Roll on spring!

January 12th 2011

I know this has been out a while but I really love the prints in Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection. The mixing of lamé with pigment prints and appliqué creates such lovely contrasts of shiny and matte and of course the silhouettes’ and shoes are great too!

Just one of the interesting prints from the current Miu Miu collection

You can watch the fashion on YouTube

A fashion moment from the Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2011 catwalk show

Posted in fashion, pattern, printing, textiles, trends


November 27th 2010

Jack Frost has definitely come to visit and it looks like he’s staying for a while so, it’s time to get cosy. Over the last few years, knitting has really taken off, near our studio in East London you can easily stubble across knitting circles in cafes and pubs and there are a number of trendy knitting shops around the country, plus countless blogs.

I love Wool and the Gang, based in New York. They make gorgeously packaged knitting kits and the website contains loads of inspiration, encouragement and online video tutorials. It’s so cold right now so please let me finish my lovely Wool and the Gang scarf whilst the snow is here.

Wool and the gang scarf

Here's my scarf, nearly there!

Posted in craft, fashion, handmade, textiles, trends

Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works

November 22nd 2010

Another exhibition looking at the links between artists and applied crafts is Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works at the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Savile Row. Her textile art reflects how important a role fabric played in Bourgeois’s life, having grown up surrounded by the textiles of her parents’ tapestry restoration workshop. Her work in this area was quite prolific but I’ve managed to select 3 of my favourites!

Untitled, 2006 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

titled, 2006 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

titled, 2008 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth has quickly settled in to its great new space designed by Annabelle Selldorf so if you’re popping into town for some Christmas shopping, it’s worth popping by. The exhibition is on until December 18th.

Posted in art, review, textiles

The fabrics are coming!

November 4th 2010

Sorry not to have blogged for a while, but I’ve been wrapped up in the production of our first ever fabric collection. It has been so exciting to realise some of the wallpaper designs into fabrics, having started off some 20 odd years ago hand printing my own fabrics on my little 3 meter print table, it’s awesome to see the huge industrial machines tackle the print run. They estimate 20 meters every minute …WOW! A far cry from my all-day-to-print run for a measly 25 scarves and having the odd ink splodge!!

Here are a few snap shots I took whilst at the printers:

The 'Treetops Birch' screen on the flatbed

'Blossom' being checked

Me and Tony doing the glasses test

Samples of 'Flora'

Now that the production is underway we’ll be getting stuck in to organising the fabrics’ launch which will be in Paris at Maison et Object in January 2011. Come and say hello if you’re there!

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

Premiere Vision Autumn/Winter 2011 – 2012

September 30th 2010

The other day when I popped over to trends and fabrics fair Premiere Vision in Paris I scribbled down a few observations I thought worth sharing.

The most noticeably recurring trend was for fabrics that felt very luxurious and soft, yet weighty at the same time – whether cashmeres, silks, shearling or boiled wool. And there seems to be less and less separation between textiles for interiors and fashion.

There were lots of surreal, fairy-tale inspired prints – artist Frederique Morrel combines this with another trend; tapestry.

Image © Frederique Morrel

She also has an exhibition on at the Galerie Chevalier where she’s using 18th and 19th century tapestries to create a series of animals, if you’re in Paris, I’m sure is worth seeing.

The inspiring thing about Premiere Vision is seeing the key themes brought to life in huge styled and curated spaces. These included ‘Disruptive Weaves’ (tight yet soft textures), ‘Deceptively Austere’ (antiqued looking super-soft boiled wools), ‘Luxurious Heaviness’ (faux fur and satins), ‘Fierce Softness’ (strong velvets) ‘Natural Knop’, ‘Beyond Tradition’ (contemporary, sculptural lace), ‘Strange Nature’ (spooky, leaf-less trees) and ‘Zoo’ (bizarre monkey and bird imagery)

Last time I was there, blues were a key colour and they’re still very much in evidence, especially turquoises – often combined with yellows and golds, and sky blues. The other colour that seemed to pop up a lot was a burnt orange as well as misty pinks and reds. A palette called ‘Candied Fruits’ summed this up. Here’s my take on the new colours, which I’m thinking of exploring:

A palette of colours I'm playing with

Posted in colour, design, fashion, pattern, review, textiles, trends

Having a textiles moment

September 10th 2010

As we’re gearing up towards production of our own fabrics I’m even more tuned in to trends in handmade textiles – knitting and lace are noticeable. Having just missed Studio Tord Boontje’s exhibition The Lacemaker I next came across the work of a Danish designer/artist called Isabel Berglunds. She’s made a knitted universe, which is great and you can see it here:

Isabel Berglund’s knit universe

Isabel Berglund’s knit universe

Speaking of Scandinavians….

