At work with Laila Tara H

For Christmas, we invited painter and artist Laila Tara H to design our gift wrapping paper. We recently visited Laila to discuss our collaboration, her love of tea and the details behind the creative process of bringing this project to life.
Artist Laila Tara H

British-Iranian artist Laila Tara H creates the most beautifully detailed paintings, using traditional methods. After specialising in Persian and Indian Miniature painting during her Masters at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, Laila then went on to become a full time artist painting tiny, but incredibly detailed creations using traditional methods and materials. Although her work is beautifully detailed and rich in colour, the empty space on the page is almost as interesting as her paintings – each telling its own story.

We asked Laila to paint the illustrations that you can find on this year’s limited edition wrapping paper, available to add to online orders on the run-up to Christmas. We gave her the notes of our new fragrance, Smoke to work from and she set to work creating detailed paintings of cardamom pods, bay leaves, cedar and geraniums, bringing the fragrance to life on paper.

What did you enjoy most about the brief for our festive wrapping paper?

It’s festive- sexy. No apologies or take-backs on this.


What message or feeling do you want to evoke from your work?

Truth be told, I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of this. It’s entirely self-centric. I’m trying to come to terms with myself and making is a product of that.

Your craft involves a lot of traditional practice – why do you prefer this over modern methods of creativity?

It’s just a part of the practice and it bypasses the mass-production of ready made art materials for the most part. The whole process of production that ends in one of my paintings is personal – it’s personal from the paper-maker to the pigment-maker. Sometimes that’s me and sometimes it’s not but there is a hand involved in each step.

How much of an impact has your heritage and upbringing had on the style of your work?

Heritage and upbringing are convoluted. I can’t separate myself from my history. I won’t separate my work from myself. Or at the very least, I’m trying not to – but it’s also not so simple as ‘heritage’ anymore. There isn’t a clean cut of “who/what/where.” Upbringing is also something that kind of changes with time. I don’t know if I remember my childhood now in the same way I did five years ago. I can safely say that I’m confused and maybe the work is confused too.

What was your creative process in creating the paintings for our festive wrapping paper?

This was actually so much fun. I ransacked my tea cupboard (yes, a shelf dedicated entirely to tea and hot drinks) to pick out the cardamom. Walked the Heath to find some cedar but I couldn’t tell what was what and didn’t manage to find any cedar trees. The bay and geraniums I had at home. A few days of sketching were followed by the final drawings. They were placed onto the hemp paper, pigments were picked and so the painting started. There was a cup of cardamom tea by me at all times and the picked geraniums were replanted at my mum’s. Painting the images for the wrapping paper felt so warm and cosy that it was nearly entirely done at home – almost never at the studio. An evening task with the turning weather.

What processes in your work do you practice to be more sustainable?

The work is sustainable from an environmental perspective – with the transparent exception of shipping. The paper is hand-made by a family in India who have been specialising in paper for miniature painting for 400+ years. Small production, natural materials. The pigments are all naturally derived from stone/earth. The brushes are all also handmade and the binder is a tree-derived gum. It’s not perfect but for the time being, it gives me some relief to work like this.

What is it about the fragrance of Smoke that you love so much?

Did I mention festive-sexy? It’s so good I kept the packaging by my dressing table to get all the good scent possible. I’d use this as a perfume if I could, it’s so damn sultry.

You can now shop our website and add Laila’s beautifully designed wrapping paper at checkout.

Shop Smoke

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– Images by Liz Seabrook