New Textile Collection by Artist Hera Ford Was Inspired by Botanicals
In her new collection for Schumacher, artist Hera Ford studies florals through the lens of vintage botanical drawings with inspiration from her family’s connection to the land. The interiors brand, which has a Scottsdale location, has released three patterns by Ford, available as textiles and wallpapers: “Close Your Eyes and Remember,” “Come Back as a Flower” and “Orchids Have Dreams.” Fluid and whimsical, the Rhode Island-based artist created the patterns in charcoal—and kept the smudges that resulted. “I wanted it to feel like I had gone in and drawn on the walls,” Ford says. In the collection she also celebrates her grandmother’s history growing up on a sharecropping plantation in Mississippi. “I spent a lot of time with her in her garden planting and learning about how to grow things,” Ford says.
Q&A With Artist Hera Ford
Tell us about your new collection with Schumacher.
I created a couple floral patterns with Schumacher. They reached out to me after I completed by thesis at RISD (the Rhode Island School of Design). I was studying a lot of botanical drawings, particularly orchids and lilies. Each flower started as an individual drawing, and then we created a larger garden from there.
The partnership was really easy and smooth. They also allowed me the opportunity to visualize my flowers in the home. I had never really thought about them in that way. It was a beautiful opportunity for me to expand my ideas of where the flowers can grow and how they can be in the world.
What drew you to textiles?
I originally was planning to study painting or apparel (at RISD), but I changed my mind at the very last minutes because I felt that within textiles I could do both. I really wanted the room to explore painting and drawing but also have some experimentation with fabric. I’ve always been really interested in fabric and fashion.
You were inspired by vintage botanical drawings. What do you love about those and how did you put your own spin on it?
Something I really love about vintage botanical drawings is that they feel a lot like portraits. I love that they focus on the individual flower. It feels very intimate. I like the care and gentleness that takes to understand it.
I want to first get the energy or the essence of the flower, as if it is a living being. I always start in black and white because, for me, it allows me to really focus on the energy or the spirit of the flower as a being.
You drew many of these works in charcoal.
When I went to RISD, that’s what everybody had to draw with; I just stuck with it. I love the texture. The fact that it comes from the earth itself, you get this rawness of the charcoal.
And you can see some of that in the final textiles?
That’s something we really wanted to keep in the patterns. You’ll see a lot of the smudges from the charcoal in the flowers. I wanted it to feel I had gone in and drawn on the walls. The flowers are really raw in that way.
Textiles can set the tone of a room. What’s the tone you want these to set in the rooms they end up in?
I was thinking a lot about dreams and a gentle presence. A lot of the colors that we show—besides the black and white—are very soft and light. I wanted it to feel like you really get to know the flowers in an intimate way, and over time they reveal themselves to you. Dreams operate in that same way, where they have layers, and if you’re gentle with them they reveal themselves over time. I wanted the flowers to have that intimate presence, where they’re soft but also speaking.
Musical references show up in the names of these pieces – how does music impact or inspire your work?
Music has been with me all my life. That was my very first introduction into art. I grew up in a heavily musical family. I wanted to pay homage to that in the collection. Throughout the collection, and throughout the pandemic, I was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder. He has an album called “The Secret Life of Plants,” and I was listening to Minnie Riperton’s album “Come to My Garden.” I love the way that these two artists are speaking with plants, or with nature, but also allowing nature to speak. Those two albums opened my mind in how I’m thinking about plants as living beings and with voices.
“Something I really love about vintage botanical drawings is that they feel a lot like portraits. I love that they focus on the individual flower. It feels very intimate. I like the care and gentleness that takes to understand it.”-Artist Hera Ford
What’s your creative process like?
I’ve been traveling a lot, so It’s included a lot of movement. I start out with mostly drawings and paintings, some collage. Being in a natural space always helps me begin to open up for what I want to create.
How has your family—particularly your grandmother—inspired your work?
My grandmother has been a very important person for me when referencing land. I’ve been studying her own personal history and connection to land. For my thesis, I did a project around her ancestry. She grew up on a sharecropping plantation in Mississippi. It was a plantation owned by her family that was later taken away. I’ve been interviewing her on her connection to the land and her memories of the land. They grew their own food, their own fibers. Recording that history and also trying to translate that history in my own way. I’m working a lot with the flowers in that way. I spend a lot of time with her in her garden planting and learning about how to grow things.
Will you build beyond this collection? What’s next for you?
I hope to keep working with Schumacher in the future. I’m currently working on my own series of prints for fabric to create a collection of garments that I hope to release early in 2023.