Vanessa Arbuthnott’s latest collection, her fifteenth, is called the Artists’ Collection. As Vanessa explains: “This collection is a collaborative family effort; I had a fall, which left me with two broken arms and made it impossible to hold a pencil! I nonetheless worked with my husband Nicholas and daughters Rose and Flora, curating their sketches, translating them into workable patterns and scaling them for furnishings. Finally I was able to take charge of the best part of the whole process: choosing colours for the fabrics, both to pull the designs together as a cohesive range and to enable them to sit comfortably with my other collections.”
Vanessa’s husband Nicholas, an architect, created the family house from a derelict cow byre 24 years ago and this is his first foray into fabric design. “My design, ‘By The Sea’, has been inspired both by my early childhood in Solva and by time spent more recently at Mousehole: I delight in coastal towns with their cosy harbours and brightly-coloured cottages nestling behind, the little pathways snaking between terraced gardens and climbing up the hillside.”
Vanessa’s elder daughter Rose, a fine artist, poet and writer, has designed the quirky and light-hearted ‘Tea Time’, a witty interpretation of every day items of crockery and kitchen, boldly drawn with a retro feel. “The daily adventure of cups and saucers, pots and flowers, the delicious enthrallment of the simple things in life, are celebrated in this design. Reflecting domestic life in your curtains and the furnishings around you makes for a very homely and fun feel.”
Vanessa’s younger daughter Flora, a natural-dyer, printmaker and forager, has produced three designs: ‘In Full Flight’, ‘Branching Out’ and ‘Hand Printed Stripe’. The first of these depicts a sweeping, large-scale, stylised bird set within a leafy trellis; this is repeated on a smaller scale in ‘Branching Out’. Flora elaborates on how she developed the ideas for her designs: “I find it inspiring to walk along hedgerows and through woodland, watching the birds flying down to eat blackberries and elderberries and gather twigs for their nests. Observing branches and climbing plants such as Wild Clematis and White Bryony creeping up the edge of the trees, I develop patterns and shapes.”
She continues: “I created ‘In Full Flight’ and ‘Branching Out’ by cutting birds and branches out of paper with scissors and then arranging them across the fabric. This way, Mum and I were able to play with different pattern repeats and arrangements.” Flora adds that the act of cutting out birds produces soft streamlined shapes and the flowing curves of necks, wings and tails.
For ‘Hand Printed Stripe’ she used a favourite technique taught to her by Vanessa in childhood: “I cut a potato carefully to create this simple stripe, carving geometric shapes into the potato with a sharp knife and playing with pattern on a big piece of paper with poster paint. I am so thrilled that we managed to reproduce the soft texture of the potato in the final print. “
The Artists’ Collection comprises five designs over 18 colourways. They are joined by three new colourways of the ever-popular ‘French Ticking’ and ‘Stockholm Stripe’ and four new colourways of the versatile ‘Pretty Maids’.
The fabrics are printed in the UK on 100% linen and are suitable for curtains, blinds, upholstery and accessories. The collection introduces three evocative colours: a smart grey called Scree, a warm blue named Powder Blue and Lily, a charming, pretty pink. These colours are mixed with existing favourites, including Saffron, Charcoal, Smoke and Teal.
The Artists’ Collection will be available from February 2018 at Vanessa’s flagship store in Cirencester, online via www.vanessaarbuthnott.co.uk and through a network of stockists nationally and internationally.