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Mystical Herons Magical Lotus

The stories around creating our Waterside Mural Stencils..

© Henny Donovan Motif            See the Waterside Murals Range at a glance!

Herons are such strange, mystical birds. I’ve long had a fascination for them and their presence. There is something magical about watching them, standing statue-like in the middle of rivers, wading lakeside marshes, or as they fly, their enormous wings beating solidly against the sky.


Lakes and riverside..

The lake has been flooded out several times this year, with the water level rising over surrounding fields and woodland. Making it a paradise of space and solitude for the local bird population, especially so during the quiet of lockdown. Early one morning, when the morning haze was still hanging in the air and water bird song was all one could hear, I saw a white heron wading on the flooded fields. I thought at first it must have been a swan, so white, all over. But no, it was too large, standing too tall and as it rose into the sky its wings span and the shape of its neck and head was unmistakeable – and I was not alone, my companion also saw this wonderful sight. We gazed at this bird as it flew slowly away, in that way that herons fly, just watching and listening to the sound of the wings in the quiet.  Research since shows this was probably a great white heron and certainly these flooded wetlands made a perfect habitat.


Swans, ducks and geese swim around the flooded boathouse, bridge and walkways at Llangorse Lake.

And last year, in the summer I was walking in a field that had a stream running through it, along a line of tall, old hornbeams. The trees gave cover to the stream and as I walked along one, then two, then another pair of herons flew up into the sky and across the field to safety.  Again I just stood quietly and watched.  A rare sight, herons are normally solitary birds, and rarely gather in groups.

All of this has been going on since I started the heron design work and it has made me smile and wonder..

Heron Symbolism and Meaning

Very much is written across different cultures and periods in history about the heron.  This amazing bird has repeatedly captured the imagination of different peoples, in the past and in the present, as it has become firmly embedded in myth and tradition. Sacred serenity is attributed to the heron and it is used to signify stillness, tranquility – likened to the stillness at the water’s edge, where water meets land.

In Ancient Egypt the heron was known as the god Bennu, an ancient deity, linked with the sun, creation and rebirth. Bennu, a large gold and red heron was renownd in one of Egypt’s oldest cities, Heliopolis, being considered highly sacred. Bennu was the creator of light, and the city was recognized as the city of the Sun.

It is thought that the legends of the phoenix, developed in Greek mythology, may have originated from Bennu, where the bird lived for 500 years and then resuscitated itself.  Also, in Greek Mythology the heron was deemed to be a messenger of the gods, so no heron was ever harmed for fear of bad luck. Athena and Aphrodite are known to have sent herons to deliver messages of safe passage.

In Japan the white heron is prized for its ability to move between the elements of air, earth and water and the White Heron Dance (Shirasagi-no Mai) is performed in Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, to beckon good fortune.

In Native American symbology the heron was a sign of patience and good luck and grew to mean the fishermen would have good luck whilst fishing, thus symbolising prosperity; and it is believed those with a blue heron spirit animal in the Native American traditions possess innate wisdom and strength.

In Celtic myth the heron stands for persistence and longevity and the heron is meant to be the reincarnation of Rhiannon the goddess of waters and lakes –  and has links with the lady of the lake.

And on it goes around the world and through history – great meanings are attributed to this bird.

So, bringing a heron into your home for decoration may bring some of these many sought after qualities with it!  And certainly, it is a restful and peaceful image to have around the home.


Enchanting Lotus Flowers

Lotus flowers too have great symbolic meaning throughout history to modern day, held as representing spiritual enlightenment, regeneration, rebirth and purity.

Shown as early as Ancient Egypt, this fascinating and beautiful flower appeared in hieroglyphics and architecture. Known to have grown profusely in the river Nile, the lotus represented death and rebirth to the afterlife and was associated with the rising sun and Ra, the sun god.

The lotus flower’s association with rebirth and enlightenment comes from its unique growing cycle, where every night it submerges into the swamp or river water it lives in and each day rises again, re-blooms with pure, clean petals. This daily life, death and rebirth cycle has led to it being called “lotus flower of life” and the well-known phrase “lily of the swamp”, as it cleanses the swamp it lives in. It can also survive extreme conditions and it is known to have survived the last ice age.

In eastern cultures, Buddhism and Hinduism particularly, the lotus is considered a sacred flower, representing transformation and rebirth, spiritual awakening and enlightenment.  Meaning is also attached to the different flower colours. Red Lotus symbolises compassion, open heartedness and generosity of spirit. Pink is sacred, representing enlightenment. Yellow is the symbol for achievement of enlightenment and the pursuit of spiritual growth. Blue greater wisdom. And white lotus flowers, of course, represent purity and grace.


Marvellous Japanese Koi

What is a koi? Simply, Koi is the Japanese word for the carp! The brightly coloured fresh water fish of beautiful ponds and waterways.  This wonderful little creature also bears rich symbolic meaning and is associated with perseverance, strength of character and purpose, accomplishment and courage. The koi’s links to good fortune and success, make them highly popular, especially in Japan.

They have their own legend too – a story of swimming up stream and trying to swim up a waterfall, over and over until one succeeded and the gods recognized the little fish’s perseverance and turned it into a golden dragon!

Koi are also closely tied in to the yin and yang symbol, the perfect balance of positive and negative, day and night and have become linked with feng-shui and balance in design. All of this along with their visual appeal have made them popular interior design motifs – we’ve sold many, many fish stencils over the years!!


Henny’s original lotus drawings

Design Threads

It is an interesting thing about design… some design threads stay with you for years and years gradually building over time to complete the creative process.  It has been this way with both the lotus waterlily motifs and herons and now they have come together to become part of our Waterside Mural Stencil Range.  Back in 2006 I wrote Creative Wall Art, which was published here and in the US and in several languages globally (included above and below – design sketches from the book).  In putting this range together now, I had forgotten the original design inspo, which was actually a waterside mural piece in the Creative Wall Art  book! There was a whole chapter and a step by step process on creating a watercolour mural on a gesso ground.  I started some of the designs you now see in this range back then. They have since been developed a little bit at a time over the last 10 years or so and finally now after another 2 years or more in production (our busy lockdown periods precluded any real product development!) – they are here, finished and ready to use!  A long time in the making!


