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The Joys Of Analogue #2

March 11th 2010

We’ve got a few more weeks before the iPad arrives so I’ll quickly get in some book recommendations of the old-school variety (these might not be available through the iBook store anyway!) Joyce Storey’s book ‘Dyes and Fabrics’ (Thames and Hudson) was my bible when I first set up my print studio, also W. Clarke’s An Introduction to Textile Printing which is quite technical but essential if you want to mix your own dyestuffs. Another great book is ‘Fabric Dyeing & Printing’ by Kate Wells (Conran Octopus) – full of practical hands-on advice. A more recent book I think can be helpful for mixing conventional printing and digital work is Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac’s ‘Digital Textile Design’ (Laurence King Publishing), mixing digital with screen print, ink jet, heat transfer and with very good visual examples in tutorial form.

Posted in books, design, printing, technology, textiles

But… The Joys Of Analogue #1

March 11th 2010

I quite often talk to students and the digital versus conventional debate frequently comes up, mainly because a lot of the textiles courses seem to teach through computer-based design origination rather than learning the craft of repeat construction. Many students haven’t grasped the fundamental elements of repeats and screen separations (it may look easy but it does take a lot of experience and is time consuming) making it very hard for them to pursue designs for commercial production. It seems that there needs to be a revival in teaching traditional printing processes (with the added enlightenment of CAD and digital prints). There was something good about using the photocopier and playing around with collage; something that I don’t see so much in students’ work because they seem to be very much focused on the final digital A3 paper print-out, which tends to look flat and uninspiring. Honing your fine art and craft skills does lead to a more interesting result.

So how can we get from here to what we can see at Premiere Vision with designers such as Claudia Caviezel (see Claudia’s wonderful interview on Faces of Design and her website) using digital in an exciting and stimulating way?

Spring 2009 Collection of AKRIS designed for Jakob Schlaepfer by Claudia Caviezel

Perhaps the answer is to introduce drawing, collage, lino cutting, wax relief printing, mono printing and many others handmade skills to try and turn the young students’ heads away from their computers. Maybe even ban them in the first year! It may sound harsh but it could work, after all, in my first year at Camberwell we had to work solely in black and white from painting to printing!

Posted in design, fashion, pattern, printing, technology, textiles, trends

At Home With Digital

March 11th 2010

In 2000, Bernard Ashley set up the print company Elanbach as a separate business from that of Laura Ashley and the company has worked really hard over the last few years to develop digital fabrics to a point at which they can be produced on a commercial scale. Now only printing for their own collection, they opened a great showroom at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre in September and although the main direction of the designs is a bit twee for my tastes, Elanbach should be applauded for their commercial involvement in digital printing and for seeing its potential early on.

Elanbach Chelsea Harbour showroom

In some ways I think the digital fabrics might hold the key to breathing life back into this country’s fraying textile industry. With only a few companies really exploring digital printing in the UK, it might still be considered a cottage industry here, but having seen how it has taken off in Europe and South-East Asia, it seems a real growth area financially but also a way to be able to offer great creativity as well as a beautifully finished product. And we’re nothing, in the UK if not creative! Inks are becoming more light-fast and durable and as variety of what can be printed on keeps improving with fabrics like heavy linens, cottons and velvets in the mix, we’ll start seeing more digital prints in the home.

Posted in botanical, design, interior design, pattern, printing, technology, textiles

Going Digital

March 11th 2010

This summer, prints seem to have been very influenced by digital printing technology, with lots of examples which appeared in the catwalk shows now making their way onto the rails; Prada, the late Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson to name a few.

PRADA Summer 2010

Because of its flexibility and beauty of placement printing we will continue to see digital printing used commercially in fashion. Designers are willing to pay the price for the more expensive digital fabric but these are coming down and it is considerably cheaper than it was even 2 years ago.

