Monthly Archives: December 2011

Oriental Rugs at Liberty: Bruce’s Office when he’s not off the beaten track sourcing rugs

I made a special connection with Bruce Lepere; Oriental Rug Buyer from Oriental Rugs at Liberty and a walking talking treasure for his knowledge of Liberty history. We pulled up a rug and discussed the essence of Liberty and his passion for discovering and personally sourcing rare rugs far off distant lands including the Khyber Pass, the bazaars of Peshawar and the Hindu Kusht mountains. All around us was evidence of his discerning eye and commitment to this passion.

Bruce and I talked surrounded by colour and pattern
Part silk antique rug from Turkmenistan with Liberty’s own Ianthe Rug beneath

We discussed the origins of the paisley an intriguing and beautiful figure widely used in Persia, India and throughout South Asia also later informing the designs of British interior fabrics, wallpapers and home wares. Persia is credited as being the first to create the boteh designs that later became known as paisley motifs. Boteh is a version of the Hindi word ‘buta’ which means ‘flower’ a symbol of fertility. It is described through analogy in many parts of the world including as ‘A twisted teardrop’ in Iranian and Indian, The ‘Persian pickle’ in Persia and ‘The egg: with white and yolk swirled together’ in China (Yin and Yang).

Many of the patterns looked very contemporary but in fact were very very old

Bruce spoke of his experience with Nomadic tribal weavers. The weaves are often dictated by process. The patterns are passed from generation to generation (Mother to Daughter). While there is seemingly little change to the overall pattern from generation to generation, individual women contribute uniqueness in subtle ways through color, material and knot count.

Very old Turkish woollen rugs

The rugs were out of this world; their colors electric; the patterns intricate, layered and beautiful. It was a treasure to see the different rugs in one place. They were from Iran, Morocco, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Persia etc. etc. The patterns, colors, motifs and materials within the rugs were a reminder of both man’s connection and dependence on nature and season.

The Four Seasons Rug (Persia) hanging centrally

One of the special rugs on display was The Four Seasons Rug, a rare intricately detailed rug made between 19th to early the 20th Century in Persia. It depicts Persian Life of the time “…the sowing of Spring Crops; the dancing and feasts of Summe; harvest in Autumn and the clearing snow from the steps of the Mosque in Winter”. The Blue Mosque is repeated in both the Summer and Winter scenes and was one of the places I visited while in Istanbul.

Thank you Bruce Lepere for your generosity in giving time and sharing your extensive knowledge.

A true gift.

Liberty of London: View to Entrance on Great Marlborough Street and wares

I have collected Liberty fabrics since I was eight years old. Even though I grew up in a rural Queensland town, we were lucky to have a little shop in the centre of Bundaberg that stocked only Liberty fine cottons. This was where my love for the floral and paisley patterned Liberty Tana Lawn began. I would collect little pieces of the precious cotton prints and make watchbands, hair ties, patchwork bags and purses. It was inspiring to know there were such beautiful things in the world. The color ways and patterns made a deep impression on me and were a window to distant exotic lands. I still collect Liberty fabrics to this very day, along with luscious and eclectic velvets and silks, and patterned John Kaldor viyella and jersy.

While I had arranged to meet with Anna Baruma, Liberty of London Archivist on my way back from Turkey, I decided I would take the opportunity during my stopover to visit Liberty of London the Store. I met with Brian Boyle from Japanese Prints and Fine Arts, as well as Bruce Lepere; Oriental Rug Buyer from Oriental Rugs at Liberty and a walking talking treasure for his knowledge of Liberty history. These two sections of Liberty, especially Oriental Rugs, have been a part of Liberty of London from the very beginning.

