As a young student in the 1990s I became aware of the amazing Asafo flags of the Fante, from Ghana. I’d seen an article in a magazine in the college library about an exhibition on at the time, and unable to afford the trip to London I telephoned Peter Adler, curator of the exhibition, as his number was listed in the article, to share my enthusiasm. I’m not sure what I thought I’d achieve but we did have a conversation and I was inspired to find out more about the colourful appliqued flags.


What struck me about the flags was the bold shapes of animals and people that were communicating warnings to other units of warriors of the Fante people. Proverbs such as ‘The crab is feared for its claws’, or ‘Fish grow fat for the benefit of the crocodile’ attempt to ridicule the rival warrior groups and set a tone of fear, as if toying with opponents. With influence from the European flags they had seen as adventurers explored West African coastlines and from international trading ships the flags also featured elements of geometric borders and the Union Jack. I like the stylised imagery, but particularly the visual communication of a story in one textile image. I remember I wrote an essay on the subject for a Contextual Studies assignment and I went to great lengths to dye fabric and create my own textile illustrations and book cover – I still have it somewhere.

I’ve shared images of the flags with many groups of students over the years, but as I write a research paper on the subject of visual communication in pattern I am once again reminded of these beauties, and back I go, to the wonderful book: Asafo! African Flags of the Fante, written by Peter Adler and Nicholas Barnard in 1992, published by Thames and Hudson. I recommend this really informative book.



When walking from Cheltenham railway station to the town the other week along the off-road path I came across some graffiti in an underpass that reminded me of the flags, and particularly in the way the animals were used to goad. The images felt as if they were provoking and taunting rival groups by showing off their prowess in the way the artwork of the Asafo flags did. I could imagine the jibes represented in the images of the cats, and in the way the badger is attempting to deflect the attention away from his kind, to the lizards, maybe another urban tribe. I’ll share the images here.


Asafo flags, scans of the pages from the book by Peter Adler & Nicholas Barnard, referenced in the text

Cheltenham graffiti, photograph by Kate Farley

We’ve been treated to some clear blue sky days over the last few weeks and this makes the transition from summer to autumn a bit more tolerable. I always hate having to acknowledge that the summer warmth has gone for another year, and that the plot has given us most of the harvest for the year. We will wait for the frosts before we dig the parsnips, but I’ve gathered the squash and picked the final runner beans we will eat. The last of the sweet peas still offer their scent, but their strength of colour has passed. It’s a constructive time at the plot as we take down the netting, pull up the spent corns and clear ground for new anticipation.

Poppies, marigolds and nasturtiums still bloom such strong summer colours, daring the frost not to strike for a few more nights… I have my fingers crossed too…


After months of planning, designing, making, printing, promoting and talking about the show… the time finally came… TENT LONDON! With very heavy bags, a display diagram, carefully planned tool kits, shelves, fabrics rolled, and so much more we set off to Brick Lane, London to put the show up. Our lives with small children are full of logistics, and this day tested us! Trains, tardy paint, luggage & childcare kept us busy and in relay between London and Birmingham so the show could take shape. By the end of the first day the majority of display items were on the right walls, fixed securely, and I headed home to the midlands.

The next day…. I set off again with ANOTHER heavy bag (these things don’t always get mentioned in trade show prep talks!) and completed the stand dressing, including the mood board for ‘construct’. It always takes longer than you think… I attached the vinyl, tidied up and left for a good nights sleep before the LONG first day of 10am – 11pm!


