Art and Craft Meets Fashion in John Booth's Exuberant Work

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Fendi S/S17 MenswearCourtesy of John Booth

The London-based illustrator and print designer's colourful signatures have been cropping up far and wide this past year, from Frieze Art Fair to Fendi's S/S17 menswear show

Who? Illustrator and print designer John Booth draws exuberant patterns on paper, ceramics and textiles, for commissions that criss-cross between illustration, art and fashion. The versatile practitioner graduated from BA Print Design at Central Saint Martins in 2009, where he has since taught, as well as at Westminster, whilst also working with fashion brands from Ashish, John Galliano, Zandra Rhodes and Christopher Shannon to, most recently, Fendi. It's diverse work; his collaged patterns and drawings seem to feature as often in the fashion world as they do on magazine covers, restaurant walls and in museum collections, and for the last year Booth has been making ceramic ornaments and vases, decorative papers, badges and stickers with Studio Voltaire, too.

“I love the arts and crafts movement and the Omega Group, applied arts which seem to have fallen out of favour,” he explains of his approach. “There’s an opinion that if something is useful it can’t be interesting, which is the exact opposite of how I want to make work. I’d love to design more products – I’m speaking to Studio Voltaire about doing more vases and blankets. I do also make decorative objects, but I love the idea of someone eating biscuits off one of my ceramic faces.”  

What? With a few years teaching under his belt, Booth has become confidently un-precious when it came to drawing for an audience. “It sounds quite terrifying, but at Fendi there’ll be ten people stood around the table while I draw. Ideas are shown instantly, pinned to a model and then applied to a piece or discarded. I’ll apply the same approach but always responding to their research. They’ve actually got me using a ruler this season, which I’d never normally do. I really value my work and I love what I do but it’s also so important to just get stuff out. Often my best work is that which has taken five minutes.” 

Working in ceramics presents different challenges, he says. “It’s not as immediate as working on paper. I have the same approach – I use the same paintbrushes, just applied on clay – but I have to be more patient, which I think is quite healthy.” One object he’s been working on recently is a vase inspired by Ettore Sottsass’ Shiva Vase: “I haven’t lifted the design, but I did measure the depth of the balls on the penis vase. But I love it, it’s one of my favourite design objects.”

Why? Of late, Booth's diverse work has been cropping up everywhere – from Frieze Art Fair, where it sat among the finest of fine art, to Studio Voltaire, where he hosted gift wrapping and paper-chain making workshops in the run-up to Christmas. It's a decidedly democratic approach. “It’s all fun stuff and I actively want to do it,” he says. “It’s not elitist. I want to share my work – I love it if people can interact with it and enjoy it.”

Fortunately, with a practice that sits with ease between art, illustration and fashion, Booth has the freedom to make work for whichever context. “I don’t have pressure from anyone but myself. If I want to make something, I’ll find a way to make it. At the moment I love doing editions – artworks to be shown in a commercial space, and that people can feasibly buy. I’m happy I’m not under pressure to make a certain type of work or to go and schmooze with rich Russian business men.” Expect to see more from him imminently.