Posted in craft, design, handmade, textiles, trends

Quilts 1700 – 2010

April 30th 2010

Lovingly hand made, full of stories and life celebrations documented with tender stitches, Quilts, the exhibition at the V&A is a really wide source of interesting culture studies. As I’m working on a new range of textiles, going to see this was great timing in terms of getting me really fired up!

The amount of beautiful printed fabrics dating way back acts like a documentary of the fashions and fabrics available at the time. It’s fascinating to see how fabrics were saved and stored, perhaps expectantly watched whilst being worn in the hope that one day that they (the quilters) could get their scissors and needles out to fashion the item into a bedcover. In fact, I could have studied the prints in each of the early quilts for hours, so amazing is the amount of pattern and colour that was used, some of the pieces were made up of 15 or 20 different prints. And even though they have aged, you can sort of feel the crispness of the prints on the cottons.

Bishops Court quilt, Unknown, 1690-1700. Museum no. T.201-1984

Calico and cotton lawns, pale blues with brown, typical 1800s seaweed designs mixed with tiny dotted paisleys, yellows with soft purple circles… I was enthralled by the intricacy, effort and detail, by the tiny circles and smallness of some of the patches but then patience isn’t my virtue!

It was interesting to see the reverse of a quilt so you could see the newspaper pattern pieces which are still in place, you can even make out some of the old newsprint.

I have always admired Sonia Delaunay’s quilt she made for her son Charles, it’s such a personal celebration for a child’s birth that can handed down the generations.

Sonia Delaunay baby quilt for Charles, 'Couverture' 1911

This is what I love most about quilts; they are such an emotional and human product, so non-commercial and genuine in their purpose.

The early historical pieces from the 1700 and 1800s and the war quilts were particular fascinating but the exhibition also includes work by contemporary artists including Nina Saunders and Grayson Perry’s incredible ‘Right to Life’. They show how what is such a homely, cosy product can be appropriated for political and sociological messages; the AIDS Memorial quilt is perhaps the best-known example of this.

Radiant Dark 2010: Assets & Values, Exhibition Toronto January 2010

Grant Heap, Garden Chairs, Radiant Dark 2010: Assets & Values, Exhibition Toronto

Tracey Emin’s bed with quilts and embroidered cushions seems to relate to the comfort, security and warmth that bedcovers and quilts bring, again using specially saved fabrics and compiling them together with stitch and verse. Canadian artist Grant Heaps’ work isn’t included in this exhibition but naturally, the show reminded me of him, I love his quilts and the ‘quilt chairs’ are bang on the hand-made/folklore/crafted trend.

The exhibition also features quilts that were made for use in hospitals with biblical verse stitched in for the patients to read. I could see this idea being used today’s digital world. Wouldn’t it be great to read your book actually in the bedcovers, or to read little relaxing messages before you sleep?

The current trend and popularity for all things handmade and homemade, especially knitting, sewing, ceramics and so on, fits very well with the quilts from the past. In North America quilting is a much celebrated and loved craft (as proven by the sheer number of exhibitions devoted to the subject and huge number of active quilters). I’m half expecting quilting groups to spring up like those pub knitting groups – social gatherings that are such cooperative experiences.

There’s a lot to see and the exhibition is so beautifully and thoughtfully organised so I’m definitely going to go back to see this again.