I was literally stunned when I first saw the tall swaying lotus lilies of eastern lands! The flowers standing tall above the water and seen from so far away, with their wide shapely, dish-like leaves, creating a bed of wonder across the waters!  I made many early sketches (above) and early paintings and I absolutely knew this was going to be a stencil design one day – and now the tall lotus are finally launching in our Waterside Mural Stencil Range!  There are four of them – I had so many drawings and designs it was hard to compress down to less! (BTW that little kingfisher you can see in the drawing is already in our bird range – see Kingfisher Stencil).

Waterside Mural Stencil Range


So, the Waterside Mural Stencil Range is a collection of 11 designs, so far!  Waterbirds in the form of Heron Stencil 1, Heron Stencil 2, the combined pair as Herons Stencil 1 & 2, our Little Water Bird, 4 different Lotus Waterlily Stencils, Lotus Waterlily Stencil 1, Lotus Waterlily Stencil 2, Lotus Waterlily Stencil 3 which also has its own integral fishing kingfisher motifs, Lotus Waterlily Stencil 4 Theme Pack and a Little and Medium Japanese Koi fish stencils. The herons and lilies have integral water swirls and the koi fish stencils have swirls to add as you choose.  The designs are large in scale and make easy coverage over larger spaces, when used together, or used individually will make striking style statements.

We’ve stencilled a stair mural here in the studio and chosen a soft watercolour style to create that peaceful and watery feeling!

Includes Heron Stencils 1 & 2, Lotus Waterlily Stencil 1 (top right), Lotus Waterlily Stencil 2 (centre between herons), Lotus Waterlily Stencil 3 (bottom right), some motifs from Lotus Waterlily Stencil 4 Theme Pack, Little Japanese Koi and also the new Little Water Bird Stencil – a perfect bird motif perching on a reed and easy to tuck into your waterside mural creation!

The designs in this range are all rich in symbolic meaning and all perfect for creating a calm sanctuary away from the uncertainty of the world at the moment!  A brand new original stencil range perfect for creating those stunning murals you’ve always longed to have a go at!!

Particularly apt our Heron Stencil 2 on a gold gilded board, surrounded by Lotus Waterlily Stencil 2, motifs from Lotus Waterlily Stencil 4 Theme Pack and Little Japanese Koi.

Heron Stencils


Our large Heron Stencils – beautifully elegant, tall bird stencils in two layers. Inspired by both the grey and blue heron these special birds have long-standing mythological roots in both Ancient Egypt and Greece, symbolizing creation, rebirth and the messenger. Their distinctive tall forms make striking statement motifs for walls, murals, panels, wardrobes, fabrics and more.


Heron stencils perfect in natural tones of white, grey, blue, black and brown. Two sheet, two layer bird stencils. Available as Heron Stencil 1, Heron Stencil 2 and combined as Heron Stencil 1 & 2. Also shown here with Lotus Waterlily Stencil 1 and Stencil 2.


Rich Pickings!

I’m quite sure this many fish wouldn’t be swimming blithely around two herons feet, quite so obliviously – but it looks amazing, especially on this stunning turquoise backdrop! Heron Stencils 1 & 2 shown with Medium Japanese Koi and Little Japanese Koi.

Lotus Waterlily Stencils


In amongst the lotus flowers..

Create a stunning ‘Lily in the Swamp’ mural! Shown here – Lotus Waterlily Stencil 1Lotus Waterlily Stencil 2Lotus Waterlily Stencil 3 with its integral fishing kingfisher motifs, Lotus Waterlily Stencil 4 Theme Pack  and a Little and Medium Japanese Koi fish stencils.

Our Lotus Waterlily Stencils – depict beautiful lotus flowers with shapely leaves and integral water swirls. Inspired by the tall lotus waterlilies of the Far East with their wide wavering leaf pads. Use as stand alone designs or with our Heron Stencil and Japanese Koi Stencils. Perfect for walls and fabrics.

Shown here Lotus Waterlily Stencil 3 (left) with its fishing kingfisher motifs, Lotus Waterlily Stencil 1 (centre), Lotus Waterlily Stencil 2 (right), as well as one Little Japanese Koi motif.

Japanese Koi Stencils

Our totally original Koi Stencils

I once saw a mass of Japanese Koi in the water gardens at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, New York – this was over 10 years ago and I knew then, that they would one day be a part of the motif range. Beautiful two layer fish stencils that perfectly capture the bright colours and amazing markings. Our Japanese Koi Stencils are totally original beautiful koi carp fish motifs in two layers with water swirl motifs. Perfect to use in their own right or with our Heron Stencils and Lotus Waterlily Stencils.

The six sheet Little Japanese Koi Stencil contains 5 little 2 layer koi motifs and a sheet of horizontal water swirls. The five sheet Medium Japanese Koi Stencil contains 3 medium 2 layer fish motifs and two sheets of vertical water swirls.

Heron, Lotus Waterlily gift card and bookmark at Greeting Cards and Bookmarks 


See the Waterside Murals Range at a glance!

© Henny Donovan Motif

All rights reserved. Henny Donovan, and her brand name Henny Donovan Motif, has asserted her right as the sole & legal copyright owner of all stencil designs, photographs and text published in this website/blog and as such are protected by copyright, under the copyright, designs and patents act 1988. Copying of any kind of stencil designs is strictly prohibited. No design, stencil, photograph, image, title, text or part therein, may be copied, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any way or by any means, electronic, digitally, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or re-used, or sold by any person without the prior written agreement or permission of the copyright owner.

Header and footer heron photographs by kind permission/courtesy of
© Edward Lancaster Photography
Heron on the river Usk at dawn

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Wonderful Meadowsweet

Sweet Meadowsweet
Introducing our new Meadowsweet Stencils..

With its lofty clumps of sweet smelling, frothy flowers, above full foliage on long stems – beautiful Meadowsweet makes the perfect design addition to our Wild Botanicals of the Brecon Beacons Range. Meadowsweet Theme Pack Stencil and Small Meadowsweet Stencil.


