Since the Industrial Revolution, London has been at the forefront of the fashion and textile design evolution, and it remains a global leader in contemporary textile design and printing today.

The goal of this UROP is to travel to London, the place where modern textile printing innovation began, and research textile design and hand produced textile printing.

I will investigate the economic, cultural, and artistic conditions that give London its long lasting competitive edge in the fashion-related world of surface design.

During this time I will post to this blog which will act as a way to record and organize all of the information, written and visual, that I will be absorbing while taking advantage of the countless resources readily available in London.

If you wish to see more work by Reagan Rockers, please check out her online portfolio at reaganrockersdesigns.wordpress.com.

William Morris: Institutionalizing Interior Design

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Artistic

William Morris' (1834-1896) contributions to the art world cannot be underestimated (Image 1, Elliot & Fry, 1877). So prolific of a designer, I am sure that most people would be familiar with his work but without necessarily realizing it. He was a man of many skill sets, from theology to architecture to art, Morris was a well-rounded Pre-Raphaelite (member of an elite group of British men who aimed to reform art) (National Trust, 2003). Morris surrounded himself with like-minded artisans including Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Philip Webb, Charles Faulkner, Peter Paul Marshall, and John Robert Parsons. Together they dedicated their lives to the arts, designing wall paper, furniture, carpets, stained glass, and printed and woven fabrics.

After marrying Janey Burden (Image 2, Parsons), (who was the iconic fair skinned, dark haired muse of this artistic era) they settled in Bexelyheath, England in 1858. For the first time, Morris and his colleague, Webb, put their architecture skills to the test, designing and building Red House, which was named for its red brick exterior (Image 3, Rockers). Once the £4,000 home was built ($6,628, no small sum for the time), Webb, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones joined the Morrises in decorating the interior in jewel tones. Together, using no wallpaper, they painted designs on the ceilings and murals on the walls and furniture. The entire Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood truly contributed to the creation of their artistic abode. Rossetti himself described the home as "more of a poem than a house...", as it became symbolic of their existence and purpose in life.
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Cultural
Socially and artistically, Morris was ahead of his time. Between, his wealth, Bohemian lifestyle, and creative entourage, Morris was an eccentric and artistically-consumed man. He believed in the collaboration of minds and talents when it came to creating art, so much so that he invited his colleagues to reside in Red House with him and Janey. Together, them and their wives practiced and shared a variety of methodologies. Through this shared collective they established Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in April 1861 (later becoming Morris & Co. in 1875), which contributed to the arts and craft movement of the Technological Revolution.
In the quiet Bexelyheath community, the Morrises were not well liked. The community of artists did wholly unorthodox activities, such as having picnics in their garden and apple fights in their house. The Red House was always the talk of town. It was even rumored that the Morrises had a pet lama that walked on their dining room table with a cowboy-hat-wearing parrot riding on its back. Even a smiley face had sneakily been painted on the ceiling, perhaps as a daily reminder of their light-hearted nature. This sort of tomfoolery was just a part of Red House's rule-free environment (Red House Tour, 2013).
However, due to the strain on William and Janey's marriage, the Morrises left the Red House and moved to London in 1865. When they moved, he left behind thousands of unproduced print blocks. So many that the succeeding owners were so overwhelmed that they destroyed most of his work by throwing it in the fire or river.
Economic
The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in 1760 lasting until roughly 1840 (Industrial Revolution Research, 2014). Due to this period of innovation in machinery and water power, England's economy was booming. There was a particular focus on the textile industry at this time, as AE Musson and Eric Robinson explain in Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution, there were innovations in "the paper mill, wire-drawing machines, the 'new draperies' in the woollen industry, the Saxony spinning wheel, and the Dutch swivel (or inkle or ribbon) loom. Foreign influences can also be traced in many other industries, such as silk, pottery, glass-making, tinplate manufacture, etc" (1969, p 61). This high level of attention on the arts evolved production methods from expensive, slowly produced hand crafted goods to cost-cutting, highly efficient machinery.
By 1861 when  Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. was established, there was a new wave of momentum in the economy as the technology and businesses continued to grow. This era became known as the Technological Revolution or Second Industrial Revolution (Muntone, 2012). This helped push Morris' business along significantly because by this time the machinery had modernized and the middle class had grown significantly, as people had been working their way out of poverty for the past century. Due to this powerful industrial and economic climate, England had upper middle class businessmen and entrepreneurs who could afford the luxury of investing in quality design. But beyond the economic conditions perhaps there was something else about London that fueled Morris' artistic prosperity. He was eccentric, bohemian and unconventional yet it obviously didn't count against him. Even in the prudish Victorian era there seems to have been a tolerance that afforded Morris and his contemporaries freedom of expression and a platform to build successful design businesses.
Morris continued to build a career on creating a standard of expectation around superior interior design. Institutionalizing and bringing value to the art form, Morris stated, "have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". The prestige and timeless quality of the firm's design became synonymous with English heritage. He is best known for his interior design prints, including Strawberry Thieves, Evenlode, and Snakehead.

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Morris' ongoing commitment to create value around beautiful design was prioritized throughout his entire career. While he continued building his Morris Co. empire, he also extended his vision to the community around him. As a lover of architecture, Morris aided in the development of a society that preserves historical buildings. His efforts to maintain and protect these establishments led to the founding of the National Trust in 1895, just a year before he passed away (National Trust, 2003).
Today his franchise still epitomizes British good taste. Liberty, a British fabric power-house in London, produces replicas of his print in modern colorways and applications, proving that Morris' legacy is still alive over 150 years after starting up "the firm" (2014). Liberty's retail price for Morris' Strawberry Thieves fabric, shirt and needlework are set at £22 ($36) per meter, £130 ($215) and £115  ($190) respectively. Liberty_Strawberry Thieves.jpg

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Overall, his involvement and collaboration with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the cultural bohemian lifestyle led at the Red House, and the height of the Industrial and Technological Revolutions present the artistic, cultural and economic elements that created a long lasting stamp on the history of the textile industry. "Art lives on though life is short," appropriately still remains above the fireplace of Morris' Red House, a philosophy he is still proving today.



