Sunday, 29 November 2009

Block Printing

A few weeks ago I visited a number of wallpaper and fabric factory's in the north of England. It was very interesting to see the many different printing machines and processes, but one of the highlights was seeing the original wood blocks of William Morris, along with the simplistic, wallpaper printing machine (below), which these blocks are still sometimes printed on today. The image above, shows the block from the design 'Larkspur'. This was the monochrome version designed by Morris in 1872 and cut into pearwood. Here the block is composed only of wood, but for some of the more intricately patterned blocks, metal was used as well as, and later in place of wood. Below is a block from his design 'Apple' (1877)  showing this intricate metal detailing.

the foot operated wallpaper printing machine...

My interest in block printing originated during my degree in printed textiles at Camberwell School of Art and Crafts (as it was then) in London between 1982-5. Here we were taught traditional print skills such as block and screen printing. Allowed only to use black and white for our entire first year, while learning to stretch screens, mix dyes, cut blocks, dye yarns and fabrics, thread simple warps etc. The emphasis primarily, was placed very much on developing skill both in craft and in drawing. Only in the second year did this lead into an introduction and practical study of colour. Reminiscing about this recently - I remembered how fed up we felt at the time to not be able to use colour and it was only much later that I could appreciate the discipline of using black and white to learn the value of tone, contrast, texture and line.

One of our visiting lecturers was the textile printer Susan Bosense. Encouraged to start printing herself through her connection and friendship with Dorothy Barron and Phyllis Larcher, two leading British hand block printers working in the 1920's and 1930's, she in turn, inspired and encouraged many textile designers to set up their workshop and start printing.  Her invaluable book 'Hand Block Printing and Resist Dyeing' was published by David and Charles in 1985.

It is not really surprising, that when, during my final year, I won a Royal Society of Arts travel award, I decided to spend one year in India studying wood block printing. Initially, I spent time at various block printing factories outside Delhi, later I travelled off the tourist trail, to places, such as Barmer in Rajasthan to study the specialized block printing traditions of these towns, which were often incredibly basic.  In Barmer (vegetable Azarakh printing), I witnessed block printing using boards which were placed on the printers lap as he sat on the ground,  the fabric dried quickly in the sun and the metreage of fabric was passed along the board as the fabrics were printed. Often, as I recall, three or four colours were printed in this way!

Barron and Larcher and Susan Bosence's fabulous block printed fabric books were originally kept at the Holburne of Mentrie Museum in Bath, where I first saw them in the 1990's. Today these inspirational collections are held at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham and well worth a visit!

(below, a detail from one of my own lino cuts - 'Chrysanths')


Saturday, 10 October 2009


There was such a buzz going on during the London Design festival and especially at 100%design this year. Thank you to everyone who visited our stand. Just been so busy with follow-up - plans to open the showroom/gallery space here in Devon in December (?!) think Modern Rustic... re-working one or two details in the designs before the print run next week sending out samples etc.  ....well a few of my inspirations at 100% ... 

100% Norway  -use of natural material and technology strikes a chord, chatting to Thelermont Hupton - about their curves from straight lines on their arresting oversized wardrobe. NCS Colour - an enlightening conversation about colour theories with Caroline Leask from NCS,  Mix - One of my favourite Interior trend magazines and of course 100% materials where I grabbed as much time as possible stroking, squeezing and wondering at up to the minute new and inventive materials. Unfortunately there is hardly a moment to see very much and the intensity of so many quality exhibits coupled with the general exhaustion, means that there are only one or two stand out pieces that remain with you when you are back in the studio. The New English charmed me as I passed by and remains on my mind. Finally in our position near the Blueprint stand - I really enjoyed watching the intense concentration on the faces of people designing for the Blueprint / Claystation Interactive chair competition and such a clever and simple idea of Olof Hannson to reverse the grey / white grid on squared paper to enable scanning, faxing, copying - brilliant!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Hot off the Press

Yes our very hottest new product to be premiered at 100% Design... Chair Squared!

these stylish limited edition dining chairs are made from pressed beech veneer with a printed melamine design.

Phew! Rushing to leave now for 100%, it's 9.29am on Tuesday morning and my deadline for leaving is 9.30! We hope you will come and visit our Stand no. D41 (click here for a floorplan) and we look forward to seeing clients both old and new..

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cork it up..!

The ultra dark shades in Farrow and Ball paints that look stunning with the cork are Tanners Brown, Pelt, Mahogany, and Railings in their range of estate emulsions. Having painted them as squares on the wall and experimented with different combination of the tiles and colours I will be exhibiting, I'm opting for the Railings (very dark blue grey) for my stand as it will show off the lines I'm allowing to be exposed between the cork panels to dramatic effect.

Putting them together as I have above - seems a really great idea for a strong graphic statement on a wall. The colours in the centre of the tiles optically challenge you, either by drawing the squares in or pushing them out. Sometimes the most stylish solutions happen by chance experimentation, usually this is outside the computer. It highlights the importance to creativity of balancing working on and off screen.