The charm of each growing season..

Every year I watch the progress of meadowsweet growing along lanes, banks and meadows, through spring and summer.  And as the soft green leaves appear in early spring, I love to pluck a handful when out walking with the dogs – these early leaves make a wonderful tea, fresh and floral. A freshly picked bunch of early meadowsweet leaves smells like melons – fresh and light!  And the tea is light, delicious and invigorating!


And as spring progresses into summer, Meadowsweet can be found in abundant swathes amidst Brecon Beacons hedgerows and beside rivers, streams and canal banks. And growing profusely in meadows and full and sweet in the surrounding marshland of Llangorse Lake (above).


Amazing herbal history

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), also known as queen of the meadow or mead wort, displays frothy clusters of cream flowers, standing tall above verdant foliage.  It is a perennial herb in the family Rosaceae and has been used throughout the centuries for herbal remedies and as a medicinal plant. Salicylic acid from Meadowsweet was first synthesised into acetylsalicylic acid in the 1890s, which was later known as aspirin.


Meadowsweet’s sweet fragrance has caused it to be used as potpourri and in Elizabethan times as a strewing herb inside and outside, and it has been popular at weddings and in bridal garlands.


In amongst the flowers..

I was caught by its beauty, charm and sweet smell as a child, and it has held my interest over the years for sketches and plant studies.  Frequently sketching its form and shape outdoors and building up reference drawings as I went.


Form and feeling

Caught by the shape of the flower heads, made of hundreds of tiny florets and its wonderful leaves, I knew this would be a brilliant subject for a beautiful botanical stencil – and so the meadowsweet stencils came about as part of our stencil range the ‘Wild Botanical Stencils of the Brecon Beacons’.


Colourwash and pencil work

Sketches in pencil and watercolour lead to being able to work out the best way to design the stencil so that it captures its nature and charm.


Line and shape

Giving rise to linear studies for stencil designs and getting into the detail of the bridgework needed to create a life like and detailed stencil.


Meadowsweet Stencils

And so, the tall lofty stems of the Meadowsweet Theme Pack Stencil are born, with their masses of frothy flowers on top! The theme pack comprising three beautiful stems of meadowsweet, with additional leaves and stalk extensions, is a wonderfully versatile design. And Small Meadowsweet Stencil for those sweet, smaller projects.


Both the Meadowsweet Theme Pack Stencil and Small Meadowsweet Stencil work brilliantly with different colour palettes – in naturalised creams and greens and in simple silhouette colours, light on dark backgrounds, or dark on light backgrounds.


Perfect walls and accents

Wonderfully simple silhouette style.  Here on a cottage wall and window reveal, the Meadowsweet Theme Pack stencilled in single tone Vanilla Stencil Paint, on a warm ochre painted backdrop. Uplifting and striking.


Flowers of the banks and wayside come together

Botanical wonders! This design works beautifully with our other wild flower stencils – seen here with the Buddleia Butterfly Bush Stencil and Giant Hogweed Stencil, for light, lacy effects.


Small Meadowsweet Stencil

The Small Meadowsweet Stencil is a wonderful small design for adding wild botanical flourishes to clothes and accessories. Here, beautiful, in our washable Fabric Paints on a linen Japanese style cross-back apron and on our Square Brown Craft Cards and envelopes. Creativity and style come together!


Monochrome tone on tone or naturalised hues…

The Small Meadowsweet Stencil works well in both naturalised creams and greens or simple silhouette colours, light on dark backgrounds, or dark on light backgrounds.


The Small Meadowsweet Stencil in monochromatic colour themes – simple and extremely effective. This way of working looks good in chalky tones of grey, blue and greens.


This design works beautifully with our other wild flower stencils – seen here with the Buddleia Stem Stencil and Cow Parsley Stencil, for a wild flower garden feel!


Wild botanical garden design!

A couple of years ago I moved a few small clumps of meadowsweet growing by the stream outside my gate and planted them in the flower beds next to the hedge – in essence moving them about 5 feet!  Now I have this wonderful tall swaying crop of meadowsweet, which as well as being the perfect artist’s models, form a great support for the tall Crocosmia growing there too!


Meadowsweet at the lake and otter sitings!

The marshlands of Llangorse Lake at dusk, where swathes of meadowsweet give way to reeds in the water – with a little of the Meadowsweet Theme Pack Stencil added!! During lockdown we saw otters bobbing, swimming and catching their fish dinner and eating it at the water’s edge. Quite amazing!

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Parrot & Peony Chinoiserie

Chin-What?! – to Chin-Chic!
Our cutting edge new Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie..


When we first launched our large Chinoiserie Stencil panels many years ago and I was into Chinoiserie design in all sorts of ways and effusively chatting about what we were doing, I’d say we’re doing this new Chinoiserie design and people would say ‘Chin-What?’  Now with a wry smile, after other simplified chinoiserie stencils have magically found their way out there, and now the whole chinoiserie thing is back in vogue, and there’s a buzz about it, people are saying ‘oh yes, chinoiserie, very chic’!!! So hence the caption, a bit tongue in cheek – Chin-What?! to Chin-Chic! Everyone is in the know!!

Anyway, getting back into that chinoiserie design thing again, has been a complete joy and ideas and designs have been flooding in, ready to come to life for sale on the Motif website. So, if you are looking for new chinoiserie designs and tired of what’s out there – watch this space for some modern and innovative ideas on the trend.  Art for walls in all sorts of ways. First out are the Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie All-Over Repeat Stencil, the Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie Panel Stencil and the Tropical Parrot Theme Pack Stencil.

Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie All-Over Repeat Stencil


The first design to launch is the Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie All-Over Repeat Stencil – an innovative drop repeat wallpaper style stencil. Brilliant for creating all-over pattern on walls and fabrics.  Certainly very chic indeed! This beautifully detailed chinoiserie comes with a multitude of motifs, woven into this magical all-over design. Exotic macaw parrots, cockatoo and parakeets sit amongst profusely flowering branches of oriental peonies, full blown roses and blossom sprays, with orchid, hibiscus, bamboo and fuchsia, flying humming bird, dragonflies and butterfly!


