to hone my style further. After that I moved into illustrating – mainly kids’ books and editorial illustration for publications such as Tatler and for the BBC.
Since moving back to New Zealand, I’ve focused more on textile designs for some of our top fashion brands and have branched out into homeware, as well as doing the occasional illustration job and experimenting with ceramics.

Can you share a little about your creative process for this collection? I started by handpainting lots of random flora and fauna shapes as I wanted the designs to have a looseness and energy to them. I then played with the layout and colours in Photoshop until I came up with my favourite look. I decided to keep the design elements handpainted as I thought it added to the vintage appeal.

From winning the award to putting the work into production, how were the designs developed for print? I worked closely with [Bolt of Cloth owner] Suzannah Tonascia to choose the right fabric base and work out which designs would be produced. It was great gaining an understanding of the process [through the lens of] her extensive retail knowledge. I then worked closely with the printer to ensure they had the correct information and colour references.

What’s next for Nellie Ryan Design?
I’d really love to create more personal textile designs and another homeware collection. I’d like to be able to combine my experience in fashion with my love of interior design, as I enjoy seeing my designs in people’s houses as much as
I love seeing them on their clothes.;

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Wendy Fenwick

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