I’ve created more designs than I can remember since I began ‘formal’ pattern making back in 1992. Some aren’t worth worrying about, some I’m still extremely proud of and some are still waiting for the right time to make their debut… (I can’t wait to show you some very special ones next year but I’m sworn to secrecy.)

Some designs work themselves out for themselves; I vividly remember shutting my eyes to get some sleep right in the middle of my final major project on my degree, when suddenly my mind spun in to action, and there in my mind was a design, colour separated and waiting to be drawn out for screen the very next day. Other designs I battle for days on, and eventually win through demonstrating more stubbornness than the design itself.  I don’t give up easily.

In all my designing, however hard or easy it was in the making, I aim for them to appear strikingly straightforward, as if they did just happen on their own. I was accused by a tutor for being lazy – he didn’t understand minimalism – when in actual fact, it’s far harder to let the negative space be as important as the motifs we can sometimes throw at a design like pennies to a pond. Space can be beautiful.

I’ve taken a slightly different direction to making the most recent patterns; some would argue they are more traditional, more formal, more fussy even. I’ve certainly battled with the minutiae. I thought it nice to share the journey a little, but do bear in mind, every dot, line AND space have been considered, reconfigured, tested, discussed and revised more times than I’m counting (and that’s before I even think about colour). I hope you like the results. The design will feature in my new work to launch at TentLondon in September, so watch this space.

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The image shows: initial sketch / proportions of the motif, repeat / rhythm testing of the drawing before the lino block is cut, the lino block being printed, and the final digital artwork. The inspiration is a mix of kitchen gardens and formal gardens of the National Trust.

 

The job of a freelance designer involves so many different tasks that many people with a variety of skills could be employed to keep the components of that designer’s working life going. Juggling what is needed to be done with what would be preferable to do is a tough call on some days. What is it that really makes that difference, to move the company vision forward? I could spend many hours a day sat in front of a screen communicating with manufacturers and stockists, preparing marketing and sales literature, and keeping the ever-growing consideration of social media alive.

There are times when it is so valuable to stop all of that and get back to what makes us creatives tick. There are personal risks involved with making; what if it’s rubbish? The fabulous ideas that roll round the head in the early hours, once realised, are open to harsh criticism in the light of the day – the danger of expressing ideas and developing new work. But for all of that it is so important to keep going back to the beginning, to test new ideas, stare at the blank white sheet of paper, take a deep breath and play – for my creative self!

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If you are a regular reader of this blog you will already know that for the last few years my personal design practice has been inspired by garden design, and most specifically allotments and kitchen gardens in my ‘Plot to Plate‘ collection, launched in 2012. I have spent many hours walking, almost patrolling, up and down rows of National Trust cabbages and onions, armed with my sketchbook, annotating the patterns, translating them to motifs, documenting the small irregularities, the planting plans, the labeling – fruit and vegetables up and down the country, as well as our allotment, plot 8 in Birmingham. Upton, Packwood, Baddesley Clinton, Blickling, Felbrigg, to name a few National Trust gardens I have surveyed and taken inspiration from. Hanbury is my current favourite garden and I have been working on a number of patterns inspired by this property that will one day be complete, to launch at Tent London this September.

It is with this in mind that I write my thoughts. There are so many similarities between garden design and textile design they seem perfect companions in my practice. Long before Mr W. Morris picked up a pencil the natural world of flora has been a dominant subject of inspiration for pattern in the home. Rather than the bouquets and sprigs, posies and trellis it is the formal gardens, the parterres and kitchen gardens that hold the structure and compositional language that we textile designers and design educators regularly refer to…

Stripes, spot repeats, all-overs and multi-directionals, geometric grids and diamonds, checks and plaids are all to see. And so it is, that it makes sense that I really have brought two things that I do enjoy together in my creative practice. It’s too early to share artwork for my new ‘Hanbury’ designs but I will share some garden pattern from Hanbury, and my ‘new’ fabrics by the metre, available very soon, in anticipation…

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Today we welcome British Summer Time and the weather has been kind. The colours of spring always seem so purposeful after the winter months, with pink trees and purple or yellow blankets of flowers spread across the parks. At the allotment the grass is rearing its greens, and yet the purple sprouting broccoli let us down. Today I celebrate the colours of our garden, noticing the yellows and purples as predominate hues.

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Evocative, technical, predictive, informative, for matching, mixing, ordering, cataloguing, of materials, surfaces, finishes, whims and traditions…

Working across the fields of surface design, textiles, public art and fine art I have come across many ways to represent colour in order to communicate qualities. Whether it be for perfecting a match for production, or generating an evocative palette for a client, each niche within the industry has its way of doing things. Black for the Northern Line, double yellow for no parking, gold for the winner, and red for wrong. From Global Color, to Farrow & Ball, Pantone to Berisfords the language of colour is key. Some give codes, other names, sometimes a swatch, others a smudge, universal, local, a science and an art!

Seductive, formal, in a book, or on a card, each help to create the colours in the world around us, and while the skills of the individuals choosing, producing and matching will no doubt be overlooked by most, may the colours continue to sing, calm, provoke and much more.

I’ve brought some of the various forms of colour I work with together to brighten up this grey, wet Monday in February.

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Despite us not having had snow yet this winter we have the pleasure of seasonal flowers that are so beautiful and distinctive, its time to celebrate them here, captured today on digital ‘film’.

I’ve drawn both the snow drop and the daffodil so many times over the years (mending from a broken elbow led me to a season of endless daffs drawings as a way to pass time) and yet each year they surprise me in their beauty. Is it too much to expect that spring will be just around the corner, and we can start this year’s digging?

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I’m used to gathering flowers and then drawing them over and over in order to learn more about their colours, shapes, forms and structures in order to develop imagery for prints and textile designs. At home this weekend we looked at flowers in a different way. We investigated last years plants that my daughter had pressed safely, and looked at them under the microscope that my son had become rather too keen on discovering inside the utilitarian wooden box it lives in.

We had great excitement as some rather plain plants revealed stunning patterns and textures and were disappointed when something beautiful at full-scale looked rather scary close-up. On trying to capture these images on camera the results were reminiscent of Len Lye animations and got me thinking about other ideas. Here’s a few images to share…

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