Starting in the early 50s, Lucienne Day brought abstract design to fabric. She and her husband Robin were a mid-century design power duo, often referred to as the British Eameses (only I think her textiles are far more interesting than those of her Yankee counterparts). Her designs were so groundbreaking and enduring that people still refer to them by name.
The most famous “Calyx”
Lucienne Day talks about Calyx here. An excerpt:
Robin used it in his section and it was so popular that Heal’s entered it for an award in New York that year. Calyx won, so the Festival of Britain was the beginning of my career. Suddenly one could produce designs and firms would be able to produce them because their looms would no longer be dedicated to making blackout material. They were set up again for producing things designers wanted to make. There was a feeling that the years of the war were behind us and that it would be a rosy future.
And some notes on Day’s design genius, from this site:
Creating repeat patterns for textiles is a laborious process, but Lucienne’s designs convey an impression of effortless spontaneity. “It is not enough to ‘choose a motif’, nor enough to ‘have ideas’ and be able to draw,” she observed. “There must also be the ability to weld the single units into a homogenous whole, so that the pattern seems to be part of the cloth.” Visually stimulating, but not over-insistent, her patterns are sophisticated and multi-layered, with cleverly balanced assertive and recessive elements, thereby working both from a distance and close up.
Day’s textiles are being reproduced by The Centre for Advanced Textiles at the Glasgow School of Art, but the cost is extremely prohibitive. Still, we can dream.
I highly recommend the book Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers of Modern Design: it has far more images of the Days’ designs than are available on the internet.
It just so happens that you can wear a piece of Lucienne Day design on your feet. Converse has three designs on limited-edition sneakers. I’ll take these: