Flora Roberts, muralist and wallpaper and fabric designer.
Flora Roberts, her first name entirely apt as an example of nominative determinism, paints exquisite floral murals as well as designing handsome wallpapers and fabrics.
The majority of contemporary murals are often woefully badly painted, but not so Flora’s. Her work is imbued with a sensitive delicacy which lends itself well to her favourite subject matter. ‘I love the shape of flowers and their individual personalities. Also the way they naturally take on a new pose when cut and put into water.’ Her work is interesting in that it is strikingly varied in mood, ranging from ethereal Arthur Rackham-style paintings to boldly rendered brightly coloured flowers.
Flora works in a gloriously light-filled studio in West London appropriately overlooking a garden. The walls are covered in a plethora of beguiling designs, pictures that inspire her and studies of flowers including some stunning vividly hued dahlias. ‘I like the clumsiness of dahlias, they are not symmetrical.’
After growing up in the Borders, Flora went to Glasgow School of Art to study printed textiles before going on to the Royal College of Art to study mixed textiles and embroidery. ‘It was more an arts course than design course which gave me the confidence to go freelance as a designer.’ But despite selling her designs through a Textile Agent to big brand names, she found it ultimately frustrating as ‘you don’t always see where your designs end up.’
It was a chance commission to restore a mural in her sister’s house that led to her taking up murals, although she still designs wallpapers for Lewis & Wood, celebrated purveyors of boldly scaled wallpapers often featured in the World of Interiors and House & Garden.
An interesting commission was to copy the Chinese wallpaper now residing in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s extensive archives but originally from Eltham Palace – no doubt chucked out by the Courtaulds when they transformed it into an Art Deco palace.
To hone her muralist skills, Flora, studied specialist painting techniques under Hughie Turner, the renowned master of decorative paint finishes, and she also undertook a course in fresco painting.
Art courses through her blood: her mother is a painter and a relation is the esteemed 20th century Modern British painter, Winifred Nicholson. ‘I have spent my life scrutinizing her work. The way she uses colour is unsurpassed. She is particularly skilfully at employing contrasting colours to great effect.’
Commissions come from word of mouth and Instagram.