What is a drop repeat?  Well it allows the pattern repeat to flow over a larger area, extending the size of the repeated area and creating a magical, enchanting all-over pattern effect.  So the design can be packed with motifs that weave together into a story and rhythm, far more intriguing than a standard repeat that just works on a linear-square framework. The drop repeat works like a chequer board, where two large stencil sheets are placed in alternating fashion. Sounds complicated, but the registration dots do the work for you, aligning each successive repeat!

A multiple colour palette definitely takes times and patience with this design, so it is in effect an advanced stencil, but working in tonal or monochrome palettes make it manageable for the enthusiast, as well as the professional!


It’s easy to create this effect with the Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie All-Over Repeat Stencil with a monochrome palette. On a vibrant green background, stencil with a roller first in white and then highlight and blush over selected areas of the design with pale greens, that tone in with the wall colour.  An easy bit of hand painted wallpaper – and definitely Chin-Chic!


Create totally original toile-type fabrics for curtains and bed linens with the Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie All-Over Repeat Stencil and our brilliant Fabric Paints. Beautiful in simple greys, blues, green and white.

Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie Panel Stencil


The Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie Panel Stencil is the upright panel version of this chinoiserie design, giving the innovative stenciller a fantastic opportunity to create uniquely detailed and ravishing chinoiserie wall panels, with a genuine hand painted effect! This is exciting artwork for walls and fabric, full of beautiful motifs of macaw parrots, cockatoo and parakeets sitting amongst profusely flowering branches of oriental tree peonies and blossom sprays, with flourishes of orchid, bamboo and fuchsia, with dragonfly and butterfly!  All magically woven into this beautiful panel stencil. This elegant modern twist on classic chinoiserie style works well in multiple colour palettes and monochrome schemes.


Inspired by the design process, weaving in authentic chinoiserie style with more modern elements, I decided to take this another step and stencil the Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie Panel Stencil onto one of the gilded boards I sell, adding hand painted embellishment and tonal detail. It was at that point that we decided to add the tiny stamen centres for the blossom blooms – which now come on a separate details sheet.

Chinoiserie itself is ripe for adaptation, as its origins stem from a western interpretation of art from the Far East, which as it became fashionable in the 18th century was then produced in the East and cleverly sent back to the west. So fashion in design has been globe trotting for some time, and still there is great fascination and love of this style due to its beauty, impact and charm.


The wonderful Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie Panel Stencil transforms a work-wear style denim jumpsuit into a show stopper outfit. Elizabeth wore this to one of Henny’s exhibitions and became a walking piece of art!! Easy to adapt, just mask off around the areas you want to stencil and use our high quality Fabric Paints!

Tropical Parrot Theme Pack Stencil


The Tropical Parrot Theme Pack Stencil is an exciting new design comprising three of the larger parrots from our new Parrot and Peony Chinoiserie range, but teamed here with tropical leaves and hibiscus flowers – great for creating that rain forest style mural for instance, or embellishing tee shirts and jackets, or decorating furniture and accessories.  Here it’s been used to create a colourful staircase mural, with the different motifs arranged closely together for a profusion of colour and character! And left on a gold panel to bring colour to a plain room.


Create a carnival of colour with the Tropical Parrot Theme Pack Stencil. Great in bright primary colours and rain forest hues, or striking in silhouette on dark or light backgrounds. Brilliantly versatile and fun to decorate with!


Elizabeth decided to update her favourite Levi’s denim jacket with the new Tropical Parrot Theme Pack Stencil using our great Fabric Paints.  It’s now a wardrobe staple!

More exciting Chinoiserie floral and bird stencils coming out soon!

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Wild Bluebells in Spring

Wild Bluebells in Spring
Introducing our new Wild Bluebells Stencil..

It’s a wonderful thing when suddenly we’re surrounded by shrouds of bluebells in every shape and variety, in the country lanes, the woodlands, the hillsides, the riverbanks and in every nook and cranny in the country gardens. I count myself very fortunate living in the Brecon Beacons to witness the unfolding happening of each season and to be amidst such constant inspiration – in Spring as new life bursts onto the scene.


Coed Cefn – the most spectacular bluebell woods, with thousands of wild British bluebells, carpeting the floor of this ancient woodland. The native British bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is in strong evidence in the Brecon Beacons countryside.


The native British bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta, above left) has delicately draped more sparsely placed flower bells, usually a darker gentian blue or more rarely, white – you see it growing as single stems spread amongst green foliage, a wonderful site when you come across it. Cottage gardens can’t help but overflow with the thickly bunched, more upright, densely flowered Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica, above middle), these are rapacious growers, spreading very easily. And of course the hybrid when the two species cross (Hyacinthoides x massartiana, above right), which has both the delicacy of the native bluebell and the fullness and vigour of the introduced garden variety, seen in lanes, hedgerows, growing alongside streams and often found next to either the native bluebell or Spanish type.


When designing the Wild Bluebell Stencil I focused on the hybrid type bluebell, to create a flower design with more falling bell flowers and stems closely grouped together, but with the delicacy of the indigenous species.  As well as the aesthetics for a stencil design it also seems apt tribute to the myriad multitude of bluebells we have here and perfect for the latest addition to our stencil range the ‘Wild Botanical Stencils – inspired by the Hedgerow & Woodland of the Brecon Beacons’.


This single motif design is perfect for fabric printing onto home furnishings – cushions, curtains, bedding or kitchen linen. We stencilled the Wild Bluebell Stencil onto a white canvas cushion cover for this elegant bedroom setting. This design lends itself to cosy cottage style or simple elegant decor.


Stencilling onto fabrics is great if you’re starting out on stencilling – because the fabric is an absorbent surface, stencilling tends to be less prone to bleeding under the cut out shapes, so crisper results can be achieved more readily. We used a combination of Bright Purple, Cobalt Blue, Pure White and Olive Fabric Paints for this white canvas cushion cover. Our Fabric Paints are really colourfast once ironed, very useful on household items that are washed on a regular basis.


