“Never do anything just because you think it’ll sell.
Do what you like and what you would buy” - Pat Albeck
Pat was born in Hull, to Polish emigrants Max and Sarah Albeck. Her father was a furrier and anarchist (not a combination often found!), and he designed the "stockbroker Tudor" which Pat grew up in, so design was in her genes. She attended the Hull School of Art, where she was first drawn to direct her energies toward pattern. She felt she was not as good an illustrator as her classmates, nevertheless she went on to earn a place at the Royal College of Art, London. She remembered one critic saying of her "even the Royal College makes mistakes." And yet it was here that Pat first gained the attention of Elspeth Juda, who purchased dress yardage of Pat's bold "Apples and Pears." Ms. Juda was no less than the Editor of The Ambassor, a British fashion magazine!
In the 1960s the John Lewis department store requested a William Morris inspired design. Pat told that that she wouldn't copy Morris' work, but that she would do something inspired by him. "Daisy Chain" wasn't quite what the client had in mind, but it went on to become their "Best Seller" being released in new colorways - and all sorts of product, every year for 15 years! It was recently re-released in 2014 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of John Lewis department stores.
Pat gave other British designers their starts over the years, when she began taking on a new assistant every year. Amongst her former assistants were Susan Collier, later of Collier and Campbell. She was surrounded with creativity; her husband was Peter Rice, Theater designer. Son Matthew Rice is an artist, and her daughter-in-law is designer Emma Bridgewater.
Like the best designers, Pat had a sense of whimsy and fun. Once John Tullis, designer at Horrockses, requested that she draw a lobster for a beach skirt. She bought a lobster, expensing the receipt. When she'd draw the lobster, she decided it looked odd all alone, so added flowers and butterflies to the design. When the accountant later told her he hoped she'd at least eaten the lobster, she replied "It took me three days to draw!"
Pat Albeck was busy at her drawing board until a few days before she died.
A wonderful BBC radio interview with Pat Albeck herself can be found here.
Having a design career that spanned 60 years, it's rather remarkable that Pat Albeck had a website with a large archive of her work. Learn more about Pat in her own words here.
To visit source pages, click through on the images