Meet the Maker: Molly Mahon

April 3, 2020

From her charming studio deep in England’s bucolic countryside, Molly Mahon (pronounced “marn”) designs enchanting handblocked goods inspired by her love of nature and the rich traditions of British decorating. We caught up with the Sussex native to find out why she fell so madly in love with this ancient craft, which color most makes her swoon, and what some of the things are that she absolutely, positively cannot live without. 

A colorful array of watercolors, printing blocks and fabric and wallpaper swatches brighten up Mahon’s desk in her Sussex studio.Sarah Hogan
Trials of vibrant new designs are hung up to dry in the studio.Emma Lewis

How did you find your way to block printing?

After university, I lived in London and for six years ran a high-energy events organizing company with one of my girlfriends. It was creative, intense, fun—perfect for two free-living twenty-something-year-olds. But then I met my now husband, and my whole outlook on life changed. Suddenly, spending time at home became much more appealing. I was in love, and soon nesting with our first child, Lani. But I’ve always liked being creatively busy, so I began dabbling in the odd course to keep me inspired.

The wide-ranging experimentation came to an abrupt end as soon as I spent a day on a block-printing workshop. I fell in love all over again! The simple pleasure of choosing a color and pressing it onto fabric or paper in a pretty pattern made my heart soar. I’ve never looked back.

Tell us about the designs that are now being sold exclusively through Schumacher!

We are so excited to be launching across the States. We’ve had attention from your side of the pond for a long time now, and we feel that Americans really understand the need for adding some joy and cheer into their homes.

The first patterns that are launching are colorful, fun, whimsical and bold. The inspirations are a cross pollination from my home in the English countryside and the exuberance of India. The collection definitely has global appeal, and we hope offers something original, cheerful and timeless to American designers.

You travel to India to produce your handblocked yardage with master artisans there—what's the most fascinating thing that you've learned from this process?

What enthralls me most about India is how inherent and accepted creativity is. Crafted items—in Jaipur, especially—are responsible for a very large part of the local economy. It is industry at its best, carried out in the most beautifully human way. Skills are handed down from family member to family member, and the different aspects of production are shared across the whole village. It all feels like a lovely, great-big group effort.

Artisans in Jaipur hand block printing yards and yards of Mahon’s Tuk Tuk pattern.
A printer working on Tuk Tuk carefully positions the block to line up with the rest of the pattern.

What is the most complex blockprint you’ve created thus far?

Well, my Marigold design requires the most amount of blocks to print—the pattern is comprised of four colors, and each color is printed with a different block. But the most complex pattern to print is Luna. Straight lines are actually much harder to print than florals—you have no room to hide! We were very pleased when our Luna design won Homes & Gardens magazine’s Best Neat Print Award in 2018.

An artisan applies the second color onto Luna.
Et voila! Completed colorways of Luna (tablecloth) and Marigold (napkins) jazz up a tablescape.

You’ve used these amazing patterns all over your own home in Sussex. Can you share any tips about integrating block prints into the home, regardless of where you live?

I always say, “If you love it, use it.” Blockprint fabrics have a certain irresistible degree of perfect imperfections that come from being made by hand, so they’re friendly and approachable. Whether you’re an urbanite or a countryside dweller, make your home your own—and don’t be afraid to add color!

Do you remember the very first motif you ever designed for running yardage?

It was my Birds and Bees design, which was launched late last year as a wallpaper with Schumacher. I created it specifically for a friend’s shepherd hut. We wanted to celebrate the idyllic slice of English countryside that she lives in, so included birds, bees, undergrowth and even, if you look closely, a few insects!

Okay, lightning round—ready, set, answer the below!

Three tools you can’t live without: My beautiful wooden blocks, a paint brush and my lino-carving knives.

Favorite thing to look at: My husband!

The most magical place on Earth: An island off the west coast of Scotland called Mull.

The book currently on your nightstand: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Best studio jams: Desert Island Discs, a program on BBC Radio 4.

Most prized possessions: A beautiful embroidered cushion my daughter made for me, a painting of a room at Charleston Farmhouse by my lovely friend Lottie Cole and all of my interior, art, and gardening books.

Biggest pet peeve: That time goes by sooo fast. So much to do, so little time.

The most sage advice you’ve recently received: It was from Ben Fogle, a British broadcaster, adventurer and friend of ours, who said “It’s we not me.” Right now, this feels so apt, with “we” having so many meanings, from my family all stuck at home together to the wider UK community to all nations across the world. Acting together on a global scale feels more important than ever.

Best spot to hang in your hometown: The coffee barn at Plaw Hatch Farm, our local dairy and and farm shop. They make the best brew.

Go-to flower: All of them! They’re such a huge source of inspiration for me, from my Rose and Marigold patterns to my Pattee (which means “flower” in Hindi) and Buti (which is Hindi for “little floral print”). I just adore them.

Color Crush: Pink, pink and pink! I always have and always will love pink. It lifts my soul and brings me pleasure, whatever its form!

We can't get enough!

Below are some of our favorite Molly Mahon fabrics—available in the U.S. exclusively through Schumacher!