Posted in craft, handmade, interior design, review, textiles

Most Curious

April 21st 2010

Although there are a few of Tracey Neuls’ shoes and a chair by Nina Saunders in the Fashion and Textiles Museum show, I would recommend a visit to Neuls’ store on Marylebone Lane to see more at ‘Most Curious’ a collaboration between Tracey Neuls, Nina Saunders and Sanderson. It uses textiles and wallpaper resurrected from Sanderson’s archive applied to footwear and sculpture. Anchoring the installation is an incredible ‘melting’ chaisse longue and the display also includes Neuls’ use of the wonderful squirrel prints by Sanderson for her fabulous spring/summer collection. It’s a playful, lovely installation.

Most Curious Installation

Tracey Neuls’ shoes made with a selection from Sanderson’s archives

Posted in art, design, fashion, pattern, review, textiles

Very Sanderson

April 20th 2010

For anyone interested in British textiles, Very Sanderson: 150 Years of English Decoration is on at The Fashion & Textile Museum until 13th June is definitely worth a visit. It traces the firms development from the very early days to the present to the 150th anniversary Vintage Collection launched this year.

It’s especially fascinating to see the early photogravure papers that were introduced in 1923, way before they became standard in the industry. Sanderson really pushed the boundaries of this technique. The exhibition includes some fine examples of papers that have gravure metallised canvas grounds, which were then surface printed with water-based emulsions. Another paper that shows the range of textured gravure grounds is from 1926 by Harry Watkins Wild – a beautiful peacock print. Look out for it as it hangs in the entrance hall on the way into the exhibition.

There are also some interesting interviews with people significant to Sanderson’s history. Pat Albeck discusses her design Sunflowers that has been re-launched. It was first produced for one of my all time favourite collections, the Palladio, but I think this design really stands the test of time and still looks fresh and contemporary. Elsewhere in the film Albert Riva, Sanderson’s Italian agent who grew up understanding and appreciating the collection and took over from his father in the 1960s, talks with affection about the company.

Accompanying the 150th anniversary celebrations is ‘Sanderson. The Essence of English Decoration’ by Mary Schoeser. She is an authority on textiles and wallpaper and her beautifully illustrated book is a must if you’d like a more detailed look at the company’s history and developments.

'The Essence of English Decoration', by Mary Schoeser

CFA Voysey, William Morris, Picasso, John Piper, Lucienne Day, Norman Hartnel… ‘Very Sanderson’ celebrates a roll call of amazing designers and artists invited over the years to combine innovation with timelessness. Long may it continue!

For more information see the Fashion and Textiles Museum blog and download the Sanderson history timeline.

Posted in books, botanical, design, interior design, pattern, printing, review, textiles, wallpaper

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

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

Shape the future

January 23rd 2010

In 1957, Stanley Coren and Tristram Hull set up Hull Trader’s, a company to promote ‘new ideas, good design and sound workmanship’. It became part of what was more like a movement that supported the creativity and production processes of designers, artists and craftsmen, rather than simply exploiting “design” in the commercial way we see so often now.

This year, Heal’s celebrates its bicentenary. During the early part of the last century, the store’s mission had a similar honesty and integrity to Hull Trader’s’ and I think this legacy of really nurturing and championing good design is something it could revisit in a big way. Plans seem afoot to do so with furniture but by delving into it’s amazing archive of fabric and wallpaper prints there’s a real opportunity. Similarly, although it was Cath Kidston who made retro florals desirable again, Laura Ashley has a wealth of vintage designs, and not just flowery prints, locked away, which could be tapped into, brought out and up-to-date, enabling them to take the world by storm again. Adopting this approach has really helped brands like Liberty and Sanderson’s reinvigorate themselves and it’s exciting to see. Back in 2004, Charlotte Abrahams in her article ‘Morris dance’ wrote this about a then-floundering Sanderson’s, “…here is our cry: face the challenge… You are sitting on one of the most exciting decorative archives in the world. All it needs is a bit of rethink (a colour update here, a change of scale there) and we’ll all come running.” They did and it worked. If you were a design-led company once, it’s worth reminding yourself of exactly that and a good way of doing this is to look back into your history and find inspiration in the design archive. All it takes is a bit of bravery but within their own treasure troves, these companies could find the key to a brighter future.

Posted in design, interior design, pattern, textiles, vintage, wallpaper