Makers Tales at the Guy Goodfellow Showroom

This week sees the official launch of the ‘Makers Tales’ series of artisan showcases in the Guy Goodfellow Collection Showroom in Chelsea, London.

Sarah Burns, who works under the name ‘Dora Fabrics‘ is a devotee of natural dyestuffs and has spent the last few years searching for native plants in the fields and hedgerows around her Sussex studio on the South Downs, and experimenting to develop an array of sumptuous colours that you would never imagine coming from plants such as the humble Ash tree or bramble.

Sarah escaped her life in the city working as an economist to follow her creative dreams, and re-trained as a printed textile designer, moving out of London to the idyllic countryside of Sussex. 

The designs in the Dora Fabrics collection are reminiscent of 1950’s woodcut prints; simple, graphic designs that originate from Sarah’s observations of her local surroundings. The graphic qualities of the prints are belied by the gentle colour palette created from the naturally dyed base cloths that Sarah creates.

For the ‘Makers Tales’ show Sarah has dyed sumptuous lengths of crunchy silk with dyes from the weld plant, which gives a glowing warm yellow, walnut and Ash bark which has given a rich pewter grey-green. Colours change depending on the mordant (or fix) that is used and on the fabric base, so Sarah’s dye recipe books are like a bible of invaluable observations.

When talking with Sarah, the joy of what she does is infectious and luckily for us she offers courses in dyeing where we can all experience the excitement of the unknown, foraging for plants, chopping, boiling and testing to our heart’s content in the fresh air of the Sussex countryside. Coming away with ranges of colour swatches and a new found respect for nature’s incredible bounty.

Of course, if you don’t fancy the process of dyeing then Sarah can be commissioned to create lengths of hand dyed linen or silk to suit your colour scheme, but be aware that the nature of the method means that you may need to wait until a particular plant comes into season, as in the world of Dora Fabrics Mother Nature dictates the seasons and their colours!

Sarah can be contacted via:

The show runs until the 14th June 2017

London Design Week Trends

London’s Chelsea Harbour Design Centre was celebrating London Design week with the crème de la crème of London’s interior textile showrooms launching their new fabric and wallpaper collections to the trade.  From an overwhelming array of design inspiration I have picked out some themes that  emerged as I made my way through champagne sipping, canapé nibbling, interior designers and buyers in the pristine showrooms!

A return to nature was evident across many collections, including Sanderson where the design studio has been busy out in the countryside sketching woodland plants and creatures for their new ‘Woodland Walk’ collection! Embroidered feathers wafted gently across silk in the Osborne and Little showroom on the King’s Road, as if just shed by a passing bird to form a swirl of plumes, and Manuel Canovas had stylised feathers in their collection too. The delicately painted floral design in the Harlequin showroom, whilst not typically ‘English’ in its flower forms, certainly gives the feel of a soft frosted tangle of wayside flowers.

Hedgerow fragmentshedgerow fragments

Cole & Son Wallpapers led the trend for design inspired by mineral surfaces and formations, Their stunning ‘Quartz’ design was inspired by the 2009 Turner prize nominee Roger Hiorns’ crystal encrusted south London Flat, whilst the sequinned embroidery of Sahco Hesslein evokes seams of precious minerals across rich grey silk. Osborne and Little have joined the current trend for rich velvets, producing a sumptuous printed malachite effect  which is contrasted by the industrial chic metallic surfaces of Harlequin’s wallpaper collection.

Mineral Elements

Elements and Minerals

The blowsy florals of the 1950’s are resurfacing with a vengeance in the home furnishings world. Designer’s Guild have launched a new collection of ‘Couture Rose’ designs, comprising of windblown Rose stems, Orchids and Irises. The mid-century glamour is epitomised by the loose brushwork of the Designers Guild signature style. Long recognised as the home of beautiful floral prints, Sanderson has revisited some of it’s classic designs in its ‘Vintage 2 ‘collection, bouquets of Sweet Williams and classic pink roses against a stark black and white stripe, hark back to the classic designs of Sanderson’s origins. Jean-Paul Gaultier has created a floral design inspired by the masters of botanical floral art. The photographic reproduction of old masters are mixed with his signature sailor stripe in a clever envelope cushion design.

Windblown floralswindblown florals

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