Last week Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum announced the completion of their eighteen month endeavor to digitize their entire collection. This puts 200,000 items at your fingertips, ready to browse by tag, color, and designer name. Or can just while away an hour (or two, or eight!) clicking on "Random." Here are a few of our favorites, turned up in a quick browse of the site. We love the "Space Walk" design on the upper right; what current event would you memorialize as a surface pattern design?
Guild Member Lotti Brown posted this book review on her blog, and generously allowed us share it here. We've added links to some of the design movements and names; interesting to see how many of these designers are still going strong! Thanks so much Lotti!
On looking through the book, my fears of eighties fashion faux-pas were, of course, eased - a combination of my own (clearly poor) fashion choices as a teen, and Marnie Fogg showcasing the crème-de-la-crème of eighties fashion prints.
In the introduction, Fogg describes how eighties fashions were loud – bright, bold and ostentatious – looking to new ideas and creativity to create the patterns that the public lapped up.
In Britain, London started to be seen as the centre of the ‘designer decade’ with eccentric and avant-garde ideas, combined with smaller-scale ‘craft’ print studios.
Italy produced the ‘Memphis’ design movement, which had a huge influence on the decade. Surface pattern design broke rules on colour and ‘good taste’ with bold, vibrant colours, and energetic, dissonant pattern and layout.
Fogg describes how the eighties was the decade for ‘celebration of excess’ and ‘unparalleled creativity’.
This section showcases a collection of bold, colourful and abstract prints, with texture given equal importance to colour and form.
Designers experimented with mark-making, and creative printing, and interdisciplinary design techniques.
My favourites in this style are the simple, textural, and hand-painted Liberty geometrics, with a more muted colour palette.
The eighties woman was powerful and glamorous. Her clothes were bold, colorful and ostentatious, with trompe l’oeil printed cords, tassels, and trims being very popular. Animal prints also helped to display a feminine power.
Aspirational occasion-wear was created with lavish, large-size pattern and embellishment, by design houses such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Adolfo, James Galanos, Karl Lagerfield, Gucci, Coco Chanel.
To be honest, this isn’t my favorite look, but I’m quite fond of the colorful, large-scale, patterned florals of Furphy Simpson, shown in the book.
Catch the Wave
Active wear became a business in itself in the 80s, as the public concentrated on creating the ‘body-beautiful’ and ‘feeling the burn’. The new popularity of the fabric Elastene or Spandex (such as Lycra) gave new opportunities to fashion print designers.
Surf, skateboard, and rave cultures influenced the popularity of bright and neon colours, tie-dye, and the ubiquitous ‘smiley face’ icon.
Tropical motifs were popular, often combined with the new trend for hand-drawn and hand-painted textures.
I love the richly patterned designs of the ‘Cote d’Azure’ furnishing fabric by Collier Campbell (shown in the book) which I feel has rather a beautiful, retro-inspired, 50s feel – and definitely a cool Riviera style.
Fogg writes that the fashionable eighties alternative to power-dressing was an elegant, avant-garde Italian label, Etro. Paisley patterns were their recognised look.
Other cultures and folklore began to be the inspiration for a growing alternative style, with eclectic tropical florals, animals and birds, in bold, simplified, and stylised juxtaposition.
I really love some of these designs, particularly those by designer Natalie Gibson, with fun and colourful, tropical motifs against dramatic backgrounds.
As the decade went on, the wild colours of the earlier years developed into simpler, two-colour prints, such as in the work of design partnership Furphy Simpson.
Fogg writes that classical Greek and Roman art were given a new look by eighties designers, such as Sue Timney, Grahame Fowler, and English Eccentrics. Neo-classical statues, maps, and architectures featured in the designs.
Colours tended to be more subdued than the wilder Urban Jungle, Glamazon and Neon Blitz styles.
Designers such as English Eccentrics also began looking back for historical inspiration, at medieval heraldic designs, architecture, and stained glass.
The very popular appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1986 inspired a new interest in the night sky, which was reflected in fashion prints at the time.
Georgina Von Etzdorf created artistic designs with rich colours, textures, and a baroque style in abstract form, concentrating, as many designers do these days, on the craft process of the design. The designs illustrating the book, by Georgina Von Etzdorf, are some of my very favourite designs of the decade, for the beautiful movement and energy in the swirling, colourful shapes, with surprising detail and texture in the complex designs.
