Behind the Seams

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As we work towards our new collaboration with Arthur Parkinson, we thought it might be interesting to share the creative process behind our Hens Cushion which will form part of our new range.

Deciding on designs for new products is great fun. Normally, Flora takes individual elements from Catriona’s paintings and together they try them in a variety of attitudes and positions to decide how best they can be laid out to adorn a 3D product. However, for this design, we left Catriona’s artwork untouched, such was its reception when first aired on Instagram, to be enjoyed in full glory. It proved impossible to decide which hen should star and which flowers should be featured, so the design remained in the form of the original painting, featuring two Arthur Parkinson’s beautiful hens, Claudia and Keira, both Pekin Bantams.

The next stage was to choose the material onto which we would have the design printed, so out came all the fabric samples. The weave, colour and texture of the material has a huge part to play in the look of the print. With our Golden Syrup cushion, we had initially chosen a material that was too dark a cream to take the image which came out rather dull in the sample. When we switched to lighter cotton, the results were the zingy yellows, golds and greens of the original. For the Hens, we decided on a linen/cotton mix and sent off our specifications along with a print of the original artwork to our manufacturers, RA Smart, for them to match up the colours for printing. 

Original Catriona Hall (c) painting

Original artwork used as the design for our new cushion © Catriona Hall

RA Smart are based locally to us, just over the border in Bollington,  Cheshire, close to Macclesfield, formerly world famous for its silk production. Indeed, the romantically named Silk Road links the two places, though sadly it is now an unromantic four lane bypass, but it would once have been a busy cart track bustling with bales of silk.

We have been working with RA Smart since our launch and our relationship with them began with a factory visit and tour. It was fascinating to see work in progress and the wide variety of processes taking place on our visit: weaving, screen printing, digital printing, hand painting, to name a few. We were impressed by the quality of the products and the impressive and famous names of the companies they work with made us feel lucky that they were willing to work with us. We met the owner and it was exactly the right local firm for us, highly professional, yet small enough for the team to really excel at what they do.

We chose to have our cushions screen printed as this form of printing  lends itself well to replicating the details of the original artwork. The process for this requires each colour found in the original print to be printed onto the fabric individually. It is a long process but the results are fantastic.

One of the screen print press at RA Smart © RA Smart

Once the designs have been printed onto the fabric, they are sewn into covers and samples sent to us for checking. We made some alterations to the colours of the plants surrounding the hens, which were amended before putting them into production.

If you are interested in RA Smart’s production process, you can watch a video about it here: https://www.rasmart.co.uk/printing-services/screen-printing.

First sample of Dog & Dome hen cushion

First sample cushion before colour alterations

When the cushion covers went into production, we got onto ordering the cushion inners. We work with a company called Autumn Down who hand make our cushion inners to our requirements. They send samples and we decide what we think goes best with our cover. As the design we are using for the cushion is quite detailed and the pattern goes to the edge, we didn’t want an inner that was too padded as it warped the image. It really was a case of having the stuffing knocked out of it.

The waiting game has begun as both cover and inner are in production, so watch this space for our full new range coming soon.


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