The Secret History Of: Lucienne Day's Calyx fabric

Kate Watson-Smyth
Friday 06 May 2011 00:00
Comments

As the Southbank Centre launched its celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain this week, it seems fitting to recall the secret history of one of Britain's most important textile designers, who came to prominence during the festival.

Lucienne Day and her husband Robin (both of whom died last year) transformed British design in the post-war era; he made furniture, she created stunning abstract designs for wallpapers and textiles.

Indeed last year for its bicentenary, high-end furniture store Heals created an interpretive collection of furniture and accessories using three of her most famous designs Calyx, Helix and Sunrise.

Day was discovered by Heals fabrics director Tom Worthington. She said: "I had already designed a couple of things for Heal's so I took Calyx along to them. Tom Worthington said he would produce it for me but only pay me half the fee of 20 guineas because he was certain he wouldn't sell a yard."

The meeting formed the basis of a collaboration that lasted 20 years and produced some 70 patterns.

Her designs drew on the English tradition of patterns based on plant forms – grasses and flowers – but she transformed them and was influenced by the work of Kandinsky and Klee. Her textiles now seem emblematic of the post-war era and even if you have never heard of her her work seems familiar.

Calyx was originally created for the 1951 festival. Robin had been commissioned to design two pavilions featuring his furniture and Lucienne's textiles. Her design received international praise.

Day was a passionate believer in affordable design and worked for the mass market rather than collectors. She liked the idea that people might not be able to afford a painting for the wall but could have a fabulous pair of curtains.

"I wanted the work I was doing to be seen by people and used by people," she said. "They had been starved of interesting things for their homes in the war years."

There is an exhibition of the Days' work at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, East Sussex, until 26 June.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in