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Entry to the Kenneth Grange Exhibition: Design Museum London

I viewed the Kenneth Grange: Making Britain Modern exhibition at the Design Museum. The exhibition showed his products, prototypes, sketches and models made throughout his diverse and fruitful career.

Exhibition view showing prototypes and process...

...signage, symbols...

... hidden detail within some of his design classics.

I also visited the Design Museum’s Designers in Residence 2011 exhibition. It offered a great insight into the work and design process of four British Designers: Jade Folawiyo, Simon Hasan, Will Shannon and Hye-Yeon Park. The designers were selected for the strength of their response to the brief ‘In Pursuit of Imperfection’. The exhibition showed their sketches, models, tests, working drawings, and prototypes, as well as the final developed commissions.

Will Shannon's furniture from his Autonomous Workplace no004: Mobile Particle Board Factory

The designers explored concepts of the imperfect surface and value: the connection yet difference between the craftsman and volume production; the revaluing of existing mass-produced materials to make crafted furniture; and our imperfect ability to control time. Jade Folawiyo’s work exploring the imperfect surface through tarnishing and rusting of a patterned surface was moving, along with Simon Hasan’s melding of leather craft and mass production techniques through material to make a seat.

Simon Hasan’s Work using Cuir Bouilli (Boiled Leather)

Cool Operator

On leaving my meeting at Central St Martins College of Art and Design with Anna from Liberty of London Archives, I stumbled upon Twig plastic (Derlot Editions). These pieces (one of favourites especially the Concrete Editions) were designed by Alexander Lotersztain Studio.

“I developed the concept of traditional bench seating to create a new form where there was seating on all sides and which included both a modularity and an organic freedom not previously seen in public furniture.”

Alexander on Twig from http://www.queenslandersign.com.au/index.php/alexander-lotersztain-twig/

Alexander is based in my home town of Brisbane. He has changed the face of design in Queensland; having exhibited and worked Locally, Nationally and Internationally and received countless awards for his designs. It was great to see people hanging out on Twig in London!

Suits enjoy Twig in London

St Martins College Students between lectures

Mark of the Old Shed Roofline, St Martins College

Liberty of London Archives was recently re-located to a new home at Central St Martins College of Arts and Design. St Martins College (presently undergoing redefinition and  major redevelopment), is one of The University of the Arts of London’s campuses. It offers a range of courses including Performance, Product and Furniture Design, Photography, Sculpture: Fashion, Textiles Design, Marketing, and Architecture Object and Spatial Design.

St Martins College Fashion Graduates work on Show

I met with Anna Baruma (Archivist of Liberty of London) on Campus at St Martins College. Anna showed me many of the old sample books from the Liberty archives as well as more contemporary works. There were unusual examples of paisley, floral and geometric designs influenced by the popularity of exotic textiles and the process of making from the East.
A dream come true! Thank you Anna and Thank you Liberty of London!

Anna Baruma at Liberty Archives, St Martins College of Art and Design

One of the many Liberty Fabric Books within the Archive

Original Drawings by Owen Jones within the V&A Museum Collection

Back in London…. on to research at The V&A Museum. Architect and Designer, Owen Jones is celebrated for his detailed documentation and reproduction of mosaics and tile work patterns from around the world. He carried this work out during mid 19th Century. Detailed publications and original drawings for color plates of his work are part of the V&A Collection and include ‘Drawing of tiles at the Alhambra’ and ‘Original drawings for The Grammar of Ornament’ published in 1856.

I was fortunate to spend time within The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Prints Room to view first hand Owen Jones’ original drawings. His methodical care and attention to document the patterns was striking. He drew them in a way that allowed the individual elements, their repetition and the underlying structure of the pattern to be understood. There was just enough information and color to understand the very complex patterns, without too much to confuse and overload the page and the eye.

The V&A Library and Reading Room

In the V&A’s Library I viewed the published copies of Owen Jones’ ‘The Grammar of Ornament’, that they hold in their collection. The plates within the book were half the size of the original drawings but still retained the clarity, color and quality of the originals. It was great to see his work at this time. It was made all the more valuable and meaningful by my first hand experience of patterns within each of the places I had just visited through my Winston Churchill Fellowship Research.

Owen Jones' Chinese Patterns No 01 from The Grammar of Ornament , The V&A

Owen Jones' Persian Patterns No 01 from The Grammar of Ornament, The V&A

Inspiring spaces

While in London I spent a lot of time at The Victoria & Albert Museum. These visits were essential in understanding my experiences in Japan and China, and preparing for Turkey. I spent a lot of time within the V&A’s Islamic, Japanese and Chinese Collections, in particular cross checking terminology, history, techniques, pattern types and importantly spelling!

Minbar for Sultan Qa’itbay (1468-96)  and carved screen, V&A Collection
Ottoman Textiles Featuring L > R ‘The stripes of the Tiger’; ‘Velvet with 8-Point Stars’; and the much-loved Tulip all from the V&A Islamic Collection (1500 – 1600)

The Ironwork Collections, Print and Jewelry Collections also gave perspective to and reinforced much of my research to date. An inspiring experience!

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).

Detail