Thursday, May 1, 2014

Textile designer & illustrator Natalie Ryan

Natalie's artworks are infused with botanical designs. Photography: Natalie Ryan
One look at Natalie Ryan's illustrations and textiles and you know she must be a passionate gardener. Her sweet-as-pie pictures shine with the glorious colours and intricate patterns of nature, especially the flowers that surround her studio in country Victoria. In fact, Natalie's garden was planted by her great-grandparents more than 100 years ago. Beyond the front gate, the path leads past an old hawthorn tree and garden beds brimming with drought-tolerant roses, salvias, lavender, daisies and pelargoniums. Natalie is making her own mark on the garden and has added some Australian natives, such as hakea, Geraldton wax and riceflower, along with a medley of spring and summer favourites, including holly hocks, foxgloves and poppies. Here, she finds endless inspiration for her textile designs and illustrations. You probably don't realise how familiar you are with Natalie's work. She spent 10 years designing gorgeous bed linen and homewares for Linen House and Hiccups. She now works as a freelance designer and illustrator. You can feast your peeps on more of her work at natalieryan.prosite.com and follow her creative process at nataliesketchbook.blogspot.com.au. 

The rambling farmhouse where Natalie's great-grandparents lived. Photography: Natalie Ryan
Foxgloves in various shades of pink provide endless inspiration for the artist. Photography: Natalie Ryan
What is the story of your garden?
'Lucindale' is an old farmhouse located a few kilometres from the tiny township of Colbinabbin, in northern Victoria. My Irish ancestors first settled in the district following the Victorian gold rush and my great-grandfather established a sheep and wheat farm and home in the late 1890s, naming it after his new wife, Lucinda. Lucinda was a talented painter and many of her paintings still hang in the house. Similar to me, she loved to paint flowers, too.

The garden contains established plants typical of old country gardens around Victoria. There are date palms, pink and white oleanders, lilly pillies, climbing roses, japonica camellias, bougainvillea, a willow and lots of fruit trees. There are five different varieties of apricot trees in the garden that all ripen at different times, ensuring a constant supply of juicy apricots over summer. The garden is surrounded by a white picket fence (in need of a paint, as does the house exterior!) and ancient pepper trees, which create a windbreak.

My grandparents both loved gardening and I received a great floral education from my grandmother Ada, especially regarding local wildflowers. Nana's specialty was dahlias, and many locals around the district still grow her plants to this day.

Japonica camellias make a pretty picture spilling over the white picket fence. Photography: Natalie Ryan
What changes have you made to it since you moved in?
I moved in two years ago after 10 years of living in Elwood, Melbourne, with a tiny balcony and a few pots of straggly orchids and geraniums. The house had been rented for a few years so straight away I set about filling in the gaps in the garden beds with a mix of native plants and old favourites, such as jacaranda, lilac and a Japanese maple. The wattles, eucalyptus and grevilleas took a while to get going, but with a dose of native fertiliser they have all taken off over summer. After visiting the beautiful Lambley Gardens, in western Victoria, I have added a lot of salvias and water-saving cottage-style plants.

Natalie's great-grandmother Lucinda created the garden. Photography: Natalie Ryan
How do you like to spend time in your garden?
Every morning I go for a wander around the garden, as there is always something coming into flower. Being such an old garden, there are always random bulbs popping up everywhere in the lawn, especially muscari and snowdrops, and clumps of violets. My studio overlooks a birdbath, which has a constant stream of visitors, my favourite being the crimson rosellas.

How does your garden inspire you?
My favourite subject matter as a textile designer are botanical designs, and I love to have the plant in front of me to draw. I study the form of plants to create a nice flow in my designs, which is much harder to achieve by only using photos of plants. And I always like at least one vase of flowers in the house!
The native hakea makes a bold statement in Natalie's garden. Photography: Natalie Ryan
An iris shows off its spectacular colours and pattern. Photography: Natalie Ryan
Natalie's grandmother was renowned in the district for her stunning dahlias. Photography: Natalie Ryan
Natalie's work has appeared on bed linen, homewares and stationery. Photography: Natalie Ryan
Favourite part of your garden?
The front path with the old hawthorn tree. I love the red berries and have painted them since I was a
little girl.

All-time favourite plant?
Hmmm, a tricky one but I would have to say the water lily, thanks to Claude Monet.

What should every garden have?
Lots of native-bird-attracting plants.

The lawns are often dotted with purple muscari. Photography: Natalie Ryan

The front path invites exploration with its greenery and old-fashioned gate. Photography: Natalie Ryan