The Wild Bluebells Stencil is a great design for creating gift bags, wrapping paper and cards. Our silver gift bag has been stencilled with Forget-me-not, Indian Purple and Hedgerow Stencil Paints, blended and merged together to create this graduating colour effect.


Great for home accessories the Wild Bluebell Stencil is brilliant on this small wooden block hung on a painted stone wall above a country cottage fireplace. The stencil technique used involves multi layering the stencil paint, allowing it to dry between each layer to create a slightly raised effect (the stencil is kept in place whilst each layer dries). Stencilled with Vanilla Stencil Paint.


The Wild Bluebells Stencil adapts brilliantly to different colour palettes. Stencil in natural flower and leaf colours for that clean Spring feeling. Or try using single silhouette colours light on dark backgrounds, or dark on light backgrounds. Alternatively try some unexpected zingy colours for gift wrap and cards.


This design lends itself well to ‘Arts and Crafts’ style repeat patterns. Use muted colours to create this effect, or contrasting silhouette colours for more contemporary style.


Our spectacular and peaceful walk in Coed Cefn, the joys of the April Spring!


Watch this space for more new designs from the Wild Botanicals Stencils Range – coming soon!

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Little Wild Poppies Journal

Little Wild Poppies Stencil
A taste of what we’ve been getting up to!

As Britain is host to a wonderful array of exciting wild botanical flowers Henny Donovan Motif thought what better way to celebrate this than to create a new stencil range in honour of our native beauties?!  Henny, with sketch pad in hand, has been busy this summer exploring the local wild hedgerows and woodlands of the Brecon Beacons. Having so many wonderful and inspiring wild botanical sketches to choose from it was a challenge to select the eventual designs to be included in the forthcoming range the ‘Wild Botanical Stencils – inspired by the Hedgerow & Woodland of the Brecon Beacons’First to be released this year (with more to follow soon) is the Little Wild Poppies Stencil – inspired by the abundant Welsh Poppy flowers of country lanes and cottage gardens.


This delicate, perennial little wild flower has a self-seeding regularity and pops up between cracks in paving slabs, along stone walls and any nook and cranny in the garden that takes its fancy. It can withstand wind, rain and harsh sun in a way that defies its apparent fragility. Originating from the Pyrenees, these wild flowers create a bloom of warm yellow colour across the summer months, the fine, bright yellow petals always alluring to the eye of the passer by.  Constantly swaying in the slightest of breezes it can be quite resistant to the artist’s pen, but we got there in the end!! Henny’s studies above in pencil, felt pen and photographic mediums.


The charming Little Wild Poppies Stencil depicts three wild poppy flowers swaying in the breeze, with 2 flower buds, a tapering seed pod and intricately detailed foliage – all on one small stencil sheet. Perfect for getting creative with! Brilliant on small home accessories, such as trays, boxes and picture frames. Use our Stencil Paints and Acrylic Varnishes for these creations.


Gorgeous in red on a white gauzy skirt – there is something timeless about a classic red poppy on white and this turns an ordinary skirt into a designer special! Use our Fabric Paints for washable results. This does have a romantic feel – funny that in Persian literature, the red Corn Poppy is known as a Flower of Love!


The Little Wild Poppies Stencil is perfect for making gift cards and wrapping paper for all occasions. Cards stencilled with Very Berry, Jet Black and Hedgerow Stencil Paints. Red wrapping paper stencilled with Ice White Stencil Paint. Customers can safely use this stencil for food crafting and making a beautiful sugar display.


Based on the original artwork and extensive studies Henny produced this year, this stencil has a graceful effect that is true to life, with a botanical authenticity. We have received a lot of requests from customers to add a smaller poppy to our Wild Poppy Stencil Range, so Henny created this design, knowing it would have a great versatility for our creative customers!


As well as classic poppy colours ranging from yellow, orange and red, working with a bright colour popping palette gives a very updated twist to this design. Different flower or leaf sections of the stencil can be used to add to the design as well, to create fuller or taller designs.


The New Little Wild Poppies Stencil is life size and fits perfectly with our Grass Stencils Range. Brilliant for grass meadow mural effects. Try this new design with our Wild Oat Grass StencilWild Slender Oat Grass Stencil (both featured above), Wild Meadow Grass Stencil, Wild Rye Grass Stencil and Teasel Stencil.


In 2009 Henny created the popular Wild Poppies Theme PackLarge Wild Poppies Theme Pack, Large Wild Poppy & Grasses Stencil and the Giant Poppy Stencils as part of the WILD FLOWER range on the Henny Donovan Motif website. The many hours of sitting in meadows drawing paid off, almost a decade later the love of these stencils remains strong.  Now adding this Little Wild Poppies Stencil, intricate and delicate, we have the full set of sizes!


Other British Poppies of the Papaver genus remain very similar to the wild poppy. Therefore in association to the Remembrance Day Poppy we are proud to be launching the Little Wild Poppies Stencil prior to Remembrance Day and will be donating 10% of all Little Wild Poppies Stencil Sales in November 2018 to the Poppy Appeal.  The Remembrance Poppy is the common field poppy (Papaver rhoeas), one of the first wildflowers to colonise disturbed ground or fallow cornfields. It became identified with the battle zones of the First World War, or Flanders Fields, which were originally corn fields.


Watch this space for more new designs from the Wild Botanicals Stencils Range – coming soon!

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Flowering Magnolia Tree Stencil – Design Inspirations

Flowering Magnolia Tree Stencil – Design Inspirations
Magnolias in Spring

Maybe you, like me, are a bit of a plant nut – I don’t mean knowing the full-on glossary of Latin terms for each and every plant – but I mean endlessly captivated by the beauty, or elegance, or magical quality, or exquisite detail on display, year after year, season after season, in the world of flowers, plants and trees. It always causes the design ‘twinge’ in me come spring, as it all unfolds yet again and one witnesses the beauty and theatre on display. And being of the ‘artist’ leaning I always see more each time I stop and look. Inspiration never dries up, the abundance of nature always causes new creative impulses and ideas.

So it is, every year, when magnolia trees come into bud and flower, their large majestic flowers unfurling into the cup-like open globes of soft blush pink petals. I have always loved magnolias against those sharp blue spring skies we get on sunny clear days – and there have been several this year – where the flowers are silhouetted against this wonderful colour, which enhances the blush on the large petals and their elegant outline.

