John Piper Textiles at CHICHESTER

A recent visit to Chichester drew us into the Pallant House Gallery to see the textile designs produced by John Piper. The exhibition is entitled ‘The FABRIC of MODERNISM’ and is curated by Simon Martin of Pallant House. The display runs to the 12th of June, 2016 and spreads through 3 of the intimate upstairs galleries providing an immersive and intense colour/pattern experience.

Piper’s terrific skill in managing motif and method comes across clearly as style and requirements evolve through the decades from the 1930s onward. In ‘Abstract Painting’ of 1935, below, it is such a rewarding experience to see the original oil painting alongside the subsequent fabric and to witness the skill and accuracy that the textile manufacturer, David Whitehead Ltd., employed when producing the screen printed cotton fabric in 1955.


The painting on the right below is a watercolour and collage work on paper called ‘Poelfoen’ was made by Piper in 1960 and further similar works were reproduced as limited edition lithographs. By 1968 David Whitehead Ltd had produced a screen print on cotton based on a similar artwork. The blue colour way ‘Brittany’,  is illustrated on the left below with the motif reproduced twice across the 48in width of the cotton with a repeat of approx. 20ins so this fabric has the motif scaled to the same size as the watercolour it was modelled on.

One of the highlights of the installation is the cartoon for the St Luke panel of the Chichester Cathedral Tapestry executed in gouache and collage in 1965. It is shown here alongside the trial tapestry. Then, only a few hundred metres away in the cathedral, the whole Tapestry can be viewed in-situ where it is possible to reflect on the controversies which arose after it’s unveiling in 1966. An amusing anecdote noted in the excellent catalogue of the exhibition recalls one canon wearing dark glasses to the consecration service as a mark of his disapproval.

This a taste of what’s in store at Pallant House in this exhibition which matches paintings and original designs with the textile work they inspired. The fabrics and tapestries are familiar as they have been in the public domain for decades and in many cases, now, for over half a century. What is special here is the display of items from private collections that are matched to the more familiar fabrics. One of these is the oil painting ‘Sheffield Cathedral’ 1960 with the Sanderson curtain material entitled ‘Northern Cathedral’ 1962, here both of the pieces are from private collections.

It is noteworthy that a portion of the ‘Northern Cathedral’ screen print on fabric is being auctioned by Mallams of Oxford on Thursday the 19th of May, 2016. The sale is Modern British Post-War Art & Design and contains a further selection of Piper screen prints on fabric. Mallams expert on 20th Century design is Philip Smith and he can be contacted at


Retropattern at the Embroidery Guild Wirral Branch

We received a warm welcome on a cold Thursday evening at the Williamson Art Gallery Birkenhead. There in amongst the fantastic Della Robbia exhibition Alun and I gave our “Fab Fabrics” presentation to a well attended audience.

This introduction to the iconic British textile designs from the 1950’s to the 1970’s was followed on the Saturday with a workshop held in West Kirby.

“Repeating the ’60’s” went back to basics. Without the aid of computers and photocopies the participants produced repeating pattern stencils and prints.

The group were enthusiastic and created original and exciting designs.

We would like to thank all involved on both occasions for your help.