As the eighties isn’t my favorite decade, I wasn’t expecting to be very impressed by the designs in this book – but I was wrong – and I very much enjoyed it, in spite of myself!
It’s true, there were designs I wasn’t so keen on, (but aren’t there in any decade?) but there were also plenty, too, that I really loved.
Reading more about the influences of the decade gave me a better appreciation of the design developments and inspirations of that period.
I really enjoyed seeing how innovations from eighties design have a bearing, still, on our design techniques of today:
the growing interest in the craft of design, the experimentation in the design process itself, and a new focus away from pure digital design - into including hand-drawn or hand-painted elements, and textures created from ‘real world’ multi-media techniques.
Of course, many eighties-style motifs and design styles are also popular at the moment, with abstract, textural prints, bold colours, and tropical prints all being very popular now, as well as a renewed interest in the patterns and influences of different cultures which, these days, are seen in juxtaposition with each other, rather than purely as separate trends.
In another exciting first for the Surface Pattern Design Guild, we'll be broadcasting tonight's meeting live. Our members from around the world will be able to join us via the Periscope app. To find out more about how to connect, step over the forums.
We're pleased to announce our next guest, Burt Kallandar of Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers. At our next meeting Mr. Kallander will speak about the history of wallpaper and where it's going now. He'll also speak of the challenges of owning a small design-centric business, and the struggles and solutions that arise along the way. And of course there will be wallpaper samples to admire!
Since their founding in 1979, Bradbury and Bradbury have become THE purveyor of the sort of elaborate "room sets" you might find in a loving restored San Francisco Painted Lady. You may be surprised then to know that Bradbury & Bradbury's line has now extended to include papers suitable for early to mid 20th century eras, from Art Deco, Atomic Age, and The Mod Generation! They've recently added a Japanese inspired collection too.
At the Fashion and Textile Museum in London is a surface pattern designers dream! The exhibit explores Liberty’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s.
Liberty, the iconic London department store, is celebrating it's 140th anniversary this year. Over 150 garments, textiles and objects demonstrate Liberty’s strong relationships with designers since 1875, from Arthur Silver of Silver Studio to collaborations with Jean Muir, Cacharel, Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood.
Surface pattern designer and blogger Modflowers has a lovely write up of her private viewing experience of the exhibit with no less a personage than Sarah Campbell! (Look for our upcoming book review of The Collier Campbell Archive) There are several up close photos of exhibits showing initial artists' sketches, alongside the finished designs on clothing. Talk about your ultimate Sketch Chronicle!
Is it too much to hope for an airplane ticket to London in our Christmas stocking?
During this time period computers were not used in the design process. It was all drawing, blowing up the image to life size and laying motifs out. Birtwell’s process specifically was to draw a face, then the garment below, only then would she begin to design the fabric. “Most textile designers don’t think about where the print will end up, how it will work in three dimensions, but Celia always does,” says Linda Watson.
After 10 years in the fast paced fashion world Birtwell’s partnership with Ossie Clark ended in divorce. With 2 sons to raise Birtwell was looking for a change and found the slow process of designing interior textiles fit her perfectly. Celia Birtwell is still going strong, check out her website to see what she is up to now. http://www.celiabirtwell.com/
Enid Marx: Design
By Ruth Artmonsky and Brian Webb
Antique Collectors’ Club, 2013
Marx was a leader in engraving and drawing. She produced designs for textiles, pattern papers, end paper, book jackets, stamps, posters, labels, cups and saucers, and more. She wrote and illustrated books for adults and children, and authored articles, and was an avid collector of folk art. Her work was featured in exhibitions, and she took part in the design of textiles for the London subways and buses in the 1930’s-40’s, which were in use for decades, and created designs for the 1940’s
wartime Utility Furniture scheme to produce affordable furniture. Her designs were popular and had a singular, unique style. Her aesthetic is beautiful and fascinating—I love her abstract designs—and I found myself going through the color plates several times. The book is a wonderful read, outlining Marx’s journey from her student days to being an industry leader. She is inspiring as a designer and as a woman navigating business in a world of men at the time. If you love history and want to discover her work (or rediscover if you’ve seen her work before) this is a great addition to your library.
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pattern design related news, information, or tips to share? We want to hear from you!