Meet the Maker: Ilaria Harris
Meet the mastermind behind creative lifestyle blog, Zest and Lavender, Ilaria Harris! Ilaria grew up in a medieval Italian village, and worked for a time in fashion in Milan. She started crafting and painting at an early age, and indulges herself in a great range of arts and crafts – read on to find out more about how she developed her art skills, how she gets started and where she is now!
Describe yourself in five words
1. Colourful – my personality, dress code and my work
2. Explorer – new places and ideas
3. Positive – always believe in plan A!
4. Creative – making and combining materials
5. Passionate – for culture and nature
How did you get into art?
My mother encouraged me to make, write and paint from an early age. She would take me for a walk to the mountain and we would gather natural forms to draw from. At the age of 11, I won an Art prize for a landscape watercolour of a lake. From here, I developed my passion and went to study Fine Art and then Fashion in Milan.
What’s your artistic style?
My style is not limited to a particular medium. With a fashion background, I think I am subconsciously using mixed media. The work I make includes fabric and painting.
What’s your favourite medium(s) and why?
This depends on the project that I am working on and the effect that I am trying to achieve. I love acrylics because they dry quickly, and oil for its properties of thickness, ability to build up layers and possibilities for reworking. I also like experimenting with different materials and use my sewing machine to incorporate threads and fabric.
Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork that you have created.
This would be my recent painting of Frida Kahlo. I have always felt connected to her strong personality and determination in life. She was unafraid of any challenges and would never give up, despite any obstacles. I painted this icon for my birthday party, which was based on the theme ‘Frida and Mexico’. This is a large-scale acrylic on canvas (160cm x 120cm). Firstly, I worked on the background by creating a burst of colour with a roller, and then used white and black charcoal to draw Frida’s portrait and to emphasize the chiaroscuro (light and dark) before painting with acrylics. I really enjoyed the research side of this project. Colleting photographs, reading Frida Kahlo’s personal diary and understanding more about her Mexican heritage. I strongly recommend the book, ‘Frida at Home’ by Suzanne Barbezat, 2016.
What projects are you working on now?
I have just got back from hiking in the French Pyrenees and am currently influenced by the stunning natural environment, rocky outcrops and mountains. I think that my new project is going to be based on these experiences and could involve a new outdoor clothing idea.
Where do you do most of your artwork?
It pretty much depends on the size of the project. Sometimes my small home studio, or for a bigger project, my lounge or summer home in Italy.
What has been your favourite new product or discovery over the last year?
Japanese stamp carving. I like the simplicity and versatility of this technique. You can create your own motifs and use it to decorate cards and stationery.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from art and fashion, as well as the natural environment or sometimes from books or visiting a new place. Whatever it is, it has to capture my imagination. I also find Tracey Emin’s work intriguing, as it is so versatile in its use of different media.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to get started in painting/drawing/mixed media?
Never be afraid of making mistakes. Sign up to painting or drawing workshops. And, just get started! Experiment with any media and remember that, the more your practice, the better you get.