Zandra Rhodes Workshop- Textile Society Visit – London, January 2016


Meg Andrews and about 12 members of the Textile Society visited the studio and workshop of Zandra Rhodes above the Textile and Fashion Museum in Bermondsey, London.
The museum, dating from 2003, is housed in a converted warehouse which was redesigned by Zandra’s friend the Mexican architect Ricardo Logorreta. It was Legorreta’s first and only building in Europe. In addition to the exhibition space, the building contains a textile studio and printing workshop as well as private residential quarters for her exclusive use. The Fashion & Textile Museum element of the building is now run by Newham College fashion and textile faculty. The building has become a tourist attraction in its own right due to its outrageous colour scheme of hot pink, burnt orange, yellow, and bright blue rendered exterior.
Zandra 3 Studio with Zandra  Zandra 14 Sewing room Purple Black
We were escorted through a secure street entrance, to the side of the museum, to the first floor and immediately into the cutting and sewing room which housed rails of garments which were in production for the up and coming London Fashion Week and we were met by Zandra who explained her current designs and the relationship she had formed with the Korean fabric manufacturing firm Songket.
Zandra 7 Measures & Meg  Zandra 4 Printroom Laura 1
From there we went through to the screen printing room occupied, it would appear, by the table and every screen that she had ever used. Laura explained to us the mechanics of printing onto cloth and the fact that patterns from past runs were often brought into use in current work. The repeat measures (wooden rulers) hung on one long wall while the wall opposite housed rack after rack of printing screens, each marked with the pattern title. Additionally there were a few ink ref. fents hanging at the side.
Zandra 6 Screen Rack  Zandra 8 Fent Ink Ref
Following some intensive questioning in the print room we went up one further floor where Denis showed us some of the garments from the archive collection which goes back to the early days – that’s 50 decades and counting.

The visit enabled the group to gain a working insight into the energy and creativity which Rhodes continues to pour into her ambitious schedule here in the UK, the Americas and Asia.


Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection:
Fashion & Textile Museum:
Textile Society:
All text and images by Alun Evans –
Zandra 16 Exit Stairs

Althea McNish vintage fabric designs for Hull Traders

Althea McNish has enjoyed an outstanding career in surface pattern design for both fashion and furnishing fabric.

She arrived in the United Kingdom in the early 1950’s on a Trinidad and Tobago Art Society scholarship to study at the London College of Printing and was soon swapping graphics for textile design and gained a further scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art.

Her exuberant colour sense and intuitive eye for design was recognised by the best companies across Europe and she remains an engaging artist through a career spanning 6 decades.

Althea NcNish & Liz in V&A 2014

Here Liz meets up with Althea (and husband John Weiss) for a cup of tea and a chat at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London last year having previously met her at a Hull Traders textile symposium in Kings Lynn a few years earlier.  At the V&A we were able to re-unite her with a piece of Hull Traders ‘Van Gogh’ design from 1959 which she didn’t have in her own archive.

We have a number of her designs in our collection and will be bringing them to Lady Bay Vintage Market on Saturday 28th November, 2015 as part of our RETROPATTERN mid-century furnishing fabric stand.

McNish Painted Desert purple width

Althea McNish, Painted Desert for Hull traders, 1959

McNish Golden Harvest red detail    McNish Golden Harvest red length

Althea McNish, Golden Harvest, for Hull Traders, 1959

McNish Van Gogh yellow width  McNish Van Gogh Green Detail

Althea McNish, Van Gogh in yellow and green colourways, for Hull Traders, 1959

McNish Rubra Selvage

Althea McNish, Rubra for Hull Traders, 1961

See more about Liz & Alun Evans’ collection at

TX Textile Group Exhibition

TX Creative Textile Group are led by Ann Goddard and Wendy Rudd they meet throughout the year for monthly workshops.

IMG_1767     IMG_1768

This year they worked on the theme ‘Reclaimed’. A visit to the Indian Antique Artefacts Barn within the Four Oaks Garden Centre near Jodrell Bank in Cheshire provided a starting point with a day of sketching and collecting. During the year Saturday workshops were held with Liz Evans, Cass Holmes, Michael Brennand-Wood and Jan Beaney.

IMG_1769   IMG_1770

The exhibition at Castle Park Arts Centre, Frodsham in Cheshire represents individual textile responses by members of the group who present wonderful and extensive visual journals and finished artwork.
The exhibition can be viewed seven days a week until the 20th of September.
See the CPAC Frodsham website for further details.


IMG_4216     IMG_4219 In the secure depths of the newly extended, prize winning, buildings of the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester there is a remarkable collection of furnishing fabric from the 20th century. On a recent visit our passion was sparked by examples from the middle decades of the century and as part of a cultural festival focusing on the 1960’s the Galleries curator of textiles, Frances Pritchard, gave an introductory talk in the archives study room on some of the many highlights they hold from this decade.

