Recently the brilliant fabric designer Susan Collier died. Collier Campbell designs were joyous accompaniments to my career years in London, and my spirits always rise when I see an example from those days.
The design at the top of this post is a birthday card version by the publisher Roger la Borde of the Collier Campbell design Egyptian Birds.
Reading the obituaries, and looking back at the designs with which I am so familiar both in my own home, the home of my friends, and my memories, I started thinking about repeat patterns. In my current designing over the past several years I have not thought about repeats, but in the early to mid-90s I did make a lot of repeat designs for my knitwear.
Indeed I spend a deal of much enjoyed time designing both geometric and figurative designs to be worked in Shetland wool on my trusty (and sometimes not-so- trusty !) second hand Brother knitting machine.
My even earlier experience as a child working with printed cross stitch designs, and then designing my own suddenly became useful. One never knows when life will require the skills that you don't know you are acquiring!
I decided to take a couple of the figurative designs and use the Egyptian Birds palette as a starting point for who knows what.
First I wanted to create repeats of the pattern in a file - and because of various limitations in the scanner and on the knitting machine template I had to make a little adjustment which can be seen in the yellow gap in the image below. But a few little fiddles apart I achieved the basis from which to develop something.
I did not want the whole pattern, and I also wanted to use the facility to reverse the pattern in layers that the painter program gives me. Also I found that the pattern itself was not enough for me. I wanted a strong focal point. However, that in a way was getting away from the idea of repeat which I wanted to develop. So - how about a focal point figure, repeated -?
I used the jiggery-pokery that I employ with the design of all my images, and I must say I'm relatively pleased with the result. I used the Egyptian Birds palette as a starting point, but strayed to adjacent tones to make the thing my own. I also see that my focal point figures are very influenced by my memories of the drawings and prints of Elisabeth Frink, an exhibition of which I saw a wee while ago.
Indeed I was pleased enough to take another design, and work on it similarly. But I think that that will be it along these lines for a while. I shall perhaps pursue repeats but not in this exact way, in order to create a creative pause. I have been lucky that these turned out OK, but I usually find that pushing my luck tends to end in crumples of frustration.
Instead I moved on to design challenges afresh. My printing classes follow terms, and so I am still on holiday until towards the end of next month. I have not wanted to let the momentum lapse, however, so meantime have been researching and thinking. As a side bar to the thinking on repeats has been an exploration of linocut printing (which could also be used to generate repeat designs in the form of block prints perhaps). I am reading a step-by-step book for background, information, technique, etc. while jumping past the idea of starting with simple designs.
I am not interested in technique for its own sake, but as a means to achieving the end. Of course the means can be rewarding, and challenging on the way - indeed I prefer it that way. But I don't want to engage in the exercise for the exercise itself. So, I wanted to look at the kind of image I would want to make, and see which aspects could be interestingly rendered in linocut.
I have made a few tentative steps. It's not as straightforward as it looks, and I am sure will turn out to be even more complex when I go on to start with blade on lino. But I love the challenge of starting with the kind of image which I want to make, and adapting my design methods and the image itself to a different technique, and watching how this adaptation feeds into my wider design development.