The inspiration behind the illustrations: What goes into creating our block prints

The inspiration behind the illustrations: What goes into creating our block prints

Designing and creating illustrated block print clothing is a dream come true for us at Hollyblocks. Seeing our designs worn and treasured by people all over the UK (and beyond!) is the icing on the cake! 

But what goes into creating the beautiful block print designs you see across our collection? How do we develop ideas for illustrations and then bring them to life? Hollyblocks' founder and director, Andrea Messent, shares the creative secrets behind our drawings and designs:

"I'm inspired by my beautiful home in north Norfolk"

After moving from central London to the middle of the North Norfolk countryside in 2019, Andrea was immediately drawn to the abundance of wildflowers surrounding her new home. She and her family took on a plum orchard of around 3,000 trees and a vast range of flora and fauna, which provided the ideal way to pass the time when lockdowns hit in 2020.

Woman wearing purple block printed dress

"Lockdown gave me to perfect opportunity to spend lots of time outdoors and observe the gorgeous local flowers"

Andrea says her family was fortunate to spend so much time in the countryside during the Covid lockdowns. Through this exploration, she discovered hollyhocks for the first time in Norfolk, flowers she describes as "tall, gaudy and colourful."

The hollyhock is the namesake for Andrea's Hollyblocks brand, and as time passes, she only falls more in love with the flower.

"They're really wild and can add so much drama to a garden because they grow to be so enormous. They're also so easy and self-seed - we grew a few, and now they're spreading all over the garden," she says.

"The flowers here are particularly appealing to me because there are so many wild ones"

With such a gorgeous and vast expanse of wildflowers surrounding her, it's hard for Andrea to pick her favourite bloom. As much as she loves hollyhocks (look out for a hollyhock print in Hollyblocks' upcoming range!), she's also partial to the plum blossoms that bloom in March and the poppies that spring up throughout summer. 

"Poppies pop up everywhere, hollyhocks spread like wildfire, and daisies are to be found all over the orchard here," says Andrea. 

It's easy to be inspired by such an abundance of natural beauty, and you'll find all these flowers featured across Hollyblocks' block printed dresses, skirts and jackets. 

The Sakura blossom co-ord set

"I'll notice a particular flower and think it would make a lovely print"

According to Andrea, floral printed clothing is nothing new, but Hollyblocks differs in that the prints are hand-sketched directly from flowers Andrea discovers in her orchard. She'll photograph her favourite flowers, sketch the designs and come up with colour combinations before sharing her ideas with the Hollyblocks team in Jaipur. They'll refine these into computer-aided designs (CADs) and consult on colours, which can take weeks! 

Once the designs are finalised, they're sketched onto tracing paper to be placed over the wooden block for carving. They eventually end up hand-stamped onto the block print fabric you see across the Hollyblocks range of whimsical, free-spirited clothing.

Want to know more about the block printing process? Read our blog here.

"I'm interested in original floral designs that you don't see anywhere else"

Although floral prints on clothes have always been popular, Hollyblocks is unique because Andrea captures and hand-draws unusual and original floral prints. When you see the patterns on a Hollyblocks dress or jacket, you see a snapshot of Norfolk country life. For this reason, Andrea focuses exclusively on flowers that have fantastic colours and make for beautiful prints.

"I've always cared about sustainability and wanted the production of clothes to be kinder on the earth than fast fashion brands"

When Andrea was selecting the means of production for her brand, she wanted something gentler on the planet than the fast fashion that saturates the market. India was a perfect choice, thanks to its artisanal approach to block printing.

Block printing in Jaipur

"India's ability to make colourful prints is second-to-none, and the slow process of block printing onto soft organic cotton is small-scale by design and done without machines or chemical dyes," she says.

It's a gentler, more natural production process that results in the beautiful handmade clothes you see at Hollyblocks today.

"I'm looking forward to adding some children's dresses to the Hollyblocks range"

Friends and family have been eager for some smaller sizes to be introduced to the Hollyblocks range to cater to younger children, so watch out for these in coming collections! 

Andrea is planning more women's dresses in the spring and beyond (including a gorgeous green daisy dress). She's also looking into embroidering flowers onto garments - watch this space!

Channel Norfolk country style with Hollyblocks

No matter how far away you live from a field of wildflowers, you can always showcase your love of florals with a hand-drawn, hand-crafted block printed dress, skirt or jacket. Hollyblocks has something to suit everyone, from a pink blossom tiered maxi skirt to a plum poppy dress perfect for wintry days in the countryside. 

Browse the range here and support your local small business!