Well, flowering magnolias seem to cause that same design inspiration flush every spring, and this year, as the new website was taking shape, I thought ‘what better way to launch the site than with a new magnolia tree stencil?’  One that could be adapted to fit into plenty of decorative scenarios for all those avid and starter stencillers out there alike.

And of course, there is the wonderful way that the magnolia tree grows, with its beautiful gnarly, twisted branches, a woody tracery going off at this angle and that angle, on which the large goblet-like flowers sit. Wonderful adapted for interior design stencils, for all interior spaces, as the design can so easily be positioned to fit into wide landscape areas, or narrow portrait areas, or large or small spaces.

The new Flowering Magnolia Tree Stencil is great in formal, traditional settings, simple country rooms, or in pared back contemporary interiors. Working in graphic monochrome palettes gives a more structured feel and creates modern simplicity and silhouette style (above), whereas using the range of blush pinks, woody tones and greens, brings out the natural flowering botanical element of the design (below).

And with magnolias, not only are they wonderful design shapes, just waiting to leap off the page (or wall!), but there is this wonderful cross-over between ‘floral botanical and ‘floral oriental’.

So this theme pack, with its large beautiful flowers and gnarly tree motifs, makes a great Chinoiserie style design and the colours and layouts used can bring out either the botanical or oriental nature of the design.

The twiggy tree motifs create the perfect backdrop to place the magnolia blooms and buds on and can be repeated in regular or random fashion. Repeating the flower motifs at irregular, random intervals increases the continuous feeling of tree like growth, even on a regularly repeated base of tree motifs.

The Flowering Magnolia Tree Stencil theme pack is fantastic used to create beautiful Chinoiserie silks or impressive Chinoiserie wall features.

Beautiful in pale plaster pink and chocolate, repeated magnolia trees with flowers placed in random arrangements.

As usual I start out with various studies and sketches, which is really just like getting to know someone – becoming more closely acquainted!

It may be a little traditional, in this day and age, but observational work, really is at the core of good design, or design that rings true to the subject. So, it is always good to get out pencils, pen and ink and other drawing media, to build up a little knowledge about the next design star!!

I spend as much time on preliminary sketches, as necessary, working in different styles – quick sketches, longer drawings, different angles, different flower groupings and even different types of the same flower to see which seems to be more suggesting of a stencil design and likely to be the most versatile in different decorative settings and which might have the widest appeal.

Once several sketches have been done, if there is the time, I spend a little longer on a more detailed tonal drawing, which is usually where the style starts to emerge of the design – its character, its rhythm – and it is often from these drawings that I base the stencil designs on.

The thing that has always drawn me to printing – and of course stencilling is just one form of printing – is the fact that you can create this repeated image in a range of different ways in terms of colour, layout and surfaces you are printing onto. As well as doing a degree in fine art I studied textile printing at college and Uni and of course ended up teaching it as part of broad-based art curriculum. Mono printing, silk screen, lino, fabric printing and much more all came into this remit and I taught in much the same way as I work – close observational work leading directly to print and design. As an example, I used to get the kids to do lino reduction self-portraits drawing straight onto their lino blocks. Repeat design in textiles, as well, has long been a passion of mine.  Anyway…

The Flowering Magnolia Tree Stencil is charming in this country cottage bedroom – a soft rendition in pinks and reds.

Magnolias against a spring blue sky with the sweet bird motifs of the Humming Birds Stencil. A rich deep azure background would also work here, for this springtime mural.

Working on deep, deep green, ink blue or black backgrounds with the Flowering Magnolia Tree Stencil will create an instant lacquer effect, especially with a coat of gloss varnish to follow. The magnolia flower shapes again leaning towards a modern update on classical oriental or Chinoiserie design.

This theme pack is great – it can be applied with the flowers in a profuse display, stencilled closely together (as above), which creates the effect of real magnolias on a tree, that grow in thick abundance.

Or try (as here) the flowers spaced more sparsely, showing more of the delicate twig shapes beneath. Add a few flower petals and leaves floating mid space to give the effect of a gusty spring breeze blowing blossom about, as it does at this time of year.

This seems to be where theme packs come into their own, plenty of motifs and thereby choices, of how to place them and how to combine them for many different decorative settings.

Amidst inspiring flowering magnolia trees, a little gadding about and squinting in the sunshine. It was 70 degrees on a New York March Spring day – like mid-summer here! And in Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, we were full of wonder at the profuse display of soft pink flowers against a clear blue sky.  Quite wonderful!

At my last house – we were lucky enough to have this beautiful magnolia tree in our back garden – again the beautiful pink and blue on a crisp sunny Spring morning.

And today in London!!!  On the very day I have been writing this magnolia blog, out walking the dog on a sunny Spring day in North London, this stunning magnolia tree and breath-taking blue March sky come into view. Smart phone to the ready! Beauty all around!

Hope you enjoy the stencil!
Henny, March 2017

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Antlers & Co – the Stag Story Wild Stag Stencils

Antlers & Co – the Stag Story Wild Stag Stencils

Stags, deer, antelope have long been a recurring theme for me throughout the years, a source of inspiration and interest. I once, lucky enough to be in Kenya at a place called the Ark in the Aberdares, sat up all night to watch for the timid appearance of bongo deer at the waterhole in front of the observation deck. And on their magical appearance, in the wee small hours, sat quietly drawing their grace and beauty, awed by this secret almost apparition-like siting.  Some years later living near Richmond Park and walking the dog there everyday I was ever aware of the presence of the red deer and roe deer as the herds moved around the land – and again they were a great source of inspiration for drawing and design.

Like a lot of artists I’m repeatedly drawn to similar ideas and themes in different guises. Having already designed several reindeer stencils, slightly more whimsical in nature, my thoughts turned to capturing the elegance of the stag, on a larger scale this time – the start of a series of new woodland stencils, perfect for murals and larger decorative pieces.