I saw a lot more companies (mainly Italian) at Premiere Vision offering digital as well as conventional printed fabrics. The perfect product for this technique is the scarf. Sadly it’s often too expensive for small-scale designers to get involved in creating scarves as the quantities required to make the numbers work are too big, and unless you are a skilled printer they are very time consuming to produce oneself. I know because I have tried and although I was able to sell at great shops such as Paul Smith, Joseph and Bergdorf Goodman ultimately I couldn’t compete with the lower prices that manufacturers were getting from China. But as I said digital printing is becoming more affordable so look out for it on more scarves whether in Liberty or coming to a high street near you.

Posted in fashion, pattern, printing, technology, textiles, trends

Loose ends from Premier Vision

March 2nd 2010

What I love about going to Premier Vision is that not only is it a great opportunity to peer ahead, check out trends and see cutting edge technologies that are the results of years of R&D but you get to pick up stuff (literally and mentally) that you might not normally find or have easy access to. Here’s a good example, it’s a beautifully produced colour journal called ‘Le fil du lin & du chanvre’ which gives an overview of how linen and hemp are being used across the board in design.

Le fil du lin & du chanvre, n°03

I also found ‘Geometric’, a brilliant book by Kapitza – a design studio up the road from here set up by 2 sisters. It’s great fun, loaded with 100 pattern fonts (shapes based on the forms of letters in the alphabet) and something I’m definitely looking forward to playing with. Some of the patterns reminded me of the Dutch artist and designer Karel Martens who is a favourite of mine. You can buy the book from the Kapitza online shop:

One last notable mention from Premier Vision: Jakob Schlaepfer’s brand new, awe-inspiring fabric ‘Secret Garden’, a shimmering silver gossamer with iridescent inks printed onto it. It’s one of those fabrics that photographs really don’t do justice to, you have to see it up close and feel it yourself. So, lucky me! Look out for this in the coming years time in clothing and interiors.

Posted in books, design, graphic design, pattern, review, technology, trends

Premiere Vision

February 3rd 2010

I’m really looking forward to going to Premiere Vision Spring Summer 2011 show next week, this is the colour and textile forecasting show held in Paris twice a year. I have been going now for around 20 years; I find it very useful for colour development work, seeing the technical advancements that are happening in digital printing, weaving and machine printing. Sadly the famous trend forecaster Li Eldekoort doesn’t have any involvement with the audio visuals, a shame as they were very inspiring, she is really one of my favorites (see Sept Blog), you can still buy Bloom magazine at the newsagents but her View on Colour and INview are no longer in publication, luckily you can still buy back issues.

Indigo is on at the same venue; where you can buy designs directly from textile designers for the following season AW 11/12.

I’m constantly looking “out there ” for colour inspiration, on my early morning jogs (um… have only just started this so don’t hold your breath!) I have been watching some wonderful colour spreads. Not brilliantly in focus as snapped with my iphone whilst listening to my inspiring jogging music!

I really love the blues; lilacs mauves with the peaches and soft pastel yellows, there are an infinitesimal amount of colourways that you can work from using nature – its mouth watering!

Colour working Primrose Hill

Colour Work London Eye

Colour Work London Sky

Posted in colour, design, technology, textiles, trends

Decode and the power of digital

February 2nd 2010

At Decode, currently on at the V&A, the first thing you see is Daniel Brown’s ‘On Growth and Form’. Commissioned for the Porter Gallery, it’s just outside the exhibition and is massive in size, about 4 metres high. But despite this big scale, its position makes the work easy to miss and that, along with the fact that it’s the only Daniel Brown piece in the exhibition, is a real shame.

In it, muted colours and delicate floral, organic forms are constantly morphing to make images that change and grow; the result is hypnotic and soothing. It reminded me of a Fischli and Weiss exhibition I saw at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris back in 1999, which included Sichtbare Welt (Visible World), an installation where they layered double-exposed images of flowers on top of each other. When these slides were projected in slow transition and at a huge scale you had an illusion of movement plus a blast of colour and beauty to mind-blowing effect. Brown uses more advanced technology but the emotional power is the same; awesome and calming.

