We are very excited about our very first interview on The Lounge. We knew it would have to be somebody with an incredible talent and style, so we are proud to welcome Petra Börner on this here website.
Q. You are originally from Sweden, but have been living in London for many years now. What brought you to the United Kingdom?
A. I came to London to study fashion design for one year, but one thing led to the next and after fashion studies at Central St Martins, various collaborations in fashion and now as an artist and illustrator, I am still here!
The thought of living in the same city as Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes, being surrounded by creative, driven people and going to Portobello market on Fridays for vintage clothes and objects, was a tempting prospect. I instantly felt at home here.
Q. You seem very versatile as an artist; how do 3D projects such as packaging, ceramics and textile compare with traditional 2d illustration? And which do you get most excited about?
A. Every project differs and has specific limitations, which makes the process interesting and challenging. Regardless of the final format the main challenge for me is to create an interesting artwork, with balance and impact equally. The brief might somehow dictate the direction, which might compromise my idea for a certain artwork. Working 3D poses practical challenges with layout, size and scaling which I sometimes struggle having a visual rather than a logical approach. Seeing a design 3D or large scale is secondary, for me the quality and finish is key to a successful project.
Q. Floral shapes and other elements inspired by nature are common within your work. How much does nature inspire you? And what else has helped shape your style as an illustrator?
A. I often use natural elements as inspiration for my work, as this offers a well-defined starting point. In contrast I love to draw from technical, mechanical or designed objects. Being brought up in the 70’s has had a defining influence on my work. I used to spend lots of time exploring ways of dying fabrics, printing, sewing and making textiles and garments with my mum and aunts. I’ve collected vintage books on photography, design and the arts and craft since I was a child and refer to them daily along with photocopies and other images I keep in my ‘library’.
I like to mix references from the past with the present and perhaps I try to capture a timeless feel in my work, independent of trends and the ‘now’.
I’ve always enjoyed posting letters to friends and unknown people worldwide and would draw and decorate the envelopes for hours as a child, which helped me develop my drawing and painting techniques and learning to work with a format.
Q. Your book covers are tremendous. What makes a great book cover for you?
A. Thank you! It’s very challenging to achieve a great book cover, as it’s an interpretation of a project at the heart of the author as well as with the reader. As a slow reader book projects are time consuming and the subsequent process can be equally slow. I have to trust my instinct and stick with it to get a natural interpretation, something challenging to achieve, as the idea travels between all parties involved.
I like a book jacket to be striking, simple and surprising- within a concise design. The artwork shouldn’t give away the plot but spell out the mood. The balance between type and artwork is also essential and the elements have to be in harmony or contrasting each other.
Q. It is a generalisation (so please forgive me), but it is known that illustrators are not particularly good at marketing themselves. Yet you use an elegant hand-drawn logo and your style is very unique to you. Do you think of yourself as a brand?
A. I’ve been creating, making and promoting my own products since many years and have experienced that exciting visual presentations have been key to getting projects rolling and gaining interest. The learning curve has been (and is) steep as my interest lies within creating art and not with promotion and marketing. I put off practical tasks and indulge in drawing instead. Quiet often I wish I could become two people or find someone who’d free up creative time!
My logo is a replica of my father’s (Peter) personal stamp and it now represents my family and creativity and I aim to live up to this elegant yet stylized design of it with my work.
Q. Can you briefly explain your creative process?
A. I work manually, though the final artwork is often digitized. Repetition is key to defining my interpretation of a theme or subject within a specific composition or pattern, so the process usually starts with series of sketches from objects, collages of images or photographs. I sketch with marker pens, collage, pencils or brush and ink and later I might finalize the artwork as a more structured collage cut in paper, a painting or a drawing or sometimes as an embroidered piece. Sometimes ideas grow from a selection of colours or paper samples.
There are two people in me; one is working quickly, energetically and rough, the other meticulously pedantic! My challenge is to find the right balance between subject, space, colour, lines and shapes. I like tearing up old work, though I treasure my sketchbooks and letters.
Q. What’s on the horizon for you? What should we be looking out for?
A. Projects out now/soon:
Classics series incl. ‘The Lover’ by Marguerite Duras (Bonnier, Sweden)- Aug 2011
‘The Intolerant Gourmet’ by Pippa Kendrick (Harper Collins, UK)- March 2012
NordiskaKompaniet packaging (Sweden)- July 2012
Classicseries incl. ‘Out of Arica’ by Karen Blixen (Bonnier, Sweden)- September 2012
Artwork for knitwear for Minimarket (Sweden)- September 2012.
Currently I’m working on a few exciting new developments with crockery and toy manufacturers parallel to creating on my own book project and products.
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Portrait of Petra Börner by Annika Lundvall.