“Living without art is hard”
We’re invited into Petra Börner’s artistic world to discuss her stunning designs, now rendered as wallpapers.
A muted, slightly mystical feel. The leaves are shaded into the background, while the sensuous, tender, sensitive figs stand out in contrast with their brighter hues. This is how Petra Börner herself describes the Figs wallpaper she designed in collaboration with Boråstapeter along with five other patterns.
The ongoing travel restrictions and the pandemic prevent our physical meeting with Petra Börner. However, Whats app facilitates a lengthy, confidential interview session from her London home. Meanwhile, I do wish I could explore her studio and capture its mingling of patterns, colours, contours and materials. She works in diverse media, including ceramics and cut paper, but painting has long been her great passion.
“There’s a contrastive tension in the space, where the fruit of the fig tree symbolises diversity and innovative energy, while the leaves veil unease and sensuousness”, she says, expanding on the Figs pattern, as my longing to see the London studio only increases.
Petra explains the thrill for her of devising new colourways and palettes, that she often works in solitude. Talking about what inspires her draws peals of laughter and the reply that her ‘heart starts pounding’.
“To be honest, that’s not what happens to me. It’s almost like I have to invent something,” she says, laughing again.
“I don’t really know what’s popular. I work along my own track; it’s like I’m on my own island. I don’t know if what I do does it for other people, but I usually feel confident with it. I’m not the type to ‘find inspiration’, but have more of an internal dialogue. I filter, take in my surroundings, and work with the images that pop up inside me”.
The Hypnotic Safari pattern has a psychedelic undertone of abstract eyes peering through a tropical landscape. Petra explains that the images signal the start of a new collage series - Circle of Life - an ode to the cyclical force of our ecosystem.
“I’ve always been keen on drawing faces that express what is difficult to say. I hope that the art mediates the message”.
She explains that she often reverts to the body and nature. As in the Pandora motif, where the faces are camouflaged by vegetation and people blend in with nature, or perhaps nature takes form in mankind.
“The title for that motif came from it actually featuring on the jacket of Natalie Haynes’ novel Pandora’s Jar; Women in the Greek Myths”, she says.
She likes working fast, preferring to be productive than labour at works.
"I get this buzz; a sense that there’s so much yet to explore, and for me to develop. This is what keeps driving me, and what gives me that kick. Plus, I’m driven not by the result, but by the process itself. That way, I can actually get rid of what doesn’t feel right”.
Petra appreciates open collaborations, and says that the commission for Boråstapeter was dynamic and enjoyable through and through.
“It’s such a thrill to see my patterns emerge in this new context, and how they gain a place (and space) on a new scale. Our collaboration has been out of this world! There were all the many new challenges that crop up in dealing with hand-made originals, setting them in pattern repeats, with colourways and print colour-setting, all with the object of preserving the original look. Working with such an expert and passionate team has been amazing; being able to rely on the high quality they strive for throughout the entire process and for every single wallpaper”.
Petra was born in Kalmar County, raised in Skåne County, Sweden, but has lived in London for 26 years. She trained in fashion and design, and in her youth did not even aspire to make a living as an artist.
“The more I do, the more I sense what I want to do. I ran a fashion company for many years, but it was just a tonne of work with no creative outlet. I really missed art. Fashion design was not actually my passion, though I always liked clothes and design. I preferred drawing the garments to creating the collections”, she says, laughing, and adds:
“I’m more of a doer, on my own island. I always wanted to be an artist. My dream is to sell my art and carry on making my ceramics. It would be great to have an exhibition in Sweden again, so people can come and see my work. I had a duo show at the drawing museum, Teckningsmuseet i Laholm, in 2020 with Annelie Carlström. It means a lot to keep my Swedish ties and roots.
"I really do feel it is hard to live without art, because without art, I’m not who I am”
About Petra Börner:
Resides in: London with her daughter
Current collaborations: Chanel, Partnership Editions, August&Piers
Text: Jill Windahl
Photo: Nick Ballón
Brave, playful and organic. Step into a colourful world where every pattern has its own magical story waiting to be discovered.
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