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Home comforts THE COUNTRY RETREAT OF CASHMERE QUEEN VICTORIA STAPLETON
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Trust the brains behind a cashmere empire to create a home with no hard edges. Victoria Stapleton's Cumbrian cottage is the ultimate cosy hideaway. Some houses are made for relaxing in. With its squashy sofas, piles of soft blankets and cushions, and generally picturesque clutter, Victoria Stapleton's cottage is certainly one of them.
It's no wonder that Stapleton excels at cosy. Her clothing company, Brora, is loved for its super-soft, eminently wearable cashmere, and she brings the same feel to her decorating. 'I love the softness of old fabrics and furniture, and the colours of an antique painted chest of drawers,’ she says. 'The hard lines and grey, black and white tones of modern pieces just aren't me, at all.' Instead, vintage textiles, a haphazard mix of tableware and painted wooden floors create a laid-back home that has the comfort factor of a favourite cashmere jumper.
You live in Hertfordshire. What made you choose Cumbria for a holiday cottage? The house is on my family's estate. My parents moved here when I was eight, so I grew up in this area. Cumbria gets in your blood, because it’s nature at
its grandest, but it's a difficult place to live and work permanently as it's relatively remote. My sisters and I have cottages half a mile from each other. Ours is for high days and holidays, and my husband, Johnnie, and I spend August here with our children. Did you have much work renovating the cottage? It's actually two small railwaymen's cottages that I knocked through to create one house. I also added an extension at the side. I began the work 13 years ago, before I met Johnnie, so, although he's had a say in the decorating, it's really been my project. I began three years after launching
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The origins of Hull Tradersare as curious as its name. It was co-founded by – and named after – Tristram Hull, a publisher and editor, in partnership with Stanley Coren, an ex-stockbroker.
Launched in London in October 1957 at an exhibition called Time Present, Hull Traders initially acted as an agent for artists and craftspeople, including potters, weavers and furniture makers. It was not until 1958 that printed textiles became its main focus and Time Present Fabrics was born.
In 1959 Peter Neubert took over the running of the firm and subsequently bought it outright. Although not from a textile background, he proved an enlightened owner and a daring patron of avant-garde design. His first move was to appoint a talented young designer called Shirley Craven as Colour and Design Consultant, the genesis of an extraordinary creative partnership that would last for the next 20 years. Big bold abstracts in eye-popping colours were Craven's speciality, breathtakingly original and varied in style. Highly revered in the design world and admired by architects, she won a string of design awards.
Although Hull Traders takes its name from its founder, Tristram Hull, rather than Kingston upon Hull, nevertheless, there is a direct link with the city as Hull was the birthplace of Shirley Craven. Born in 1934, she still remains proud of her East Riding origins. Her fiercely independent character and quirky nonconformism reflect her Yorkshire roots.
Craven was only twelve when she was awarded a scholarship to Hull Junior College of Art in 1947. After obtaining her National Diploma in Design in 1954, she
went on to study printed textiles at the Royal College of Art from 1955 to 1958. Hull Traders was one of her first clients after she began practising as a freelance designer. Peter Neubert immediately realised that she had huge potential, not just as a designer but as an art director. 'I was very impressed by her work,' he recalls. 'It was obvious she had good judgement and her standards were extremely high.' Craven's first designs for Hull Traders were an immediate success. Le Bosquet won a Design Centre Award in 1960, the first of three over the next eight years.
The 1960s was a golden era for Hull Traders, with ambitious, ground-breaking collections appearing year after year. For Shirley Craven this was an incredible period of artistic flowering. ‘Shirley was a perfectionist,’ remarks Peter Neubert. ‘She produced a wonderful range of designs. They were like works of art.’ As well as designing over 40 patterns for Hull Traders – a third of their total output – Craven had complete freedom to choose all their other designs. For a designer to be allowed this degree of artistic control within a textile company was unheard of. 'It was a unique set-up,' Craven acknowledges. 'I committed myself to Hull Traders and I never regretted it.'
Although modest in industrial terms, Hull Traders was a visionary enterprise where creativity flourished
out of all proportion to its size. Artists and designers contributed in equal measure and on equal terms. The pool of freelance designers was constantly refreshed. In total, 40 artists and designers fed into Hull Traders' collections – including renowned painters, sculptors and textile designers. Craven was instinctively drawn to hybrid artist-designers – artists with a feeling for design, and designers with artistic sensibilities – some well established, others fresh out of art school.
