Storytime at Decorex 2017

Decorex is renowned as London’s premier interior decoration event, and its aisles are populated by the cogniscenti of the interior design world searching for new ideas.
Revisiting the show I was excited to see that Decorex is encouraging smaller design companies to exhibit, and rather than sticking them in a dingy corner of the show, they are interspersed amongst the established brands.

Fanny Shorter, for instance, has a beautiful collection of hand printed linens, bold in colour and exquisitely drawn. Not for Fanny the current trend of photo-montage and digital printing, hers is a truly personal collection of designs inspired by the stories of Gerald Durrell and the island of Corfu.

Story telling is also part of Newton Paisley’s collection. Designer Susy Paisley is a biologist who has used her drawings to create a collection of prints that highlight the plight of endangered species. Glorious depictions of tropical creatures and plants printed on linen serve to preserve wild habitat through her collaboration with the World Land Trust. 

Baker & Gray‘ s collection is inspired by the lifelong travels of designer Sarah Baker. Prints and embroideries are derived from family heirlooms and plants forms from the African continent. Reminiscent of raw, untreated cloth the linens have an earthy elegance that harks back to a bygone age.

Smaller design companies have historically been limited in their collections by the prohibitive cost of print production. The evolution of digital printing has somewhat alleviated this problem, with shorter minimum print runs and the opportunity for affordable multi-colour printing.

It is, however, gratifying to see that the art of hand screenprinting is still very much alive and championed by small design companies. March & May handprint their collection of small scaled graphic printed fabrics in their Sheffield studio. Bicoloured or monochrome designs are all hand printed to order.

Designer and ceramicist Laura Hamilton is one of the Justin Van Breda Showroom’s new additions. Again these designs are inspired by a life well travelled, depicting plant forms of the Caribbean in their simple,pared back drawings, hand printed onto linen.

One of the more refined examples of digital printing in Decorex were the wallpapers of Boho &Co shimmering hummingbirds and delicate plants climb the wall reminiscent of traditional chinoiserie papers. The colours are get my contemporary, and the temptation to over design using digital artwork has been cleverly avoided.

One of the new companies launching at Decorex this year was Hunt & Hope not a print in sight, this company has rediscovered the art of traditional needlepoint and given it a fun twist. Camouflage and animal skin patterns are stitched by hand to commission ready for use on cushions, ottomans and accessories. A refreshing new approach to a traditional art.It is refreshing to see these and other small businesses thriving in the tough world of the interior decoration industry.

Labour’s of love…

I have been periodically revisiting this beautiful vintage needlepoint tapestry of wild birds over the past few months, adding my hand beaded embellishment, and searching for the perfect reverse cloth for the cushion. Thankfully the Guy Goodfellow Collection has just launched a new emerald courway of their popular Fez Weave which coordinates perfectly, so at last the cushion is finished!

Real Dirty Blue

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Private View of Central St Martin’s exhibition ‘Real Dirty Blue‘ this week. It is a show of textile design from Central St Martins’ past and current staff and graduates, with many pieces being pulled from the little known archive of textile design held at the college in Kings Cross, London. The title ‘Real Dirty Blue’ is inspired by textile designer Joyce Clissold’s dye book from which a sample colour, labeled ‘real dirty blue’, has been recreated for the show.

It was lovely to see so many familiar faces milling around the gallery after having taken a break from the hectic world of international textiles for a while. As was said in the opening speeches, “If someone dropped a bomb on the building tonight, the great and the good of the British Textile design world would be wiped out!” The heritage of Central St Martins’ Textile courses is one of ground breaking creativity, good design and innovation. This is evident in the selection of work exhibited in the college’s Lethaby Gallery. The work dates from 1927 to the present and encompasses the full gamut of textile design and technology explored throughout this period, from the experimental laser cut techniques of Laura Baker, who works with traditional substrates such as silk, and recycled materials to the original wood blocks of Joyce Clissold, one of the great doyennes of the textile world.


Laura baker
Laura Baker

It was a great pleasure to see the innovative work of Philippa Brock who has been developing multi-layered woven structures. These  are concertinaed to form delicate geometric 3D shapes. Philippa is also a co-leader with Jo Pierce, of the Houndstooth Studio, which is a textile and material future research and development studio. They have worked on the Houndstooth project, specifically designed to be inclusive and egalitarian by including people from all walks of life in their workshops and projects.

Anne Marr and Rebecca Hoyes have collaborated to create new material hybrids, they have been working with fibre and ceramic processes to create glazed textiles, destined for incorporeation ito future home textiles applications. The collection of samples have been exhibited almost as a cabinet of curiosities. I love the simplicity of colour and basic forms of knots, braids and threads dipped in the ceramic coating.

Dipping back into the traditions of textile design as the majority of people know it, the botanical drawings and prints of Mary Harper date to 1960, and epitomise the semi-flourescent colouring and styling of the period, it is fascinating to see the transformation of her original botanical sketches through to the finished printed textile length on show in this exhibition.

There are so many examples of boundary pushing textiles in this exhibition it is impossible to mention them all, but I would thoroughly recommend a visit!

The Exhibition Real Dirty Blue runs until 1st April 2016

At The Lethaby Gallery, 1 Granary Square London N1C 4AA