Katrina Hobbs shares the story behind her divine hand-painted designs, created in her light-filled studio.
Words Leanne Moore. Photography Helen Bankers.
Having a creative space where the only sound is birdsong and the beach is a five-minute walk away is a constant source of inspiration for Katrina Hobbs. Since launching her label Hobbs & Co two years ago, the artist and fabric designer’s life has been split between New Zealand and Australia, where her beautiful collection of cushions, tablecloths and scarves is in growing demand.
When she is not working on her designs, Hobbs is a busy actress, having appeared as a regular on both Shortland Street and Home and Away.
But whatever side of the Tasman her work takes her, she is always drawn back to her studio on Auckland’s wild west coast. The light-filled space in the backyard of her mum’s house at Muriwai beach is where she spends hours working on the artworks that make her collections so special. Her hand-painted creations are then printed on fabric and made into cushions, tablecloths, napkins and scarves.
Why did you choose to set up your painting studio at your mum’s home in Muriwai?
I love the beach. Muriwai is on the wild west coast with massive surf and miles and miles of foreshore. It’s strong, challenging and inspiring – a great place to work and a great place to be. When I was starting Hobbs & Co Mum offered me this studio space, and it’s turned out to be the ideal place for creating.
Your studio is tucked away in a little corner in the back garden, surrounded by native bush. Is it an inspiring place to work?
I love working there. It’s peaceful, beautiful and constantly surprising. I find myself getting lost out there, in a good way! I get loads of ideas for designs from the native bush reserve behind the house, the extraordinary variety of flowers and shrubs in the garden and the vast iron-coloured sands at Muriwai.
There’s a saying that there are no straight lines in nature. Is the organic look and feel of your artwork something you strive for, or did it happen subconsciously?
That makes sense; I’ve never felt as though there are many straight lines in my mind either. I’ve always veered a little to the ‘left of centre’ and then curved as feels right. For years I struggled to fit in, to try and see the world as others seemed to see it, do what I thought people wanted me to do, rather than what felt right to me. Now I just follow my own lines and see where they take me. Creating Hobbs & Co has been a big part of finding my path in life and it continues to be both a huge challenge and very rewarding.
You print your artworks exclusively on linen and silk. What made you decide to use natural fabrics in your collection?
Natural fibres best reflect the artwork. I also love the way the light reflects in different ways on each fabric.
Professionally you are well known for your acting. Have you studied art or are you self-taught?
I did study way back at school and really loved it. I studied photography when I left school. I was drawn to capturing how light affects, reflects and plays on surfaces and objects. Much of my work reflects how I imagine the interplay of light and colour.
Acting and textile design are both creative processes. Is one more satisfying than the other?
I love them both – acting and designing. For me they are totally complementary. Of course they are different processes. That’s great, because I love to research the story or background of what I’m creating, whether it’s a character or an artwork.
How do you balance working in two distinctly different creative fields?
I’m very lucky in that I can design pretty much anywhere. I had a long shoot last year in New Zealand and was able to manage creating a new collection while working. That said, I’m quite messy with the inks and paints, so I try to keep the actual painting part contained in my studio as much as possible.
How did you get into textile design?
Almost by accident. I was completing a Diploma of Interior Design at Sydney Design School and found myself less drawn to the more engineering-based side of interior design. My wonderful teacher suggested I focus on colour. There was an advanced colour course that I took and it involved textiles and then I fell in love with the whole texture side of the business.
How did Hobbs & Co start?
It began in 2015 with a few simple pure linen cushion covers, created from ink-based artworks that I sold at Paddington Markets in Sydney. That went well, so I began experimenting with more complex designs and I created the first collection ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ the following year. The designs were then printed onto the pure linen and silk-based velvet and cut to create unique, individual cushion covers. That same year the scarves were born (mostly due to my love of scarves) and we began selling throughout New Zealand and did our first international trade fair Maison & Objet in Paris.
Did you get any international sales from that fair?
Yes, we gained some great international clients. The lovely thing is that they all remain loyal customers. We also stock with the Christchurch Art Gallery store and are very proud to be stocked by the beautiful luxury lodge Wharekauhau Country Estate in the Wairarapa.
Is world domination the master plan?
I wouldn’t say “world domination” just yet, but we’re pretty excited about how things are growing and have big plans to move into larger markets as the year progresses. Sales have continued to increase and we’re now sold in more than 30 stores throughout New Zealand, Australia and Europe. We’re also working with Indigo Living based in Hong Kong to supply both their stores and work with them on a collection for boutique hotels later in the year. Right now though, it’s head down designing for the new collection!
Your homewares are designed to be kept and treasured. What is your view on the mindful living movement?
We’ve had some really gorgeous messages from clients who’ve been coming back repeatedly purchasing for friends and recommending our products to others. It’s a really lovely feeling that people are starting to appreciate what we are doing and when word spreads in that way I really treasure it. I think for me, being mindful is trying to be as engaged as I can in every part of life. That is very important for me, to be as ‘present’ as possible in life.
Your logo features a graphic image of a raccoon’s face. What made you choose that?
Sebastian our raccoon is a great fit for the ethos of Hobbs & Co; curiosity, creativity and determination are required for any business. Raccoons have all these qualities and, as a plus, are gorgeous. Sebastian is a perfect fit!