Ever since childhood, Julia Fonnereau has had a creative and artistic soul. She later persisted her love for the arts by becoming an art teacher, passing on her passion and skills to all her students.
By gaining knowledge throughout her teaching career, embarking on various design courses and embracing her natural talents, Julia is now a successful pattern designer and this year’s winner of the Wallsauce Designer Wallpaper Competition!
In this exclusive interview, we learn more Julia: the artist who loves to draw in the garden with her dog, Fifi, at her side…
How did you get started in Art and Design?
Mural in photo: Zen Leafage Rust
"I have always been the creative one in the family. I spent most of my childhood with my head in the clouds, dreaming. Drawing always came naturally to me and in the beginning, it was mostly me illustrating my imagination!
My dad says my talent is inherited from a line of artists in our ancestry – a distant relative allegedly sponsored a young Thomas Gainsborough, but I'm not so sure...
My art teacher at school was a hard taskmaster and although he actively discouraged creativity, which was tough on the dreamer in me, the observation drawing and composition skills that he taught me have stayed with me to this day."
What inspires your work?
Mural in photo: Blue Koi
"That's a really difficult question to answer because so many things inspire me. I might notice a flower which I want to draw and then I will draw a garden around it. Or I may encounter animals or objects on my travels that I really want to work into a pattern. Sometimes old sketchbook drawings inspire me or photographs, or even television programs. I once created a pattern based on something I had seen on the Antiques Road Show!
I am aware of trends and I can't say they don't influence me, but I'm more inclined to look at trends that fit in with subjects that I would be inspired by anyway…"
What is your creative process?
Julia drawing a floral design on her iPad
"An idea usually starts as a scribble – in a sketchbook if I'm lucky, but more often in my diary, notepad, or any scrap of paper that I am near to at the time... I then might put together a collage/mood-board of ideas, gathering resources from my sketchbooks, vast archives of my own photographs and my books.
Then I start drawing motifs. I used to paint in gouache and then painstakingly hand trace my paintings to simplify them, but now I tend to draw straight onto the iPad - It's quicker! I use Adobe Draw, I love the simplicity. My designs are complex, I want the elements to be simple. My style of painting in blocks of colour lends itself perfectly to working in vectors. Occasionally I will add texture and experiment with other processes, but mostly I just use one brush in Adobe Draw...
Once drawn I will open my drawings in PicCollage on my iPad and play around with composition and scale before sending them to Illustrator to work on my final pattern."
What is your favourite design from your wall mural collection?
Mural in photo: Dynasty Nanas Garden
"I have loved working on this collection. The ideas have been in my head for a very long time and the historical theme was the perfect excuse to get them out there.
Though I do love the Dynasty Fishes and Dishes, my favourite has to be Nana's Garden. The Nana in question is my mum, and my 3 children have spent many happy hours chasing around her garden with its big willow tree. It was only recently, when I found myself staying with mum during Lockdown, it occurred to me that her garden actually contains many of the elements traditionally found in a willow pattern.
Teaching the story of the willow pattern to my students and getting them to create their own designs was always one of my favourite lessons.
My mum has a bridge over a stream, fruit trees, a flower-covered pergola, a fountain, a fence, a path, some love birds (I drew great tits as they seem to be the most prolific bird in the garden) and obviously a willow tree.
I began to draw the elements and created my modern twist on a traditional design. My mum is also a big fan of blue and white china – in fact, blue and white anything, so I am hoping I can persuade her to get one of her rooms decorated soon!"
How does it make you feel having your art as a wall mural?
Mural in photo: Dynasty Fishes and Dishes
"This is something that has been a dream of mine for a very long time so to say I am proud is an understatement! I hope I get to see some of the places that it gets used. Someone said that my Fishes and Dishes would look amazing in a 'quirky European cafe' – I love that idea!"
Are there any particular designers who influence your work?
Mural in photo: Zen Leafage Calm
"Where do I start with this question? Yes, there are many. A legacy from teaching is a vast knowledge of artists and designers from many times and cultures. I have a large library of books that I love to refer to. As you can tell from my work, I am inclined to investigate times gone by for inspiration.
If I had to name names, I would have to say William Morris (I used to love unravelling his complex patterns and attempting to recreate them), Anton Seder and William de Morgan, but there are so many more.
I am also in awe of many current designers, notably Matthew Williamson, Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs. I went to a Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey a few years ago and fell in love with his paintings of flowers and blue and white pots. I probably look to these designers as they too get influences from historical references."
Where does the vintage and oriental influence in your designs come from?
Mural in photo: China Garden
"I think I would have to say that this came through teaching. I fondly remember projects for our GCSE students with themes such as 'Cultures' and 'Adorn, Decorate, Embellish.' I found that, while researching inspiration for my students, I was also learning so much myself and enriching my knowledge of the history of the decorative arts.
William Morris and many Western artists and designers became fascinated with Eastern art and processes in the 19th century. Following their influences led me to wonderful Indian textiles, Chinese porcelain and Japanese woodblock prints, which have had a profound impact on my design work."
What is your advice to someone who wants a career in pattern design?
Julia sketching in the garden with her dog, Fifi
"My journey as a pattern designer is still relatively new. However, I have learned so much in a short period of time. My advice would be to set your main goal, but break up the route to that goal into smaller, achievable steps. If you are a creative like me, you probably have a thousand ideas all at once and that can be overwhelming. Break it down, take your time and learn everything you can.
I would also recommend that you look to join like-minded communities that will be supportive and inspiring.
Any investment that you make will definitely be worthwhile. I owe huge thanks to Bonnie Christine for her Immersion Course, which helped me to conquer the mountain that is Adobe Illustrator, less than 2 years ago. I am also eternally grateful to the wonderful Make it in Design team for their courses which have really helped me to develop and improve as a designer and for their Live Hub which has presented me with so many opportunities to get my work out into the world."
Isn’t Julia such an inspiration? If you are striving to become a pattern designer or simply appreciate beautiful works of art in your home, Julia’s natural and oriental designs bring joy to us all. Would you like to see her entire range of wallpaper designs? Simply visit Julia Fonnereau’s collection here.