See the large panels I am showing at 100%Design 24/27 Sept. Stand no D41...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Pigment Content

Thank you to Barbara Chandler for picking my laser etched cork as one of five exhibitors at 100%Design at the cutting edge...
...I'm looking for a paint with a high pigment content and good environmental credentials to paint the stand at 100% and still create a cutting edge look with the laser etched cork. The Farrow & Ball and The Little Greene ranges of paint have a much higher pigment content than many other paint brands. This will not only give a greater colour depth, but can soften the appearance of objects. I've experienced this (more extreme) quality of high colour pigmentation when I visited an exhibition by Anish Kapoor in 1998, at the Hayward Gallery. Coating jagged rocks with pure pigment colour (as I remember), it's effect was to turn very hard edged objects that intellectually you knew would do serious damage to you if you fell onto them - into softened almost marshmallow like mounds... 

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Two Figs

An interesting project I have recently worked on was through a Glasgow based interior design company, Surface id. They had a client interested in a bespoke wallpaper for a restaurant opening in the West end of Glasgow. The brief was that the wallpaper should reflect the name of the restaurant "The Two Figs". Increasingly I am specialising in a niche area within the interiors market and providing a bespoke service to clients who are looking for a unique solution for their projects.
The ripe fig colours were to work with the Aubergine and Blue/Green of the leather upholstery within the bar and restaurant - these areas would have different colourways to create a different mood within each.
Currently working even on a callibrated computer screen creates huge colour problems in the transition from RGB to CMYK when a file goes to print. All of my fabric and wallpapers are printed digitally, sometimes in CMYK only, and sometimes with up to eight pigments. Over some of my further posts I will be looking at these issues in more detail.
I used CMYK process colour index references to match the colour within the designs to the upholstery leather and ensure that the colours of the figs and the outline of my pen and ink signature line as well as the background would print as accurately as possible.
The design included a woven textured ground to add interest in the background, as the wallpaper in the bar area was to cover a 5m+ span.
The restaurant opened a few weeks ago and has had great reviews - definitely worth a visit!

The wallpaper is intended as a vibrant conversation piece, here are a few extra images of the detailing within the design - in the bar colourway...

- and the restaurant...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

100% Design at London Design Festival

London Design Festival is fast approaching (19th - 27th September) and is a good opportunity to see some great design at venues around the capital. Although I am exhibiting at 100%Design I am hoping to get an opportunity to take a few hours off in order to see something of the other events. I am a big fan of Elle Decoration magazine and so thank you to them for including my Digital Hawthorn wallpaper in their article - 51 unmissable events at the London Design Festival! Come and see it in the flesh at 100% Design, Earls Court stand D41. Pre Register here!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Cork it!

Cork is making a comeback which is good news for the cork industry, suffering from the decline in use from the wine bottling industry. It's hardly surprising as it is a remarkable material. Not only is it sustainable - the cork bark is harvested without damaging the trees every 10 years - it is recyclable, resistant to water, has sound dampening qualities and is environmentally friendly. (for more info re. cork production and eco credentials click here) - Three years ago (during my MA at Bath Spa University), I began to experiment with laser etching onto cork tiles and paneling, convinced that cork tiles could shrug off their 70's reputation, be updated and become fashionable as an interior product once again.

The questions I asked were: What might be desirable in the future for cork as an interior wallcovering? and how as a designer might I influence and develop those possibilities?

Last year I showed the first prototype panel of the laser etched Cork at 100% Design with an intricate Bamboo design etched into the surface. Thank you to
Rebecca Proctor for her inclusion of my cork panel in her essential resource book 1000 Best Eco Designs published this year by Lawrence King.

To briefly describe the process - the laser etches or burns a line into the surface of the cork, which is inevitably black as it is a scorch line. There is a burnt smell to the cork initially after it has been etched but this disappears after a few weeks. The depth of the line and the scorch is determined by the distance the laser is from the material.
Visually the laser etching has the unexpected effect of both appearing to be a stitched line and also to seem to almost float above the surface of the cork caused by the outer scorch shadow that is created on the surface around the line. At 100%Design last year people were compelled to come and touch the cork - even so the cork surface which is naturally moisture repellent didn't discolour or get damaged.

The tiles can be customised to order with hand printed bespoke colours and metallics.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Shoreline colour

It has been raining such a lot again this July and August that it inevitably changes the levels of light and therefore the colour in the landscape. The light levels have seemed more like late Autumn than late August.

While I follow Trend colours looking at past and present inspirational magazines such as View on Colour, Interior View, Viewpoint, Bloom and Mix interiors, I am definitely influenced by the surrounding landscape here in North Devon and also the changing weather patterns

Last weekend after a walk on a pretty amazing beach and unexpectedly dry and sunny weather - see these atmospheric shots taken on the day by Chris Bowman who rarely forgets his camera luckily... Returning back to the squares2 design I had been working on I realised that the day had implanted its colour into my memory and intuitively I was including these (admittedly rather british grey) colours of the landscape into the design I had been working on.

Putting down the colours into squares from my memory initially as a colour reference, this is as I remembered and sent them to Chris - interested to see how they corresponded to the photographic record he had of the day.

Here's how I began interpreting the background grey palette for Squares design I had been working on.

Later adding stronger blue greys and finally as shown in the colourway below, added an accent blue that definitely isn't English seaside - not this year anyway.

Squares is one of the designs I will be exhibiting at 100%design at Earls Court 24-27 September, 2009 - pre-register at 100% design

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