Hull Traders established its reputation with textiles by sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and photographer Nigel Henderson. Marketed under the name Hammer Prints, they were originally produced by the artists themselves, but later absorbed into Hull Traders' collection. The designs were a genuine collaboration, combining Paolozzi's magpie interests and addiction to mark-making with Henderson's fascination with collage. 'A motif may be suggested by Paolozzi, then taken over by Henderson for manipulation with the help of a camera, enlarger and a whole range of technical processes,' explained the duo. 'Or the underlying theme may be supplied by an illustration in a book, a child's drawing, a photograph; but its final integration into the design will be the result of considerable experimentation, using photographic methods in a non-mechanical way.'
Group effort HULL TRADERS - TIME PRESENT FABRICS
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All dolled up TALENTED TOY-MAKER JESS BROWN TELLS US WHY SHE’S SUCH A SOFTIE
Did you have a favourite doll as a child? Was it handcrafted or plastic? I did have a favourite doll as a child, two actually. One was a rabbit made of fleece with long satin-lined ears. The other was a rag doll dressed in a wonderful floral dress. My daughter has that doll now. I have always loved fabrics... and never connected to my plastic toys in the same way. Did you teach yourself how to make the dolls or did you study textiles?
I taught myself to make dolls, clothes and quilts. It sort of comes from a need to work with the fabrics I have collected. There's no point in looking at them on a shelf! I have never studied textiles in school. I have been in love with them since I was a child though, so I guess I have studied them in life. Do you make each doll from start to finish or produce them in
sections (sets of legs first)? I used to make each doll completely from start to finish. Sometimes I still do
if it's a special gift. Most of the time I build a group of the bodies. It's better for the tea dying process if there are a lot at once. That's when I get all of the variations in the muslin. What do you think makes a handcrafted doll special?
I think that handcrafted dolls are thoughtful. Every stitch is made with purpose. When I look at the dolls I have made for my son and daughter I
can remember why I chose a certain way to put them together, how I stitched on the hair, the clothes. Creating textures through handwork makes them so special. I think that the handcrafted doll has a vibrance and energy about it. Do you feel they have different characters? I do see something different in each doll that I create. Especially once I see them with a child. I don't know if they have different characters as much as a different feeling. There has really never been two exactly alike. You recently collaborated with Wovenplay. Did you enjoy it and have you plans to collaborate with any other companies? My collaboration with Wovenplay has been amazing! I have absolutely loved it and felt so honoured that Katherine was keen on the idea. Her costumes complement the rag dolls perfectly. I am not sure what may happen in the future. If you could use the fabrics of any company or designer who would it be? It would have to be Erica Tanov, and the most wonderful thing is that I have been able to do just that! When Erica has finished cutting a current line, she passes on her scraps to me. It has been such a gift to work with her fabrics. When I can, I love to use Liberty prints from the 70s. When I was small, my parents bought a lot of Cacharel. I always loved the small floral prints. The rag doll I still have from when I was two, wears a dress made from an old Liberty print.
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Lined up DESIGNERSFORMANORDERLYQUEUE TO EXPLOIT TARTAN’S RICH HISTORY
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Tartan has dressed kings, festooned castles, witnessed battles, graced catwalks and hit the high street. There are over 7,000 tartans on record with new designs being whipped up all the time. This famous cloth may be as old as the hills but it has led a chequered and contentious past.
It is true that tartan has been around for centuries but a few Highland myths have been bandied about on its epic journey and some practices considered traditional are in fact quite recent inventions. The so called 'clan tartans' are not ancient but a 19th-century notion, and it is ironic to discover that the word tartan is derived from the French ‘tiretain’ meaning a half wool, half linen loosely-woven cloth.
The earliest documented 'tartan' in Britain, known as the Falkirk tartan, dates from the 3rd century BC and is described as a simple check of light and dark brown wool. This small-scale plaid was traditionally woven in the Highlands
and Lowlands. But tartan as we know it today – a pattern of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours – didn't exist in Scotland before the 16th century, and it wasn't until the late 17th century that any kind of uniformity in tartan is thought to have occurred. Then, Scottish tartans with their pattern of squares or 'setts' and colours were made to distinguish the inhabitants of different regions, and were produced by local weavers. Local plants such as moss, bracken, heather and ragwort provided the dyes and the cloth echoed the Scottish hillside. Tartan as a badge of certain families or clans developed in the 19th century.