Sketching these great beasts I’m drawn to their antlers and the great design shapes they make – their grace and crown-like stature. As well as the way they make a sudden and quiet appearance in forest glades from the protective shade of forest trees, looking attentively over their shoulders, always alert. The wild stags amidst forest trees are an inspiring theme for a woodland mural.

From sketches and developed illustration I then chose which stags would carry the best design appeal for the Large Wild Stags and which would work well as little silhouettes for a small woodland stencil. The design results follow.

The Large Wild Stags come as Large Wild Stag Stencil 1, sold on its own and Large Wild Stags Stencil 2 & 3 sold as a pair.  All three stags are also available as a theme pack, Large Wild Stags Stencil 1, 2 & 3, at a reduced combined price, making design work with all three more cost effective. I also made Stag 1 slightly larger in scale to assist with natural perspective when all three stags are arranged in a group – so he’s a bit of a front runner!

For this theme I wanted to show two different ways of working. The start of the mural in soft watercolour-like stencilling on a softly colour-washed wall (this stencil effect is achieved by stencilling lightly and then rubbing the paint back with a damp sponge) – and the stag heads on trend setting cushion covers, creating that hunters’ lodge appeal!

They make great cushion covers – each one showing a different stag character! Our Fabric Paints are ideal for this.

The Little Woodland Stag Stencil depicts 5 stag silhouettes in a woodland setting – designed for festive stencil projects.

The Large Wild Stags are great for woodland stencil work and can be given a seasonal wintry setting in whites and greys and with the new Snow Stencil – designed to add a simple and effective sense of falling snow when stencilled over the finished stags.

Further to that you can bring out a sense of mythology when using white to create ‘white stag’ scenes. Wild stags and white harts are renowned in myth and legend across the globe and through history, culture and religion. The Celts believed the appearance of the white stag meant the Otherworld was to hand. The White Hart’s appearance in Arthurian legend inspired quests and adventure. Considered to be impossible to catch it came to symbolise the unattainable and a deep pursuit of knowledge and mankind’s spiritual quest. In Greek mythology the deer is associated with Artemis the huntress and some Irish and Scottish tales speak of deer as ‘fairy cattle’. In modern storytelling the hunt for the wild stag precipitated the exit from Narnia in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And Harry Potter had a glowing white stag as his ‘petronus charm’ – a protective spirit. Fictional or reality this is an elegant animal and a great design motif!

More woodland motifs will follow…….

Wild Stags & Woodland Stencil Gallery

Motif Copyright

All Motif stencils, stencil designs, photographic and graphic images are protected by copyright and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Henny Donovan stencils are sold for private usage only and may not be used for commercial projects or retail reproduction, or for any kind of resale or reproduction of stencilled images either photographically or for marketing, advertising or publishing of any kind. The stencil and graphic images on this website may not be used or reproduced for any kind of logo, letterhead, website illustration, advertising or other, either personally or commercially.  If you have any queries relating to copyright or usage of Henny Donovan designs please use the enquiries form on the Information and Enquiries page.

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Moroccan Journal – the Tile Story Moroccan Stencils

Moroccan Journal – the Tile Story Moroccan Stencils

Dust! Well it is the edge of the Sahara. It envelopes everything and gives a haze-like hue to all – including dusty djellabas donned throughout the day for visits to the mosque. Well that is the real Morocco, off the beaten track, not the marble of the tourist resorts and not the pristine white limewash you see in expensive clothes/lifestyle catalogues. Dust probably doesn’t sell so well! Even the bougainvillea and oleander are dusty.

So the first thing you see in this pic, through the dusty haze, is probably bananas. Everyday life. Look again and right here in the middle of it all – tiles, beautiful tiles often amongst the rubble and dust. Surrounded by water bottles, trays of soft drinks, bread and all and every bit of local produce. Rendered pillars, fairly rough and ready, but tiled beautifully.

That seems to be the way of local life here, beauty amidst the every day and amidst what we might call unfinished, certainly unpolished and roughly hewn.

But it goes deeper. Nothing is dressy on the outside, not in the local, non-tourist areas. These buildings appear almost as building sites, with walls just being built and barely rendered. We stayed in one of these houses (on the left). Open the heavy metal door and you are into a cool beautifully tiled stairwell, tiled up four flights of stairs (below left)!  And each apartment tiled wall to wall. A rough exterior with jewels within. Reminds me of amethyst – looks like a normal old rock, but its cross-section reveals encrusted amethyst jewels within.

Tiled within – the hallway of our apartment. Modern Morocco does tiles! And here the local tagine eatery, beautiful old tiles have decorated this wall for years and years – for so long in fact they are a forgotten background. The tagines are pretty good too and our tagine man was very proud of them!

Passion for Pattern

I’ve always had a passion for pattern from early childhood.  Fascinated with how pattern appeared particularly in textiles and ceramics.  Pattern on everyday things tell a magical story through the ages and across the globe. I used to sit for hours as a kid drawing patterns of historical costumes, copying brocades, embroideries and woven patterns in opulent Tudor costumes! Or making studies of repeated tile patterns. The therapeutic effect of repeating little shapes over and over kept me occupied for hours at a time. Definitely the start of my love of detail, which you’ll see throughout my designs today.  Pattern got me into printmaking early on – through lino, screen printing, stencilling and fabric and repeat printing processes. So I always enjoy the design process when its time to introduce more geometrics to the Motif Stencil Range – like getting together with an old friend!

The Language of Pattern

From early symbols, Egyptian hieroglyphs, where pattern was an early form of written language, to the development of swirls, shapes, rhythms and geometries – pattern in its own right. Different cultures developed their own styles. And like language there was a great intermixing and borrowing that went on. As people travel the world they pick up the influences of a place and leave their own behind them. So studying pattern I have always seen a range of influences within one style and the more you travel and look, the more you can see different influences peeking through. Ceramics and textiles have always been a great source for design motifs, where influences shine out. So studying them is always very rewarding and inspirational.

Tile Studies and influences

It was no surprise to me then that as I got into the Moroccan stencil design work that as well as clearly seeing Arabic and Islamic motifs I could see shapes and patterns synonymous with European Medieval and even late Victorian periods.

