poster proud

Every designer is likely to have a goal or two, a particular ambition to aim for. Last week I reached one of mine… I have designed posters for London Underground. They are up on the system as I write. I’ve been bursting to share the prospect that this may happen for several years, and now it’s real!

The underground poster archive at London Transport Museum is full of great examples of graphic design, with work by my heroes such as Edward McKnight Kauffer and Abram Games. These designers have inspired me in my quest to explore visual communication through print and pattern for as long as I can remember and now my design work is on the network hopefully catching the eyes of commuters in London, as theirs did.

I was pleased to be given the brief of ‘Parks and Gardens’ and was keen to move the visual qualities on from my Plot to Plate collection of kitchen gardens and parterres, although you may recognise in poster 3, ‘Community Gardens’ some of my motifs from that time. I have continued to play with elevations and perspective, while giving a polite nod to one of the other poster giants, Tom Purvis, whose poster I’ve had on a wall in our home for more than a decade, enjoying it every day. His series for LNER, ‘East Coast Joys’ appears to be made from cut out paper, the picture is made from flat colour in bold shapes. Having used this method for my commission for the Barbican last year I was keen to explore this again. You can see in my first cutout sequence I did begin to connect each poster to the next, as Tom Purvis had in his 6 LNER posters but I found this limited the scope for each poster composition in this instance.

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I began by gathering lots of imagery by making drawings and taking photographs and considered four different approaches to parks in London, one for each of the posters, from traditional activities such as rowing, to pitch & putt and the formal model boating lake. I wanted to create nostalgic content combined with a contemporary aesthetic. I remembered a hot day rowing on the Serpentine with a friend, I thought of many visits to Brockwell Park and all the different aspects of the ‘rooms’ it has within it. Greenwich was also an obvious one, Clapham Common and Hampstead Heath too. The posters represent lots of different aspects of parks, not four specific ones, and only one suggests a particular skyline looking across at the city.

Once the initial ideas were set I began to cut out the posters as general compositions, as well as single details / motifs to add. I combine both traditional drawing skills and digital manipulation in my practice, and this is how I worked here, scanning in paper drawings (cutouts) and subsequently working in Adobe Illustrator for final compositions / print artwork. I was able to make changes as required, including colour and motif placement options.

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As a designer I’ve always loved working across different surfaces and products, working with the industry experts in order to learn the best approaches and pitfalls of each context. Posters are large, but someone may look at it for less than a second… it needs to grab attention without being noisy. Large areas of pale colour might encourage graffiti… edges are as important as the centre, and so on. For people who have known my work for many years the look of the posters might not surprise, but my more recent work has been much more graphic, and understated so maybe some of you may not see these as so clearly of my handwriting. Let me know what you think!

Once I was told the posters were going up I had to go and find one. Luckily I was in London for the Design Festival so with wide-open eyes I took to the system and eventually found my first one at Embankment. I’m not sure I can put in to words what that felt like – I wanted to point and shout they were mine! The ticket barrier chap kindly took a picture of me alongside ‘playing a round’. Later that day I came across two more at Euston, and friends have let me know their sightings too!

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Design projects can take a long time to get to fruition, it is not unusual for years to pass. This can be frustrating when you want to shout out and tell everyone what you’ve been doing in the studio each week. I am always mindful of what I can share on social media, respecting my clients who might want to have control over a specific product launch. Now the posters are up I’m delighted and proud to shout about it… let me know if you see one on your travels!

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You can also buy them from the London Transport Museum shop.

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Sissinghurst in full bloom

We had a great day out at National Trust’s Sissinghurst gardens in Kent last week even though the weather gave us several seasons in one day. It has been a number of years since my last visit and I’ve spent those years becoming more of a gardener, and launched my Plot to Plate collection of garden inspired patterns in that time so my reasons for observing, taking photographs and drawings have changed. The planting was fantastic; the combinations of colours and textures in particular were stunning. Here’s a few examples:

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the patterns of 2014

It’s been one of the years I shall remember as particularly busy, continuing to juggle the commitments of family life, my roles as artist, designer, lecturer and of course allotmenteer, and the small matter of a big Birthday. All the time spent doing any one of those things provided opportunities to spy inspiration, food for thought and visual stimuli for me so having looked back over the last twelve months I have enjoyed creating a record of the patterns I’ve seen. The record includes family holidays, research trips, and days out; from the school sports day track, Birthday celebrations, to the rivets in the railway bridge, the stately home and the walk to work, it’s a record of some of what I saw in 2014.

Key themes appear: geometry, stripes and railings and although in a chronological order, there are some great pairings in terms of colours, textures and pattern.

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Wallpaper in the creating…

The process of designing my first commercially available wallpaper has been a long & highly considered journey and one I thought would be interesting to share.

Research: I first made drawings in my sketchbook last summer when I visited the National Trust property Hanbury Hall & Gardens in Worcestershire. I really liked the formal parterre and saw a really close link between garden design and textile design – I wrote about this in a previous blog post: https://katefarley.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/pattern-design-outdoors-and-in/

Composition: Sketches became drawings that became more detailed designs, that were then tested in repeat by scanning them in to the computer and using Photoshop. Edge details, scale of motifs, pattern and textural rhythm all needed to be considered.

Cutting the block: I measured and cut the lino block before taking a really clean print in order to scan the print in to work digitally with the repeat tile.

Editing: Further refinements, several print outs and more alterations took place over several weeks as I got used to seeing and living with the design. Additional lino blocks were cut in order to add different motifs to the design. Additional variations across the larger repeat file create visual interests and a play on the traditional repeat expectations. Some tweaks were so minimal that people unfamiliar to the design wouldn’t be able to spot the changes without having them pointed out, but it’s so important that every dot, dash and space has been considered before the production process is underway, saving time and lots of money.

Production: The digital artwork was sent off to the manufacturers of the roller in order for the design to be printed, and a technical proof was sent back for my approval – exciting and scary times!

Colours: Much thought, research, trying and testing went in to the colour combinations and I painted lots of colour chips using gouache in order to communicate the choice to the printer.

Printing: After signing off the colour proof provided by the printer, the wallpaper went in to production, labels were designed and printed, rolls created.

Results: I’m delighted with the results, the efforts by all those involved with the production process, and look forward to launching this at TENT London very soon.

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A new design: working it all out

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.

 

Pattern design, outdoors and in…

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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Colours for the arrival of BST

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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