As part of a new brief I have been researching textile design and surface pattern. I was lucky enough to be able to visit a collection of amazing prints and patterns whilst visiting The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester (http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk).
From the full height rolls of wallpaper hung in a large treble height space, you could really appreciate the detailing, attention to repeat print and the efforts involved in the manufacture of these lengths of paper. The designs themselves were all great examples with 1950-60s mid century designs by Roger Nicholson, Audrey Levy and others, but what stood out, personally, and most consistently was an affinity for the work of Lucienne Day.
Lucienne Day (1/1/17 – 30/1/10) seemed to be a truly amazing woman. She became one of the most well known textile and pattern designers ever know, and working within a time with much more restrictions for women makes her even more inspirational. She was a prolific designer, each new pattern stepping in a new direction from the last. Her professional relationship with Heals brought modern art and design to the people. The general public had a chance to buy more reasonably priced textiles rather than expensive one-offs.
She used organic forms as inspiration – flowers, stalks, grasses, seeds, however the design involved is modern, even by todays standards. Her breakthrough design was ‘calyx’ in 1951.
I love her brilliant use of colour. Each design and the colour ways look like they are carefully chose to reflect the taste of the time; commercial, but never bland, boring or predictable.
The accents of pink and yellow in the dark green sample below, as an example. There was a length of this textile design (Herb Anthony) hung at the Whitworth which caught my eye.
Herb Anthony 1956 designed by Lucienne Day in different colorways
Most information about Lucienne Day also makes reference to her designer husband Robin Day (a furniture designer), who she met and married early in her career. Parallels are drawn with Charles and Ray Eames, about the designing relationship (who influenced who?) but I think Lucienne Day had to work hard to prove herself as a designer in her own right, becoming well known in the 1950s which was still probably a time of oppression and struggle for equality for women. She was also a mother and that alone can be difficult, making her whole life an inspiration.
I have long been a fan of mid century modern design all round for textiles and patterns, posters book design – I just love the shapes, the colours and probably in part the nostalgia, but hadn’t quite realised quite how much of what I had seen is directly attributed to Lucienne Day. She died in 2010 at the age of 93.
My next self directed brief involves pattern design. I am now extremely humbled and very daunted by the task, but equally inspired. I hope to produce a range of patterns and colour ways appropriate to commercial manufacture. This insight has given me a great starting point and helped define the direction I’d like to take.