Still today a place you can find rare beauty gathered from all over the world

Through the vision of Arthur Lasenby Liberty, Liberty of London was originally conceived of as an emporium; bringing the best of the world to London. The essence of the store was to bring exotic and beautiful goods of quality from the East to the West: to stock things that no one else had seen and to make them available to discerning Londoners. Imported textiles; dyeing techniques; Japanese fans, screens and art prints; Blue and White Pottery from China: inlaid wooden boxes and carvings, metal work and rugs from Persia and Turkey filled the Emporium. The materials and richness of color and pattern, in turn, inspired a whole generation of British talent to design and produce high quality goods. In 1920 Liberty’s Tana Lawn was launched; made from a particular cotton plant from Lake Tana in Sudan. It had the feel of silk but did not come with the price of silk. Its quality was due to the long fine staple of the particular cotton and the skill of the weavers to pack a very high thread count into the fabric.

One of the Light Wells draped with Oriental Rugs

While Liberty is best known for its small floral prints, the first Liberty Tana Lawns were far more exotic. Ianthia was the first, followed by Hera (Peacock Feather) and the beautiful and complex Strawberry Thief (by William Morris). Why is this important? This process of travel and trade along the Silk Road to stores such as Liberty of London, assisted then and continues in the transmission and transformation of traditional patterns and techniques of making. They were assimilated through designers, makers and artists, inspired by the fluidity, materiality, depth and color, and especially ‘otherness’. Wallpapers, textile design, rugs, home wares, tiling patterns, furniture making and architecture were all transformed by exposure to the tradition and richness of making from the East.

(In conversation with Brian Bolye, Bruce Lepere and the generous staff at Liberty of London).


“Making is the most powerful way that we solve problems, express ideas and shape our world. What and how we make defines who we are, and communicates who we want to be.” Guest Curator, Daniel Charny

The Power of Making exhibition at the V&A, highlighted the importance of making through time and its continued presence in our lives today; for survival, as a tradition passed down, as a vocation and for discovery. The 100 objects from all over the world included in the exhibition, marked this moment in time, showing the varied techniques, combination of materials, hi-tech and lo-tech processes and technology, merging of professions, and the re-valuing of traditional techniques.

It was timely to visit this exhibition as it reminded me of the joy and peace I find in making. Even with the most experimental intentions there are always guiding parameters: from the materials (qualities and properties), tools, scale, the maker’s physical limits and eternal natural forces (gravity). Sometimes in making, things go wrong. Sometimes these are the moments when the ‘mistake’ becomes an innovation, a learning experience and a discovery.

Timber Wave by AL_A marking the entrance of the V&A Museum

Marking the entrance of the V&A was Timber Wave a large-scale sculptural structure by AL_A Architects with Arup Engineers. It was part of a series of Installations across London that marked the advent of the 2011 London Design Festival.

Using a combination of hi-tech and lo-tech processes Timber Wave made visible the continued value of hand-drawings and handcrafted models coupled with 3D modeling and precision engineering. Here furniture-making techniques were applied to a large rhythmic structure. It also made evident a series of simple two-dimensional patterns that could be generated from a seemingly complex three-dimensional and repetitive array depending on ones viewpoint. The sculpture was a beautiful three-dimensional pattern that showed the space of space.

Piccadilly Circus, London

In order to fly to Turkey I had to travel via London. So I took the opportunity to make a brief stopover. It meant that I could catch the end of the London Design Festival, visit the V&A Museum and meet with Liberty of London.

Even though London was in addition to my Winston Churchill Programme, I believed it would be integral in informing my experiences from Japan and China, and to prepare for Turkey. Many of the world’s treasures have been removed from their place of origin. Both the V&A and British Museum have an amazing collection of ancient through to contemporary objects, that originate from each of the places I was visiting for my Winston Churchill Research.

Hong Kong Collage 01
Hong Kong Collage 02

Hong Kong! A beautiful mix of extreme topography, tall buildings, great shopping, exciting nightlife and business. I had a well deserved break while in Hong Kong walking through the shopping district, visiting roof top bars, and eating amazing cuisine… A massive thank you to my host Tracy Hansen!

Typhoon Coming

During my visit quite an extreme typhoon made its way towards Hong Kong. We battened down the hatches on Lamma Island, especially since we were so close to the ocean. After the typhoon passed the beach was awash with large coral, shells and detritus.

Max heads out to the beach to investigate
Back to beauitful Lamma Island normal after the typhoon