Tagged: Susan Collier

Feb 22

Sarah Campbell talk

 

 

Earlier this month I attended an illuminating talk by textile designer Sarah Campbell (half of the celebrated Collier Campbell partnership) at the Fashion and Textile Museum. Sarah has a display there showcasing recent solo work (post-2011) created for WestElm, M&S etc: From Start to Finish is located upstairs, next to the Artist Textiles exhibition.

Sarah Campbell display

From Start to Finish

 

Sarah spoke to an audience of teachers (mostly) on the subject of being commissioned as a textiles designer with insights distilled from her long and fruitful career. She explained, through numerous examples, how the commissioning process can go smoothly and frequently not-so-smoothly, how briefs can be understood or misunderstood, how relationships with clients can be sweet or turn sour based on a variety of factors, how vigilant one must remain on matters of copyright and licensing.

I was particularly interested to hear about Sarah’s tools of the trade. She favours gouaches (any brand will do) and wallpaper lining paper for rough drawings (she describes it as having a “soft, sweet surface”, and it’s cheap, of course, which removes any anxiety over using up precious materials). Her work station is never without a squeezy bottle of water, and a bowl of discarded paint chips/tabs (used for meticulous colour-matching) which Sarah thriftily re-uses to create greetings cards. She keeps copious notebooks, in a variety of sizes, many of which are mounted in the display here.

Sarah Campbell display

From Start to Finish displays

 

And she’s never without an ordinary fountain pen, used both for drawings and notes.

 

Textile design by Sarah Campbell.

‘Mariposa’ bed linen design for M&S, 2013

 

As a stitcher, I enjoyed hearing about Sarah’s happy collaboration with West Elm on a project for “the Holidays” (in the American sense of Christmas etc) where one of her tiny gold and silver designs was interpreted by the company in sequin and thread.

 

IMG_7057

WestElm holiday designs

 

It’s evident that Sarah still relishes the nitty gritty of textile design, such as devising a clever repeat. And she is tremendously hard-working and prolific, as this relatively recent accumulation of work testifies. You can catch a glimpse of her at work, paintbrush in hand, in this short film about The Collier Campbell Archive book, which was published by ILEX press. Sarah also tweets and blogs

 

And this was my blog post about the National Theatre’s 2011 display of gems from the Collier Campbell archive in which I first realised the connection between the names Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell and those iconic Liberty prints.

 

From Start to Finish is on display adjacent to the Artist Textiles exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 17th May 2014.

To find out more about talks, events and workshops etc run by the Fashion and Textile Museum and short courses run in association with Newham College of Further Education, just click on the links provided.

 

 

 

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Aug 04

In Elysian fields

Elysian pattern, Liberty

Elysian pattern display board, NT Collier Campbell exhibition

This is a little story about serendipity. Just before nipping home after the Vintage Festival on Saturday, a friend suggested I go see a free Collier Campbell exhibition currently on display at the NT. Timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of two sisters’ design partnership (established in 1961 with commissions from Liberty of London), the exhibition contained beautiful pieces of original gouache artwork from the archives, plus examples of the final fabrics. What bliss!

I can’t go further without first confessing my ignorance. I’d heard of Collier Campbell, but didn’t realise the name referred to a pair of designing sisters, Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell. I knew that the name was behind one of my favourite Liberty patterns (log-cabin-ish Kasak, which used to grace the cafe tables at Liberty’s London store, and with which I  bonkersly covered the seats of my 2CV to celebrate passing my driving test). But I was truly delighted to discover at this expo that the pair were behind Elysian, one of my all-time favourite Tana Lawn designs.

Elysian

Elysian in some juicy colourways

Now, Elysian is the queen of florals, if you ask me, managing to be delicate but in yer face at the same time. But now I’m confused, because a quick google of ‘Elysian’ ‘Liberty’ and ‘Collier Campbell’ didn’t dredge up anything meaningful. And Liberty’s own site claims that Elysian was designed in the ’20s. Elsewhere it’s described as ‘at least 100 years old’. Did the sisters design it from scratch or maybe rework it? If anyone happens to know more, please leave a comment or get in touch because I’m burning with curiosity.

The exhibition made it clear that the sisters have prided themselves on being jobbing designers, anonymously bending their talents to the needs of of the customer, whoever that might be (they’ve worked variously for Liberty, Yves Saint Laurent, Cacherel, Jaeger, Habitat, M&S, House of Fraser). Their delicious sense of colour and exuberance of line has taken much inspiration from folk art. Sadly, Susan Collier died in May, after the exhibition was instigated but before it opened. But Sarah continues the pair’s work, and you can buy Collier Campbell branded products over here and currently at House of Fraser and M&S.

The exhibition was scheduled to end on 10th July so I’m not sure why it was still up last week. If you’re hoping to see it, it might be best to call the National Theatre first to check if it’s still there. I’m beginning to wonder if it was just a figment of my imagination: a Southbank mirage on a hot July day.

2011 Aug Minolta 006

As beautiful as it is mysterious

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