And the tiles used locally show many mixes of influences. Not so surprising when you consider the invasion of the Moors from North Africa and Morocco and the Medieval Crusades, and in later times European involvement in North Africa. Fascinating. Well I could go on about the history of migrating influences ostensibly for my blog, but it would end up more like a geo-political commentary and not a design blog!

Radiating sun designs

The Arabic for this region is Al-Maghreb meaning ‘where the sun sets’. Interesting then that so many tile motifs are circular with many, many repeated sections radiating from a central point, just like sun mandalas. You see this motif again and again in many forms on old and new tiles. On single tiles and grand murals. So too I based my tile designs on centrally radiating motifs with 8, 12 and 16 spokes or sections. There certainly is no denying the sun in Morocco!  It is bright and very, very hot!

The Moroccan Arabesque Stencil and the Moroccan Ornamental Tile Design Stencils, part of the new Moroccan Range, both with radiating sun-like qualities.

The Classic Moroccan Stencil with the radiating spokes of its central motif amidst interlocking lines.

Local to Local!

Our trips to Morocco have been great, soaking in different places, staying in the small villages, driving around, going back and forth on local buses. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a great to get to know a place over a number of visits.

I loved these three doors, in one side street, next to each other.  Plain walls, doors with colour and ornament that hint at the courtyards within. It certainly is a magical world and not ostentatious. Values are more internal, not showy on the outside.

The local mosque in Morocco in the fishing village we stayed in (left). The local mosque on Kingsland High Street, Dalston (right) – tiles at home too and very opulent!  And we did have some hot, hot days this summer in London too with clear blue skies!!

This journal….

So this journal is really notes about atmosphere, influences, motivations and inspirations, the triggers behind the design work in this new range.  The design work itself was about being meticulous and fastidious, getting each and every shape as accurate as possible and in some instances still retaining a hand drawn look, whilst working on symmetrical shapes and circles with spokes at many different angles. To ultimately create as authentic look and feel as possible – true to my own experience and visual understanding!
See the Moroccan Stencil Range

Moroccan Stencils

Motif Copyright

All Motif stencils, stencil designs, photographs, graphic images and text are protected by copyright and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Henny Donovan stencils are sold for private usage only and may not be used for commercial projects or retail reproduction, or for any kind of resale or reproduction of stencilled images either photographically or for marketing, advertising or publishing of any kind. The stencil and graphic images on this website may not be used or reproduced for any kind of logo, letterhead, website illustration, advertising or other, either personally or commercially.  If you have any queries relating to copyright or usage of Henny Donovan designs please use the enquiries form on the Information and Enquiries page.

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Henny’s Iris Design Journal Iris Stencils

Henny’s Iris Design Journal Iris Stencils

I’ve been meaning to do an Iris Stencil for some time and on a recent trip to Wales I was inspired by this perfect group of Bearded Irises growing around a garden spring in the Brecon Beacons. They really caught my eye so I sat down to draw and the ‘Iris Journey’ began! The petals were like soft, deepest magenta with bright golden yellow caterpillar-like stamens – quite captivating – sitting in this tranquil setting.

I love the drawing process at the beginning of a design where you try to capture the form and beauty of the subject. Some drawings are just musings and others have more serious intent and take shape quickly in my mind as a potential stencil design, maybe because of the outstanding beauty or because the shapely design elements of the plant will look just right on a decorative panel, or a cushion cover, blind or large wall piece.

Bearded Iris Sketches

Most of my botanical and flower stencil designs start life as ‘plant portraits’ – usually drawn in pencil, sometimes painted. I usually start with pencil line drawings, drawn carefully from observation. The linear drawing is an essential part of the design process for stencils because you are looking for outlines that capture the essence of the shape of the plant and easily give a sense of its form. These outlines will then go on to form the cut out shapes of the stencil, so it is an important stage – one that will ultimately determine whether a design is going to be a good one or not!

Designs taken from drawings not photos ultimately have a deeper understanding of the form of the plant and I always feel a better translation of the three dimensions into two dimensions. Photos are great and brilliant for capturing hard to access subjects, but where possible I like to use them as design inspirations, colour notations and so forth.

The drawing muscle when well worked gives not only the form of the flower but an innate feel for the shapes in-between, which in design terms are often as important as the image itself.

I don’t always or often ‘work up’ a drawing, but sometimes it is good to get further into the sense of form of a subject and add a full range of tone and shading and mark making for veins and stamens and other intricacies. The sense of depth that comes with a tonal drawig will also help down the road when stencilling and adding dimension with colour.

I also sometimes create some sketchbook notations – kind of prosy, poetical descriptions that again help with the sense and character of the flower or plant. Often a bit romantic, of course flowery – the drawing process is a little love affair – in the moment. Descriptive notes as well can help later with colour and graphic ideas and are useful aids like photographs.

Photos taken Upstate New York and Brecon Beacons, South Wales. The great thing about iris is the sheer range of colours and markings they can have – interior design wise this is great for matching to a host of colour schemes.

The ‘fill’ stage of the design process, where before digitising fully I check the strength and dynamism of the design by creating a black silhouette of the line drawings for the main layer. This gives me a read-off of what changes or design tweaks might be needed and a good look at the graphic appeal of the design.

The great thing about Irises is the range of colours they naturally and horticulturally appear in. In design terms they work perfectly in cool shades or warm vibrant hues. You can stencil in whites and blues or yellow and magentas, reds and more, altering your background colours to suit the mood. Or stencil simply in silhouette single colour palettes for graphic design effects.

See part two of this design journal for stencilling techniques for decorative items shown in our Iris shoots.

Botanical Stencil Gallery

Motif Copyright

All Motif stencils, stencil designs, photographic and graphic images are protected by copyright and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Henny Donovan stencils are sold for private usage only and may not be used for commercial projects or retail reproduction, or for any kind of resale or reproduction of stencilled images either photographically or for marketing, advertising or publishing of any kind. The stencil and graphic images on this website may not be used or reproduced for any kind of logo, letterhead, website illustration, advertising or other, either personally or commercially.  If you have any queries relating to copyright or usage of Henny Donovan designs please use the enquiries form on the Information and Enquiries page.