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Meet The Maker: Rob Jones

Meet The Maker: Rob Jones

I am a textiles artist working with Japanese techniques such as Shibori, shaped resist and Katagami stencilling (using indigo to dye the fabric). I also work with formal Japanese embroidery techniques - Sashiko and Kogin (counted thread) embroidery as well as some Boro inspired mending. I teach both online and in my studio in Muswell Hill, and at other venues around the country such as West Dean and Old Bank Studios in Harwich. I'm also very excited to be teaching at Handprinted in July 2024. I make commercial work to sell, such as scarves and bags, and I have an art practice making larger quilts and framed Kogin art. Oh, and I take a group of students to Japan every year to study with Bryan Whitehead



Describe your artistic process.

My inspiration often comes from discovering a new technique. In my Shibori work I started by learning the traditional methods and patterns it was used for, and then I innovated, trying to find alternate ways to apply the method in my own work. Sometimes a life event will kick off a creative process though. In 2018 I had a very mixed year with my Mum being diagnosed with Vascular Dementia and the ending of a long term relationship. My business was really thriving at the same time, with dyeing outfits for Levis for Tinie Tempah and being invited to become a tutor at West Dean, which has been a long held dream. It was a series of ups and downs and that inspired a series of works in different mediums.

Romor Designs - Katagami stencil '1920s Waves'  


Romor Designs small Katagami stencil - 'Kiribori and Dougibori Butterflies'


How and where did you learn your textile techniques?

I first discovered Shibori resist as a residential short course at West Dean College near Chichester (and then took several further classes). It was very hands-on with lots of preparatory sewing, binding and hours dyeing work in the indigo vat. And then I was lucky enough to discover international Japanese textiles guru, Bryan Whitehead. I went to work with him in his silk farmhouse in the mountains to the West of Tokyo in Japan in 2014. 


Rob Jones from Romor Desgns applying Katazome rice paste resist through a Katagami paper stencil


Why textiles and dyeing? 

That happened in a very random way actually! I used to make jewellery (as a hobby for 17 years) and would go away for residential weekends to study different techniques. But I also had a very busy and stressful office job that I loved to escape from. One time, I'd booked time off work to have a creative few days away but foolishly not actually booked the course. A couple weeks before I was due to go I realised my mistake and had to find a course that was running on the days I'd booked off. That's when I discovered Shibori. It wasn't something I imagined I'd make into my career but I absolutely loved everything about it and quickly became obsessed, making loads of stuff and taking more courses. It was Japan that really cemented things though, as Bryan is a highly skilled and inspiring teacher and was very encouraging. So, when I was made redundant a year after my trip, I decided to swap careers and start a creative practice and I love it!


Romor Designs katagami design - 'Blocks' - August 2023


Where do you work? 

I do my preparatory sewing work and finishing in my home studio near Alexandra Palace, but I do all my dyeing work and teaching at my studio, which is an old lock up garage behind a knitting shop in Muswell Hill. It's not glamorous but it's a great space where I can do messy work and I can walk there and back from home over the top of Alexandra Palace with its views across London. 

Romor Designs small Katagami stencil - 'Tsukibori Daisies'


Describe a typical day in your studio.

 I tend to do admin, emails, marketing and accounts work at home in the mornings and then, after lunch, I will walk to my studio and either prepare or dye work in my indigo vat. Once that's done, I have to rinse and unpick the pieces I've dyed (which is the exciting bit as you get to see how things have turned out). The dyeing process takes a long time as multiple dips are required to get a deep blue. I tend to prepare 6-8 pieces so I can dye them in rotation as each piece needs to be manipulated separately in the dye and then left to absorb the dye before being dipped again. It is a complicated process.

Romor Designs - Kinetika Beach of Dreams 2021 - Rob Jones soaking silk prior to dyeing


How long have you been making and designing textiles?

I took my first Shibori classes in 2011, but it remained a hobby until a year after I returned from Japan, so 2015 is when I formally started my business. 


Romor Designs Itajime silk scarves - March 2023


What inspires you? 

When I visit Japan, I love finding examples of different Japanese textiles in antique shops and temple markets, and in texts and images too. I love to work out how things are made from these and then find ways to create my own unique designs using them. I'm a big fan of the circle as a starting point for a design as it is easily repeatable and has a lot of scope for creative patterns.


Romor Designs - Shibori circles - Exploring the Shibori circle workshop


Romor Designs small Katagami stencil - 'Tsukibori Cranes and Turtles'


What is your favourite textile or dye product? 

It has to be indigo. It is such a wonderful dye to work with because of the way the dye works. Most dyes require a fixative of some kind like salt or a metal based mordant (for natural plant dyes), but indigo will only work if a very specific set of chemical conditions are met. The blue Indigotin dye is not soluble in water in its blue form. The vat has to be made alkaline and a chemical added to it in order to remove the oxygen. This allows the indigo to transform into its white form, which allows it to adhere to and dye the fabric. The joyous bit is that the fabric comes out of the dye pot as a yellow/green colour and then literally turns blue in front of your eyes, as the indigo grabs oxygen atoms out of the air. I never tire of it, it is truly magical to watch!


Romor Designs small Katagami stencil - 'Tsukibori Chrysanthemum'


What have you made that you are most proud of?

In the summer of 2023 I was invited to exhibit some of my work at the Japanese Embassy in London as part of an Aizome (indigo dyeing) exhibition. It was a huge honour to be included and a recognition of my skill as an artist. I decided to make an indigo dyed Shibori quilt which showed off 32 different Shibori patterns which I quilted together with other plain blocks of different shaded indigo fabrics. The exhibition ran for several months over the summer and was very well received.

Romor Designs Shibori quilt at Aizome exhibition at the Embassy of Japan in London May 2023


Romor Designs small Katagami stencil - 'Shimabori Butterflies'


Where can we see your work? Where do you sell? 

I sell online via my website and at events such as MADE London and Handmade in Highgate. I'm also part of a local group where I live called the Muswell Hill Creatives and we sell at several creative outdoor fairs throughout the year. You can also find my work at Ditchling Museum, the William Morris Society, Hammersmith and at Tash and Tanya, Muswell Hill.


Romor Designs chu-boshi flowers with ori nui stitching and overdyeing


What will we be seeing from you next?  

I'm currently working on some new Kogin art pieces, which I'm hoping to exhibit later in the year, if I can find a suitable gallery to show them.

Romor Designs framed Kogin Artwork by Rob Jones


Do you have any advice for other artists and creatives?

If you can, join a group with other artists in your local area. The support and advice and friendship this provides you will massively improve your confidence and stop you being isolated and lonely. I'd also check out The Design Trust, Islington.

They offer lots of free advice and resources for artists alongside excellent, very reasonably priced online training. Their annual planner book is indispensable for managing your creative business. 


Romor Designs small katagami stencils 2024


Join Rob at the Handprinted studio for two exciting workshops: 

Introduction to Shibori Resist - Monday 29th -Tuesday 30th July 2024

Introduction to Katazome Paste Resist - Wednesday 31st July - 1st August 2024

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