A gloriously colourful brand of modernism is currently on display at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London. The working collaboration between the Austrian born Josef Frank (1885-1967) and Estrid Ericson jointly redefined the style of "Swedish Modern"in furniture, lighting, glassware, fabrics and interior design in what can only be described as a joyful and playful exuberance of pattern and colour. (So this is going to be right up my street!)
I expectantly paid a visit on Thursday with an equally inspired fabric-loving friend to lift our spirits and install a sense of creativity to our week. As I am teaching an advanced fused glass course this weekend my purpose in attending was two-fold in seeking inspiration as a starting point for my own glass making. I set design preparation tasks for my students this weekend so I must practice what I preach and carry forward my own ideas into new jewellery pieces by the end of the weekend too. My task is set, here we go with first impressions of the exhibition!
Colour, pattern and plenty!
This fabric is one of my personal favourites, based on a mosaic tiled floor or "Terrazzo" design. The circular shapes represent agates, each it's own tiny linear world set into a grey speckled background, like the marbled floors in Italy. The autumnal colour scheme appeals to me. It is hard to believe this pattern was designed somewhere between 1943 and 1945, it could have been drawn yesterday!
Nature, food, plants, birds, fish, boats, maps, Chinese paintings, foliage, poisonous plants and flowers are among Frank's many starting points for inspiration and there is an overwhelming sense of plenty and playfulness in his fantastical, colourful and graphical portrayals of these topics.
After leaving Austria and being offered refuge in Sweden, Josef worked in collaboration with Estrid Ericson (who in 1924 founded the Swedish store "Svenskt Tenn" selling furniture and home furnishings).
This "Navigare" fabric was designed by Frank as a tribute to Estrid's husband Captain Sigfrid Ericson and includes a picture of the 20 Century ship "Gripsholm" of whom Sigrid was the Captain. The fabric features one famous ship from each century between 12th and 20th.
Frank was a skilled watercolorist (there are a significant number included on display). He painted his designs before they were cleverly turned into patterns on fabric. A beautiful (if pricey) book has been printed to accompany the exhibition which includes the repeat print and registration processes used in his fabric designs. (Although at £43 this will have to go on my Amazon wish list for a while!)
I can't finish without including at least one of Frank's designs including flowers and birds which are charming in a slightly children's story book way. His imagination and decorative skills in patterning are both playful and reminiscent of some of the detail found in Arts and Crafts fabrics of William Morris. This delightful exhibition continues until 7th May 2017 and is a must for anyone who delights in colourful fabrics and early Swedish design. You can't help but leave with a cheerful smile on your face!
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