Block party – do join in

Thanks to Orla Kiely and Ikea, we’re no longer afraid of bold and colourful prints. They’re a quick and effective way to lift your surroundings, and your mood

 Print and textile artists from Print Block, left to right; Caroline Ryan, Olga Tiernan, Liz Walsh, Liz Nilsson, Jennifer Phelan and Ruth Doorley. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Print and textile artists from Print Block, left to right; Caroline Ryan, Olga Tiernan, Liz Walsh, Liz Nilsson, Jennifer Phelan and Ruth Doorley. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


You can change the look of your home easily with clever use of textiles and texture, adding print in cushions, rugs, curtains and wall hangings, says Liz Nilsson, a textile artist whose work graces the Padraig Pearse museum and the Gibson Hotel, as well as the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Dundalk.

Nilsson is also the founder of Print Block, a collective of textile artists who believe in the power of pattern to lift the mood of your home.

Nilsson met textile designer Ruth Doorley on a “labour-intensive project where there was lots of stitching and thus time to talk”. They bemoaned the lack of textile printing facilities in the capital.

A chance meeting at an exhbition with Olga Tiernan, from NCAD’s Fashion and Textiles department, led to the trio taking matters into their own hands. They put a call to other textile designers and Print Block was born. The group didn’t have a base, so for more than a year they met in coffee shops, and in the back room of the Central Hotel. Then they heard about equipment being sold off cheaply and purchased it by charging each member of the collective a joining fee. The equipment spent a year in Olga’s garage before they found a premises in which to house it.

Thanks to funding from the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, they secured a space called The Cube in the Donnelly Centre on Dublin’s Cork Street, where the public can now come and learn how to screenprint.

It is an inspiring place. But as a nation are we not a little bit afraid of bold designs ? Not anymore, says Tiernan saying that Orla Kiely and Ikea have has given people a lot of inspiration. “Ikea introduced the Scandi aesthetic to the masses,” she explains, and Orla Kiely has played a role too because she understands the range of surfaces you can apply print to.” Kiely’s classic Stem print has graced just about everything from wallets to wallpaper, with mugs, plant pots and even bird houses in between.

Print Block member Liz Walsh was influenced by the summers of her youth, which she spent with her parents and the other members of the Irish Camping and Caravanning Club. It explains her caravan motif, which adorns a tea cosy, lengths of fabric, and has even taken ceramic shape atop the antique desk in the sitting room.

For Liz Nilsson, textiles mean mealtimes – the coming together of the family at the table, which is very much part of her home life.

As a child growing up in Sweden, she and every other member of her family had their own napkin, embroidered with their name. The napkin was used for every meal for a week, folded at the end of mealtime and put into a pocket that would form part of laying the table for the following meal. “For me the way a table is set is as important as the meal I serve,” she says. “The effort that went into it and the play with texture form a feast for the eye. It sets the scene for all of life’s most memorable occasions which all take place around the table.”

In the drawing room of her home, the group has made over the brown leather sofa by scattering it with vibrant coloured cushions – a selection by Tiernan, Nilsson and Jennifer Phelan.

On a wooden Windsor-style chair, lozenge-shaped back support cushions by Ruth Doorley look good but crucially also lend a supporting role to the small of the back.

In the same room, in another corner sits an industrial office chair, which has been reimagined by upholstering it using Doorley’s fan fabric.

The chair contrasts with the warm burl wood of the antique writing desk on which Doorley’s textile covered notebooks and pen trays adorn the desktop. The ceramic caravan, made by Liz Walsh, adds a fun feel to the set up.

In the contemporary extension, a curtain made from a Central Bank motif, is a Phelan design that was part of a project in which Print Block collaborated with the Royal Institute of Architects to celebrate landmark Irish buildings.

What makes print the group’s number one textile choice? “Print has an instant impact,” says Phelan. “You can change the whole mood of a room by installing printed cushions on sofas, recovering an armchair or hanging fresh fabric curtains.”

Print Block is holding several workshops designed to appeal to amateurs and starting with a screen printing on fabric and photo stencil technique two-day workshop which takes place on two consecutive Saturdays, March, 22nd and March 29th, from 10.30am to 4.30pm. Price €175.

You can also buy all the soft furnishings pictured here from the group’s studio in The Donnelly Centre on Dublin’s Cork Street. The group is also available to work on commissions. See

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