The first day of a launch / show is always exiting and scary. Will people understand the new work, and will they like it? This particular morning was not helped by being stuck in a lift across town with my dear sister and only what sounded like a fax machine to talk to. Eventually after 20 minutes we were told the lift engineer couldn’t get the door open, “you are in a precarious position”!!! I’m not sure what customer care training he had received about talking to distressed people stuck in a lift. For anyone in this job, do not use the word ‘precarious’! We got out after nearly half an hour…

For the rest of the day I felt half an hour behind, but I launched my new collection with free limited edition screen prints which appeared to be gladly received by visitors. The collaboration with Formica Group was a really popular element to my new collection, and the mood board featuring my drawing tools as preliminary artwork inspired lots of really interesting conversations. Being a solo designer can be a very lonely, self-reflective existence so it’s great to get feedback from those you design the work for. Architects, interior designers, specifiers, stylists, press, retailers and many more visitors invested time to talk about all elements of my work, and for that I’m grateful. ‘Plot to Plate’ was launched in 2012 and has evolved over time to be a ready to buy interior and gift collection but ‘construct’ works differently. Only the cushions are available for immediate sale, and the rest is printed to order to allow for the distinctive element of the collection, the bespoke production. By working with Formica Group and Surface View my designs have been printed on a range of surfaces for the residential and contract markets.

When designing the stand I had to consider what I wanted to communicate and who I wanted to relate to. Over the years I’ve refined the ideas of what I want to do and the contexts in which I thrive creatively and this design show gave me the opportunity to put that understanding across. It was important to explain that I have lots of experience of creating bespoke pattern for clients and having just designed a new pattern for David Mellor celebrating the ‘Pride’ cutlery this was a great thing to show. It was really well received and orders have already been dispatched!


It is very hard work minding a stand of your own, by yourself for several days. Every show I’ve done has been helped by the wonderful community of fellow stand holders nearby and this year at Tent London was no different. I met kind and sharing exhibitors I hope to stay in touch with, and I will certainly watch and support their practices on social media with interest. Thanks to you!

I’ve written this previously too, but as ever, I was visited by past students of mine from both my CSM teaching days as well as BCU Textile Design graduates, some visiting to inform their practices, others in their roles in industry. It makes me proud! I am also pretty good at spotting students and as long as they don’t just grab the postcards I support their efforts and questions as they are being proactive and engaging with the industry. London Design Festival offers something for any creative so it’s good to support the next generation.

Last year I made a dress using one of my new prints, and I did the same this year, much to the delight of the Tent London ladies! It was a great way to demonstrate the flexibility of my print designs, and a good way to make conversations; it became my uniform.

I also won a design competition for tote bags at the show to be printed with a ‘construct’ placement print, so some lucky people have a very limited edition screen printed bag!

The end of the show has mixed blessings. After a long few days and months of preparation it’s great to have achieved a strong show – many kind people commented on how good my stand looked, but it also means the adventure is over, and it’s sad taking the show down, packing it up and saying farewells. Even in a few days routines are created. We struggled back on the trains with what we measured later as being 59Kgs of exhibition and assorted support luggage between two of us, ready to follow up the contacts made…. and to sit down!

So what have I learned?

  • I learned that I really am making the work that I want to make, and did manage to communicate that with the right people.
  • I’m really proud of both collections, and am delighted at the reception that ‘construct’ received
  • and latch hook rug making! I learned how to make a rug and now know why they cost so much… but really enjoyed making it… with British wool!
  • I learned how important it is to take risks, to put work out there to be judged… to keep learning

Thanks to all those involved: family helpers, the Tent team, Formica Group, Surface View, fellow exhibitors and for everyone who came to visit.


I’ve always started designing by picking up some sort of drawing tool, and exploring ideas that will have been developing in my head for some time. Concepts of pattern and purpose as well as communicating an idea using pattern is what really inspires me, this is no different for ‘construct’. A stunning image of lace in a book I was looking at while researching for one of my textile lectures on historical design caught my eye and an idea joined with other ideas of print looking like weave, as many people commented that my Plot to Plate VVV design did (left hand side of first image), when I was at Tent London in 2014. The seeds were sown.


I’ve never hidden my loathing for faux surface / material effect pattern such as printed wood effect flooring. Why do we have to lie, why can’t there be another stunning and suitable design alternative?! With this is mind I’ve played with the idea of taking textiles as a starting point for this collection with the intention of subversively adding textile-derived pattern to other surfaces but in an evocative statement rather than a digital print of textiles. This is not a collection that copies textiles, rather that textiles suggests a way to draw; provides a set of rules to begin playing with. The title ‘construct’ is a reference to constructed textiles such as weave, knit and lace but also refers to the putting together of a new way of thinking about pattern for surface, building a collection that has been designed to cross material specifications and provide bespoke solutions.