The cloth was popularised outside Scotland by rebellions, royalty and romantic fiction. The 1707 Act of Union made tartan a political textile. Its unruly image springs from the Battle of Culloden and Bonnie Prince Charlie's decision to adopt Highland dress in defiance of England as the uniform of the Jacobites. After his defeat, the
British outlawed the wearing of tartan enforced by the 1746 Dress Act. But the ban only served to transform tartan from a material worn by humble Highlanders into a fashionable fabric worn by the privileged.
It was the state visit to Edinburgh in 1822 of George IV in full Highland dress in the newly designed Royal Stewart that sparked the real craze. With the pageant choreographed by the romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott, the capital of Scotland was truly ‘tartanised’. Royal Stewart with its red background and green and black stripes accented with blue, white and yellow is now one of the most popular tartans in the world.
Royal endorsement continued, and just 20 years later Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made their first trip to the Scottish Highlands. Her new estate, Balmoral Castle, was soon dressed from top to toe in tartan - Royal Stewart and Hunting Stewart for carpets, Dress Stewart for curtains and upholstery. The queen
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Above my desksits a pin board filled with every day notes, a calendar for the year but also images to inspire me on a daily basis. The most prominent postcard to greet me each day is a sun-baked field of lavender which I brought back with me from my holiday in Provence last year. The richness of the purple beds scar the land. To me this particular hue embodies a certain regal, call it 'imperial' quality, that when injected into a design seems to strengthen it, but it is a colour that also offers a reflective value too – a wonderful sense of tranquillity. Victoria Bain, Couture embroidered textiles, www.victoriabain.co.uk
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01 Gingham bags, from £4.50, T: +44 (0)20 7225 7070, www.fewandfar.net 02 Hostess hat with brim, £675, Wool tweed coat, £594, T: +44 (0)20 8674 7411, www.eleykishimoto.com03 "Nora" jacquard-knit waistcoat in cotton and wool, €87, T: 0800 056 9912, www.gudrunsjoden.com 04 Vintage suitcases made to order, from £70, T: +44 (0)7876 510 044, www.originallittlebird.co.uk 05 Wool blankets, from £115, www.melintregwynt.co.uk 06 Angel wing washbag, £35, T: +44 (0)20 7242 6322, www.margoselby.com07 Gonul Paksoy gossamer cardigan, £450, Selvedge drygoods, as before
* Showing at London Design Festival, see website for details of events, www.londondesignfestival.com
Contents INDULGEtextiles to buy, collect or simply admire 17 Spectrum of talent Satisfy your craving for colour 73 Guiding hand The knack of collecting knitting patterns
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce 56 Group effort Hull Traders and Time Present Fabrics 75 Design file Bauhaus weaver Gunta Stölzl
ANECDOTEtextiles that touch our lives 96In Her Green Dress The winner of our ‘illustrate your point’ competition
CONCEPTtextiles in fine art 76 All dolled upAn interview with talented toy maker Jess Brown
ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends 26 COVER STORYLined up Designers form an orderly queue to exploit Tartan
COHABITstunning interiors beautifully photographed 38 Home comfortsThe country retreat of cashmere queen Victoria Stapleton 61 A woman of colour Agnes Emery’s love of colour
GLOBAL travel destinations and ethnographic textiles 47 COVER STORY Timorous Beasties & ScotlandBrave hearts and bold designs 65 COVER STORYMaking waves Gaurav Gupta wants new ways of weaving
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INFORMthe latest news, reviews and exhibition listings
04 bias/contributors 05 correspondence 07 news 13 sustain 15 how to... make a door stop 69 readers’ offers 84 international listings Exhibitions, fairs, events 86 read Josef Albers, Interaction of
Color and our ‘Back to school’ sale, 20% off all books from the Selvedge bookshop 88 view Paper Works, Jerwood Contemporary Makers, Isabel Toledo, Michael Raedecker 93 resources 80 subscription offers Great savings and gifts from
designer Gudrun Sjödén 81SUBSCRIBE TO SELVEDGE 83 Selvedge event Join us at the London Design Festival, the launch of Kathryn Ireland’s new book and the third Hand and Lock Conference 95 coming next The Folk Issue: A happy, handmade holiday
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