Visit artist file 022 Arounna Khounnoraj(bookhou)

The botanical world endlessly inspiring

Artists Arounna Khounnoraj co-founded multidisciplinary studio bookhou with John Booth in 2002 to showcase their individual and collaborative projects. In 2008 they opened their bricks-and-mortar shop in Toronto, Canada.
Here is a special interview with Arounna about her creative work and her first textile collection with KOKKA, “Bloom by bookhou”.

Kokka-fabric (KF): Can you tell us about bookhou’s activities?

bookhou is a partnership between my husband and myself. I primarily work with textiles making production items such as bags and pouches as well as singular art pieces, quilts and home items. I work with a variety of surface design techniques such as screen and block printing, patchwork and embroidery. My husband makes furniture and sculptural items primarily in wood. We have also published a number of books focusing on different techniques and projects and teach related workshops in our studio and around the world.

KF: So far, you have created so many designs. What inspires you in creating your designs?

I find the botanical world endlessly inspiring – leaves, flowers and plants. I’m always working on botanical studies, whether actual samples gathered from walks around the neighbourhood, photographs or drawings. Because my images always start with drawing by hand, I like the imperfections and variations that happen when you repeat images. It’s similar to the combination of organic shapes that I see in nature. I find the same casual combinations and variations inspiring when composing with patchwork.

KF: What is your daily life like?

I live with my family – my husband and two teenage children – above our shop and studio in downtown Toronto, Canada. My daily life usually starts with coming downstairs and preparing orders to be sent out and working on production (printing , sewing , finishing) with my mother who helps sew and who lives nearby.
Later in the day I work on prototypes, special projects or photography and video for social media. Free time usually happens at the end of the day with walks to nearby parks with family.

KF: Can you describe your workspace?

I work in an old Victorian storefront on a major street. The shop is in the front where we display our wares, but it is also a work space where we sew – customers who come in can see how we work. In the back we have areas for cutting, printing, packing and storing stock items. upstairs is our living space, with another studio space for quiet and more private work.

KF: Let us ask about the “Bloom by bookhou” series released by KOKKA, the first ever fabric collection. What is the theme and concept of this series?

I wanted to find different ways to represent a garden – a variety of different flowers and plants – all in perfect bloom. I also wanted a variety of images in the prints where some were more complex with a greater variety of elements, while others just used a single motif. Some were more pictorial and others were more of a continuous pattern. Each piece in the collection is drawn in a similar way with similar muted colours with the assumption that they might be used separately but also that they could go well with each other in compositions or patchworks.

KF: What is the most exciting moment or phase in making “Bloom by bookhou”?

The most exciting part was when the package arrived with the fabric samples. Opening it up and seeing how my drawings was interpreted to fabric and feeling the material was such a thrill.

KF: What is the most challenging moment or phase in making “Bloom by bookhou”?

I’d say that my most challenging part of this project was in creating repeat patterns. Most of my drawings are single images and I am quite comfortable creating repeat designs on a small scale but I am fairly new to creating large textile designs. I had to learn about different ways to tweak and modify original drawings to create repetitions that do not appear to be obvious repetitions – it’s a real skill.

KF: Using “Bloom by bookhou”, what kind of stuff do you recommend?

I have been trying different things with the fabric since it arrived and I really like the weight of it a lot. I find it great for accessory items like simple bags and totes. I’ve found that using “Bloom by BOOKHOU” also works well for patchwork so it’s really fun to combine and compose different patterns into the same item. I am currently working on making a quilt and have plans to make some clothing items.

KF: Please share your aspirations for the future.

I hope to continue making collections such as Bloom and collaborating with others. I also plan to spend more time creating singular artistic pieces with less of a focus on production pieces.

KF: Thank you!