Having been working on my Plot to Plate collection and related prints for the last five years it was a big challenge to start from scratch and move away from the safety of a kitchen garden, but I was also excited about the challenge. I’d been working on some other pattern commissions and revisited drawing processes that had got me thinking. I didn’t rush to get somewhere; I designated studio days to play with thread, ink and paper. I created a sketchbook of so many ideas and directions but eventually I began to formalise ideas and work out which direction felt right for the collection. Some of the other directions have already been moved on to commercial projects, and the others I’ll revisit over the years as and when.


I usually sample patterns in black and white so I’m not swayed by colour rather than the success of the pattern. Having said that I was really adamant that blue was going to feature. Right from the beginning I was thinking of the strong Mediterranean blue of Greek churches, and the Blue Nude series by Matisse. Strong colour has been making a presence in interiors for a while, influenced by key exhibitions and trends. I knew I wanted to stay well away from Memphis colour palette and the reworking of 1980s colours. Sonia Delaunay has also inspired many designers and retailers thanks to the striking show at Tate Modern. I’m aware of trends, I have to be as an academic who teaches textile design, but I’ve never been inspired to follow them. I have my own creative path I’m on and I also would like my patterns to exist well beyond a season or two. Having said that one has to be aware of what drives buyers in retail to spend their money and for some it is likely to be informed by trends.

As those of you who have read more than this post might know, I like cutlery, and I can’t help laugh that the drawing tool that I’ve come to love is a sort of handmade fork! I’ve made many for this collection and they are so simple and inexpensive but all made by me to create exactly the right sized marks and the right sort of line. I’ve definitely got better at them. Weeks of testing many design structures and resulting rhythms left me with pages of patterns and the need to edit. Further weeks and I decided to test some screen printing on to fabric. Although I knew this collection was going to explore alternative surfaces I wanted it to work on fabric too. The weave of some of the fabrics was too dominant, and the scale of some of the patterns was less successful. Really valuable sampling!


KF Construct_blog_p2

I’d contacted and discussed collaborations with choice companies relating to my ambitions for the collection and it was very exciting to sample on a range of substrates. I really wanted to embrace the ‘bespoke’ capacity that several manufacturers in Britain offer as a way to provide interior designers and architects for example, a choice for their clients. Choosing from off-the-shelf surfaces is not always exciting – there are exceptions! I wanted this to be a collection of pattern in anticipation of the product. Ten years ago I was a winner in the Formica ‘design a laminate’ competition and it felt good to be in discussions with a company with such a strong heritage for pattern. Surface View also demonstrate a contemporary approach to wallcoverings and surface pattern, enabling me to discuss my intentions for the collection and the concept of bespoke production and it being met by expertise and clarity. Having carried out several public art commissions over the years I’ve become used to discussing colour systems and file types, tweaking of production elements to manage the different industry requirements. It’s good to have that experience behind me.


So here I am as Tent London is underway and I am extremely proud of the patterns that have made it to the final collection. There are repeat designs, small and larger scaled rhythms and placement patterns featured across the collection including a particular Tent London tote bag competition…. There are hand printed cushions ready for shop shelves or customers’ sofas and contemporary bespoke pattern for those wanting a graphic pattern rather than printed granite in their lives. The patterns can be licensed and collaborations can be discussed. Alongside all of this in order to fully convey the concept of the collection I’ve learned the skill of latch-hook rug making and committed many hours to mastering the skill of constructing pattern in yarn – not natural for me as a printer! I’ve sampled laser cutting and etching to varying degrees of success, I’ve made a dress for the show featuring ‘flow’ AND I’ve screen printed two limited editions of prints for launch day.

