tea design: designing tea textiles with helen king in moreton bay, australia

Paluma Print is a boutique design business based out of the amazingly beautiful Moreton Bay in Queensland, Australia.  The name ‘Paluma’ comes from a small village set in the tropical rainforest near Townsville, far-north Queensland.  Helen first started screen printing textiles in north Queensland in the late eighties, inspired by the beautiful environment, and established the label PalumaPrint.  She kindly took some time to answer my questions about designing tea textiles, her inspiration and about what tea means to her.

Tell me a little about what you design and make – what got you into tea, and into designing teaware.

I am a screen printer specialising in hand printing fabric which I fashion into homewares and one of a kind handbags, purses and shoulder bags. A large part of my work is designing and printing tea towels and other tea ware such as place mats, aprons and napkins.

I mostly love printing tea towels – which are the most flexible of homeware items. In fact I would be horrified if tea towels ended up just drying dishes! My tea towels have been used as tray cloths for the afternoon tea and cakes ritual, or as temporary tea cosies – to keep the brew nice and hot, as well as non tea functions such as lining a bread basket, wrapping around a bottle of wine or using as a wall hanging. Tea towels I have printed have also ended up being made into aprons and even shoulder bags.

tea towels from paulma print

What is your inspiration when designing, are there other designers or external sources that you draw upon (or do you have any design heroes).

I trained as a biologist then librarian and now am a screen printer. I am inspired by and passionate about the natural Australian environment and its protection, and am combining a range of skills to create unique hand screen printed textiles. I also hope that I can also generate a broader awareness and understanding of our precious environment and the need for its protection. I design for myself and what gives me pleasure (which is probably not good business practice), but fortunately other people seem to like what I do.

Australia has some wonderful fabric designers and screenprinters – some of my favourites are Cloth, Nicola Cerini, Ink and Spindle, and Thea and Sami. Other international screenprinters who draw inspiration from nature, and in turn inspire me, include Ingrid Anderson and Jill Main (New Zealand) – I keep discovering new ones every day.

Tell me where in the world your location.  What do you love about the place you are (what’s the story behind the journey).

I am currently living back in south-east Queensland, a stone’s throw from the beach and Moreton Bay and where I grew up. But I have experienced life in Townsville in north Queensland, Bendigo in central Victoria and the wonderful city of Melbourne – still my favourite city. The warm weather and being close to the sea has drawn me back to where I now live – in my little beach house and studio.

moreton bay beach, queensland, australia

What does tea mean to you.

Early morning is my favourite time of the day. Here you can find me looking out at the ocean, revelling in the peace and quiet around me and sipping my English Breakfast morning cuppa (sometimes two) whilst planning the day ahead.

I am a traditional black tea drinker – loving the teas from India, Sri Lanka, China and Australia.

Always brewed in my little white teapot or tea ball infuser – no tea bags for me!

What’s your favorite tea related memory or location and why is it special to you.

Hmmm. Had to think about this a bit but I guess the one that comes to mind is having traditional Chinese tea served to us in the tea shop on the ground floor of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Shatin, which by the way, is a great little museum with a very reasonable entry fee. This was my first experience of the Chinese tea ceremony, so a bit special.

Can you tell me about your favorite tea-shop or favorite teaware line, and what makes it totally wonderful.

When I lived in Melbourne I used to love visiting a quaint little shop called Tea Leaves in the village of Sassafras in the Dandenongs. Now this is a real tea shop – with 300+ varieties of tea to choose from and lots of tea accessories (including tea towels of course).

I used to spend hours browsing the huge range of teapots of all shapes and sizes, and wonder at the inspiration and creativity of the people who produced them.

There is also a lovely little story of how the business came into being on the Tea Leaves website.  My favourite!

Since moving to Queensland I have discovered another specialist tea business at my local Farmer’s Market. This is Soul Tea. I haven’t had much time to explore this new source yet but the market stall is lovely and there is a website and online shopping facility at soultea.com.au.

bloodwood pring tea towel from paulma print

Where can people find your designs or get in touch with you.

I have online shops on Etsy and MadeIt and if you live in the Brisbane area the Slab Hut Arts and Crafts at Samford also stocks my wares.  I also have a blog with direct links to the online shops (and my Flickr site and email).


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