Daniel Brown 'On Growth and Form'

Seeing Fischli & Weiss’ installation when I was about to start my first wallpaper collection was a real inspiration for me to make large-scale digital banner prints. It was just at the time when both digital photography and digital printing were becoming more affordable, helping pattern and imagery become more ubiquitous in interior design.

Brown has already been commissioned to produce works for private clients but I think something like ‘On Growth and Form’ would be great in a hospital or public space. And pretty soon it might be possible to have work like this in our homes.

Daniel Brown 'On Growth and Form'

I think designers and artists seem to turn to nature images at a time of change when something comforting is needed. Fischli & Weiss’ flower installation was touring as we were approaching the end of a millennium and Brown’s work is on show as we enter a new decade, and in a period of uncertainty.

Elsewhere at Decode interesting works included the kinetic artwork ‘Weave Mirror’ by Daniel Rozin which uses image-capture combined with hundreds of C-prints that organise themselves into a light and shadow, ‘woven’ picture of the person looking at the work. It sounds (and probably is) complicated but is beautiful to look at. Oasis, a lightbox with black sand creating amoeba-like forms, the splodgey, interactive piece ‘Body Paint’ and Aaron Koblin’s ‘Flight Patterns’ a visualisation of the flights across US airspace in a single day also stood out. Unfortunately ‘Dandelion’ by Sennep/Yoke wasn’t working but I’d love to have seen it.

Decode is at the V&A til April 11th.

Here’s where you can read more about ‘Sichtbare’ by Fischli & Weiss.

Posted in art, botanical, design, review, technology

Paradoxes in colour

September 22nd 2009

I’m experimenting with shiny finishes, grainy metallics but instead of bling, I’m looking at how they exist alongside more muted colours such as dark grey, pinks, beige and camel. Have a look.

Silver, foils and muted creams

Black , Dark Greys and Silvers

Golds and Camel

But, returning to bling for a moment..

Colour Chrome Car

Can you imaging landing on Earth from space, or being fast-forwarded from say Victorian times and seeing this? Aside from whether you would actually buy it, the affect is certainly dramatic, a Benz whizzed past me in Camden Town, I did a double take… was it mirrored or glass? I looked it up and found that there are loads of them!

Have a look on YouTube

Posted in botanical, design, pattern, product design, technology, trends, wallpaper

Ten years on

September 2nd 2009

“Beyond the crisis, we can see a real desire for creativity. People want a new modernity that is yet to be invented.” Jean-Philippe Nuel, interviewed at Maison & Objet 2008

As the world economy fluctuates, consumer behaviour and design trends point towards a new aesthetic, I’m trying to work out what’s next. In doing so, I began to reflect on the past. On the cusp of our tenth anniversary it struck me how the last decade has been so big for pattern. Every big name designer has embraced pattern especially after the 80’s-90’s which was dominated by white or black minimalism. Wallpaper was the first product that pushed pattern back into headlines –large retro prints became cool – large scale oversized prints digitally made or hand drawn were all put into repeats with the aid of our now taken for granted computers. Marry that with digital photography and printers and we went print crazy!

Ten Years On Peony Studies

Ten Years On Flower Imagery

Ten Years On Mood Board Georgia O'

Ten Years On pin Board Studio jpg

Leaf Scans

Ten Years On scanners and Digital

People then became more and more adventurous with pattern and colour (I’m trying to avoid name-checking Lawrence you-know-who-you-are) but in some walks of life maybe they are still tentative. I think part of my job as a designer is to encourage confidence etc. In the same way that some people are uncomfortable wearing bright colours or patterns but once they try them, they realise that they can be more fun, suit them better, I’m looking forward to another ten years of creating products that enable people to express their individuality, personality.

Ten Years On Patchwork

Posted in botanical, pattern, printing, technology, trends, wallpaper