I’m interested to find out how it is received after so many solo months of nurturing, worrying and wondering. It’s time to let the pattern do the communicating…. do let me know what you think!


Two years ago I produced a bespoke pattern design for David Mellor Design celebrating the ‘Chelsea‘ salad servers that Creative Director Corin Mellor, (David’s son) had designed. The pattern was screen printed on to tea towels, being a highly appropriate product for the cutlery, and they continue to sell very well through the David Mellor shops and their online store. I took inspiration from the Hathersage factory and the production methods used for the making of the cutlery pieces. I like the fact that Corin sees and appreciates the relevance of the design to his company. Although I can create pattern for pattern’s sake, I am really interested in pattern that belongs to particular brands, to communicate a belonging, of distinctiveness.

This summer I was delighted to be contacted again by Corin as the buying team were keen to add a new pattern. Starting any new commission is exciting as the conversations about the intentions of the artwork, the concepts that need building on, the production methods, colour and material choices, expectations and of course… deadlines!

With all of that taken care of I received a beautiful box of cutlery to draw from. Corin had decided he wanted to celebrate his father’s first cutlery, Pride, designed in 1953. It is so elegant, beautiful to hold, and a joy to draw from let alone to eat from! I worked the same way I had done before, developing sketches and informal compositions, working up motifs and rhythms in a sketchbook first before generating final drawings and paper cut outs to scan to digital artwork.


I work across a number of software packages depending on what is required, and always bearing in mind the final artwork requirements for production. It matters right from the beginning whether the production method is traditional printing or digital as I will design accordingly, limiting numbers of colours in the design if required, and using colour in the most appropriate way. This summer with several design projects on the go I’ve worked with Pantone references, RAL, NCS, pigment ink swatches and CMYK values. For this project we used British Standard colour relating it to other products that are stocked by David Mellor Design but I had to convert it to modern day language!

Having completed a few different designs I sent them through to Corin and his buying team and was of course really pleased when they got back to me with the same choice as me. I’ve learned never to send anything I’m not quite happy with or proud of, as that will be the one the buyer picks! Sampling and production were the next steps as well as designing the new swing tag to suit both the “Chelsea’ and the Pride tea towels. I screen print these in my studio on to beautiful G.F. Smith paper.

I’ve worked with the same fabulous British company to screen print textile products several times before and it’s always a delight to take a further project to production with them. They understand that it’s not that I’m fussy, but rather ‘particular’ about details, and we work together well. Signing off proofs, forwarding woven designer logo tags to be sewn in and waiting for the order delivery sees the weeks go past, and very soon there will be two patterns of cutlery.


I’m a cutlery fan any day of the week, and this really has been a fabulous commission to work on. To create a pattern for a client where the design relates to the product it is destined for, and its job is to visually communicate the heritage, culture and ethos of the company is a very fine challenge to take on. Proud of Pride!

Keep an eye out for ‘Pride’ in the David Mellor shops next month…

I’ve combined my academic career with my art and design practice since the late 1990s and I’ve felt that each informs the other. Some weeks I’ve wished there were more hours for one than the other, but the two occupations are, for me, valuable and complementary to each other.

My art and design practice is one of learning, journeying and discovering new ways to look, to draw, to interpret the world about me in a visual, drawn or printed language. I feel as if I’m on a really long adventure that won’t stop until I get put in a box. Each commission, or self-established project offers a small experience that builds the bigger lesson that takes me further along that creative path to who knows where. Facilitating the discovery of this excitement in creative exploration is what drives me to teach students in Higher Education.

I have recently visited the excellent Peter Green exhibition: Sixty years of printmaking, at Mascalls Gallery, Kent (the exhibition has just finished I’m afraid), which got me thinking…  It was made clear in the design and content of the show (St. Judes and Emma Mason Gallery with Mascalls Gallery) that Peter combined his printmaking career with an academic one, and a high achieving one at that.