Resources

Elliot & Fry. (1877). Image 1. Retrieved from:
http://www.literaryplaces.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Portrait-of-William-Morris.jpg
Industrial Revolution Research. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.industrialrevolutionresearch.com/industrial_revolution_textile_industry.php
Liberty. (2014). Images 7-9. Retrieved from: http://www.liberty.co.uk/search?productsPerPage=60&keywords=william+morris
Musson, A.E. & Robinson, E. (1969). Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution. Manchester, UK: University Press.
Muntone, S. (2012). The McGraw-Hill Companies. Technological Revolutions. Retrieved from: http://www.education.com/study-help/article/us-history-glided-age-technological-revolution/
National Trust. (2003). Red House. Corsham, UK: Park Lane Press.
Parsons, J. R. (1868). Image 2. Retrieved from:
http://de.academic.ru/dic.nsf/dewiki/682135
Red House Tour. (2013). Oral Presentation. National Trust Tour Guide.
Rockers, R. (2013). Image 3.
Voysey. (2014). Image 4-6. Retrieved from:
http://www.voysey.gotik-romanik.de/Morris,%20Designs,%20on%20Flickr,%20Thumbnails/Thumbnails.html

Despite the hot weather, the London Textile Fair gathered 1,500 visitors and 250 exhibitors in textiles, fashion accessories, and print design (2012). The unusual heat wave that has hit London this summer, has made me realize that most places do not have air conditioning, as this venue was sweltering.


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Seterie Argenti


The exhibitors came from all across Europe, namely the UK, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. Overwhelmingly, there were three levels of exhibitors featuring rails full of their pre-collection Autumn/Winter 2014 and Spring/Summer fabric samples.


There was certainly something for everyone here. The set up was clearly for industry professionals on a large scale. Buyers, designers, and distributors came to place orders from the exhibitors' samples. Although I wanted to sit down with these exhibitors and find out more information on the buying process, I have to admit that I felt a little out of place. While browsing through samples, a few sales persons asked me what company I was with, and after confessing that I wasn't with one, they seemed to quickly lose interest in my business.


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Simmod Tekstil


On the upside, I was able to freely view up-and-coming textile trends. There were a lot of eye catching corals, turquoises, and unique prints, but I was especially intrigued by the physically and visually textured fabrics. Both knits and woven fabrics with interesting puckers and texturing, made for a unique and futuristic approach. Simmod Tekstil, a vendor from Turkey, was one of the stand out companies for this trend.


Another inspiring take on textiles was Lemar's, a Portuguese textile company, revolution of mesh fabric (The London Textile Fair, 2012). The breathable textile known for its use in athletic apparel, had a street fashion make over. With bold colors and large scale prints, basic mesh tees made for a statement piece that any trendsetter would want in their closet.


On the upper level of the venue, accessories and print design were grouped together. Accessories included anything from buttons to lace to labels. The stand out exhibitors amongst the prints were Jack Jones Designs and Print Fresh (The London Textile Fair, 2012).


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Jack Jones Design


Resources


The London Textile Fair. (2012). Retrieved from http://thelondontextilefair.co.uk/
Seterie Argenti Spa. (2013). Picture 1. Retrieved from http://www.argenti.it/
Simmod Tekstil. (2010). Pictures 2-4. Retrieved from http://www.simmod.com.tr/
Jack Jones Design. (2013). Picture 5. Retrieved from. http://www.jackjonesdesign.com/

Kaffe Fasset | A Life in Colour

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Entering into the Kaffe Fasset, A Life in Colour exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum, I was immediately taken aback. I had found color and pattern nirvana. Vibrant, saturated hues intermixed to create interesting, complex designs surrounded me.


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Fasset, originally from California, moved to London in the sixties. It was at that time when he truly embraced color in his work, paving the way for a career in textile design. From the late sixties to mid eighties Fasset designed and created knitwear alongside Scottish designer, Bill Gibbs. However, Fasset's skill set did not stop there. He's also a textile master in quilting, mosaic, and needlepoint. His work has been displayed worldwide and he continues to share his artistic gift by teaching others through his published books and workshops.


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Fasset admits that he has gained the richest inspiration through international travel. He explains that traveling is slightly dangerous because nothing is familiar to us. It heightens our senses so we see everything, creating intense impressions. Traveling allows us go out in the world to get inspiration and interpret it in our own way.


My favorite quote that I've found associated with Fasset perfectly depicts the impact and passion behind this man's work. "Colour is his very medium, whatever the substance he uses."


To find out more about this event visit: link

Welcome

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Welcome to my journey into London's textile industry. I am an apparel design student at the University of Minnesota preparing to into enter my final year of study. After receiving a research grant from my college, I have come to the UK for two months to learn more about the textile industry here in London! Throughout this research project you will become immersed in the evolution of the industry and learn what gives London its longevity and edge in the design world.


Along the way I would also like to share with you a bit of British culture. Here I am enjoy a cup of tea (Britain's favorite drink!) and eating homemade snickerdoodle and white chocolate macedonian nut cookies (...these however are a taste of American culture).


Stay posted and become apart of my learning process.