Started by Los Angeles-based textile designer Roxana Eslamieh, Manuka Textiles is “an artist’s interpretation of her surroundings.” In this week’s Anatomy of a Design, we sat down with Eslamieh to discuss the design process in making the Night Lotus Wallpaper Mural – a wallcovering inspired by the fleeting beauty of the pitaya flower.
Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Roxana Eslamieh: This collection began in the late summer of 2019 when the flowers of the pitaya plant began to take shape in my garden. I would spend time in the early morning or later in the day, drawing the exquisite iridescent flowers that only bloom at night. It began as a meditative practice when I was drawing the flowers. I didn’t initially intend for it to become a mural design. I would sit outside and study the movements of the undulating vines, finding no rhyme or reason to their curving paths as they wrapped around each other. It was also such a sight to see the decay of the beautiful flower transform into the budding and blushing dragon fruit. I felt the need to draw the various stages of its existence.
Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Roxana: I began working out the core concept of the design about a year ago, scanning my drawings and working on a harmonious composition. From there, it was a lot of back and forth with print tests for color and paper experimentation. I focused on working on tweaking the scale for the mural and an unnoticeable repeat. The design was released this summer, so I’d say about eight months from conception to production.
Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Roxana: One evening, the glowing white petals of the dragon fruit caught my attention under the moonlight. It was so mesmerizing that I picked the flower and placed it in a vase in my dining room. It took maybe no less than 5 minutes, and the flower had already wilted. The next evening, I went back to pick another flower and placed it in a vat of silicone beads to try and preserve its shape. To no avail, the flower betrayed me once again. Each flower blooms for only one night and wilts away the next day. Its beauty is temporary. Part of why I began drawing the flowers was to capture their temporal beauty.
I strive to make both my studio and my home a sanctuary. A huge part of keeping myself relaxed and energized to make art is surrounding myself with plants. I am so grateful that the previous owners of my house had the foresight to design a garden including a pitaya lotus plant. It has been the main inspiration for the Botanical Collection and Night Lotus Mural specifically.
Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Roxana: I usually carry a stack of rice paper and an ink pen with me in case I get a chance to draw or need to clear my head. I’ll start loosely sketching with ink on rice paper. In this case, I pulled blossoms, flower buds, vines, and stems of the pitaya plant growing in my garden. I like to keep my illustrations as loose as possible in the early stages, so they retain an organic feel when I digitize them. Once every last scrap of paper has been scanned at a high resolution, I have the control I need to visualize the final composition, and from there, form a subtle repeating design for my textiles.
Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Roxana: I hoped to create designs that resonated with other creative individuals who were inspired by the great outdoors for this collection. The Night Lotus Mural is intended to be versatile, seamless, and connective. It can function as the centerpiece of an elegant dining space or the cornerstone of a more significant theme in the whole home. We worked to create a crisp, finished design imbued with thoughtful, organic lines and shapes for bold spaces with boundless love for the earth and all its wonders.
Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Roxana: I love to experiment with different types of mark-making. I’ll use various tools to figure out the best line quality and texture for my designs. For the Night Lotus Mural, I used a simple calligraphy pen with water-based Sumi ink on rice paper. I often applied with various brushes, wooden ink nibs, calligraphy pens, and Faber-castell markers for details. I love the soft, cloudy quality of the Sumi ink and the array of blacks you can create with it. This is how I created the subtle inky tones in the Night Lotus Mural.
Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Roxana: My go-to tool is the Epson Scanner. I am so grateful to have this device on hand to scan all my drawings. Additionally, I used large format Epson printers to print strike-offs for scale and resolution before experimenting with different grounds for the digitally produced wallpaper.
Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Roxana: A core element of my aesthetic is delicate, organic textures. I strive to create textiles that are evocative of the look and experience of being in nature. It was challenging for the Night Lotus Mural to reckon this finespun sensibility with the need for a sturdy material that would withstand a high traffic environment, such as a family home or commercial restaurant. Luckily, I was able to work closely with my production team in Eagle Rock, California, to workshop the design so it could functionally and formally alter a space. We ultimately experimented with and then implemented a new type of loose linen weave vinyl textile whose textured surface works with the organic nature of the Night Lotus illustrations rather than against them, creating a more livable, authentic pattern.
Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Roxana: The core ethos of the Manuka Textiles brand is to create sustainably sourced, nature-inspired textiles that express my love of the outdoors, from luscious gardens to desert mountain ranges. Our hand-drawn, metallic motifs highlight what is precious to us, and our luxurious, eco-friendly finishes bring a bold yet delicate sophistication to any space.
Photography by Carmen Chan.
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