Foreground textile 'Skial' by William Scott; Rear design by Alistair Morton; Left design by Tibor Reich.

Foreground – textile ‘Skial’ by William Scott;        Top right – is a design by Alistair Morton;              Left – a design by Tibor Reich.

On the first table she rolled out an Edinburgh Weavers Jacquard weave by William Scott which had a blast of orange along one edge giving way to orange boulder shapes on white – this transformation occurring across the full width of the weave. A second length was another abstract design though this motif was a strong rectilinear pattern in charcoal grey and creamy white.

IMG_4224    IMG_4234   IMG_4235
A third weave on this table had, again, a rectilinear feel but the elements were on a smaller scale with squares in red on grey and white. This was designed and woven by Tibor Reich at his mill near Stratford on Avon. There will be a comprehensive exhibition of Tibor fabric and design at the Whitworth in early 2016.
In the gallery upstairs there was a large oil painting by William Scott that worked the same theme as the textile above and it would have enhanced the visitor experience if these could have been paired as part of the display.
IMG_4222        IMG_4225
On a second inspection bench Frances had presented us with a selection of screen printed fabrics from the galleries vast stock. These included items by Lucienne Day, Barbara Brown and Friedelinde di Colbertaldo Dinzl.
These and many hundreds of other lengths are now housed in the most sophisticated archival facilities and all are available for us to see and research as part of this wonderful cultural beacon in the heart of Manchester.

Paolozzi uses Delaunay


Eduardo Paolozzi has a really playful way with collage. Here he is pasting down a number of coloured shapes many of them taken from reproductions of the paintings of Sonia Delaunay.


The collage was made in 1990 and Titled ‘Nine Heads’. It was the artwork for a proposed screen print.

Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern

We recently visited the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern on Bankside in London and were impressed by her life enhancing interest in colour and pattern.

Fashion show in front parlour

Fashion show in front parlour

Despite her drive to promote her husbands career as a painter, while sublimating her own artistic practice, she generated an amazing and consistent amount of work based on their joint development of ‘Simultanism’. This aesthetic evolved from their study of the theory of simultaneous contrast of colour that had been established by the 19th century french chemist  named Chevreul.

Cased samples of fabric design

Cased samples of fabric design

A wall of artwork for Metz textiles with sample colour ways

A wall of artwork for Metz textiles with sample colour ways

Colour ways for 'Rosarium 1' the bartwork of which is top right on the photo above

Colour ways for ‘Rosarium 1’ the artwork of which is top right on the photo above

There is joy and exhilaration emanating from the arcs of contrasting and highly chromatic colours from the work on display. A formula is clearly evident but the variations are well judged and effectively used in abstract paintings as well as those that use figurative elements. Again the liveliness is retained whether the aim is a graphic, textile or fine art assignment.

Painted designs for Vogue covers

Painted designs for Vogue covers

In fact the fashion and textile design on show in section 6 is a stunning revelation of her understanding of pattern, colour and form.

From 1925 into the 1960’s she developed over 200 designs for the Amsterdam department store Metz. A large selection of these are on display and come as a complete surprise. The exhibition runs to 9th August 2015 And the fashion and textile sections alone are worth extended study.

Liz & Alun Evans at

Merseyside Embrioderers’ Guild Presentation

Saturday The 18th of July

Retropattern presented “Fab Fabrics” an illustrated talk to the Merseyside Embroiderers Guild at All Hallows Church, Mossley Hill, Liverpool.

The powerpoint presentation charts the history of British Textile design from the Festival of Britain to the 1970’s To illustrate this exciting era we also took along examples from our collection of vintage original fabrics. These include examples from Liberty’s, Hull Traders, Heals, Tibor Reich and Edinburgh Weavers.

Textiles from influential designers such Terence Conran Lucienne Day and John Piper were shown

Chiesa De La Salute

Chiesa de la Salute. Sanderson & Sons Ltd 1960

Thanks to the guild for a warm welcome and an appreciative audience.