Printmaking is such a physical experience, and although simple in principle, the intricacies of a process and resulting prints can be hard earned. The exhibition of Peter Green’s work really demonstrated the pleasure of investigation, of material, colour and surface quality, not as passing ideas, but as a sustained dialogue between practitioner and process, and between ink and paper. The exhibition showed the drawings, the printing plates, the tools, the sampling and final resolutions. Peter’s vast experience and significant creative journey was evident; and through the exhibition I felt as if he is teaching us to learn from him, not for the technique, but for the commitment and value of doing and pursuing something. I believe that this is fundamental in teaching, whether in formal education or not.


It was interesting to read in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition that he said, “knowledge is about common ownership […] we should learn from each other.” This is how I feel about my relationship with education. We should not be masters to preach the skills and experience, but instead we could share in the experience of learning together. That’s not to deny that someone needs the skills and experience in the first place, but the attitude of someone like Peter who clearly enjoys the creative journey will inspire those a step or two behind him. I think it’s important that those who teach are also those who do.


I strongly believe that there are no short cuts, or right answers along the path of art and design. There is no ‘one’ way of doing things. Sadly, so many students come through school thinking they are looking for the tick in the box, the correct result. We try at degree level study to nurture in them the understanding that you learn far more by investigating, questioning and journeying, rather than heading straight for one destination. This is again echoed in Peter’s investigative approach to printmaking – the finding out along the way is as important as the final state.

I read in the catalogue that Peter had moved away from wood engraving as a process as it required a more calculated journey and pre-determined images. I think I work like this too, looking to uncover the solution rather than to execute the obvious, not with wood but as a designer. This makes me think of new or less experienced teachers over-planning and worrying about the outcome of a session; what the students will achieve at the end, as a tangible result. Those with more experience and confidence in their teaching and the learning experience can take risks with that journey of learning and therefore participate rather than dictate. This sounds comparative to Peter’s more recent prints that evolve over time without the planning, but with an open-ended investigation. The exhibition celebrates sixty years of Peter printmaking [today in collaboration with wife Linda], so with such a busy and extensive journey the prints are an exciting archive of process and investigation, with common themes, colour relationships and familiar motifs in evidence during this time, as well as textile designs more recently in collaboration with St. Judes.

No doubt those of us who live with creative practices do so for many reasons, and those of us who teach will each tell of reasons why we do too. The combination of a creative practice and a teaching role is, in my mind, a really good combination, a two-sided relationship, where hopefully the give and the take work themselves out for the benefit of all! Thanks to Peter for reminding me of that good partnership as we embark on another academic year…


Thanks to Simon Lewin of St. Judes for permission and access to the images of Peter Green’s prints:

top: Welsh Landscape No.1 1960

middle: Red Night 1963

bottom: Evening Estuary 2013

Useful links:

It’s the holiday season and we’ve been taking part. A camping trip to the Lake District offered a dramatic difference to the usual scenery we live within here in the Midlands, and it was refreshing change for being so. Everywhere seemed so green, really really green, not just the local park green but intense, vivid greens that lush meadows could offer. Naturally with that comes rain, but even then the colours were vibrant. Lichen was glowing, moss saturated, even the sheep were blue! Some colours took me back to studio projects, Pantone references, British Standard colours and colour choices, others offered a welcome diversion.The strange thing is, that when I compiled the image to include with this post the images looked really grey, but it really wasn’t like that through my eyes!

This change of scene is just what the mind needed after an intense workload juggling several design projects and at the end of a hectic academic year. I like what the seasons do to us, make us adapt and notice the time passing. This time of year feels like a celebration, as harvests ripen in the sun (ummm..) and we prepare for a new season of productive design work, education and research.

I shall remember the vivid greens, the birds circling overhead in the sky of blue; the vast views that some people get to enjoy day in day out. I shall remember the feeling of change, and rest, and stopping just for a short while, as a warm memory in the depths of winter when working in the studio. I am bound by the academic year, as well as the seasons on the allotment, the trade show calendar, and birthdays, as so many people are. It’s good to recognise the rhythms and differences brought on by change. Hooray for holidays!



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