The story of our new collection, Bloom, really begins with this lino plate that I created about seven years ago. It’s a design based on a sprig of gum blossom taken from a bunch of native flowers I’d been given for my birthday. At the time I thought it might be a good design to add into the Natives range, to go along with the Banksia and Kangaroo paw designs I’d already made. But for some reason this blossom idea never blossomed any further than a bunch of prototype sample prints and artworks. I did manage to turn the image into a small silkscreen and use that to print the flowers all over an enormous wall for a hotel a few years ago and once I made many rolls of hand printed wallpaper for a special commission and then there was the print run of one hundred of gift bags I coincidentally printed just the other day but the idea never actually went the full step into production as a yardage design. And I always thought it should have.
So the idea sat in the back of my mind for a number of years, as they sometimes do, biding their own sweet time. Then in late September 2013, whilst on holiday in California, these blossoms came back to me in a sudden and spectacular late flowering show. I was visiting San Francisco for a few weeks, over for a friends wedding and taking some time to explore the city. One sunny day whilst walking around Valencia, I was quite taken with the flowering trees lining the streets. They looked familiar somehow – something about those masses of scarlet blooms shining vivid against the cerulean blue sky made me stop and look closer.
I recognised the soft green curving leaves with their very tips tinted red, the cadmium and tangerine blossoms and pinkish pods bursting with delicate fingery stamens curling and unfolding. These were Australian eucalypts, red flowering gums, blooming abundant and glorious like I’d never quite seen before. I sat on a bench for a while making a couple of quick sketches enjoying the moment of being surrounded by something so familiar.
When I came home I researched this ex-pat trees. It turns out that the Corymbia Ficifolia is originally from the coast of Western Australia and is a popular tree to plant on the streets. Almost any street will do, even the council in Ireland plant them. So does my mum, in her garden back in England. I remembered when we bought the plant together years ago, at her local nursery. We chose it because these gums never grew too big and didn’t need much pruning – thats what it said on the label, anyway. And then I discovered that the Red Flowering Gum isn’t really a gum tree at all. It’s a bloodwood tree and the flowers can be cream coloured, pink and orange, not just red.
I started noticing all these bloodwoods in my own neighbourhood in Sydney. There was a smallish pinkish one just recently planted, by the council I think, just across the street from my house and there was another, bigger tree just around the corner with lovely tangerine coloured flowers. The more I looked the more I discovered them, all around the place. Naturally it made me remember that lino plate I’d made years before and after a bit of rummaging, I found it filed under a pile of paper in a dark corner of my studio. So I started printing with it again. And this is what I made.
It’s funny how it can take a trip far away to reacquaint yourself with the beauty of what is just in your own back yard.
It definitely felt that time had come full circle. It was finally time to get this design made. And so armed with paint brushes, paint and paper I studied those gum blossoms, paring the flowers down to their essence, simplifying their form.
And gradually the personality of this new design started to emerge. I added a background colour and shadows in the buds for depth, making it a three colour print. I put the design into repeat, cut the screens and printed many many samples.
Gum Blossom is the very first design of the very first collection in collaboration with Ascraft and I saw this as an opportunity to bring in new influences. So together with David and John and Martine we worked hard on creating a new saturated colour palette – golden yellow, hot orange and hot pink, as well as old favourites like surf, white, charcoal and indigo. And gradually this brand new design came into itself. My gum blossom was flowering at last.
To complete the collection I added two more prints and a whole bunch of plain linens. The prints were designs already in the WorkingCloth range – Pod and Standard Stripe. They have been part of the team on and off for a while now and I added them here because this was an opportunity to get them working as a group, coordinating and recoloured. And anyway, all three designs looked really good together – something to do with the scale I think.
And then the plains! Oh what a joy. I’ve been wanting a Cloth plains range for years now. It’s so great joining forces with another team with different and complimentary skills. The Ascraft boys have been in the fabric business for a long time and they can source great fabric base cloths. This range of washed back yarn dyed upholstery weight linen that they have sourced for me, coordinates so beautifully with the Cloth sensibility and tones in really well with this new collection, rounding the prints off beautifully.
Over the next few weeks we will be photographing all the fabrics (there are something like 35 different print and plain options, 70 in total) and slowly getting it all up on line. All this takes a lot of time. I wanted this range to be ready for early spring but just as Gum blossom took its own sweet time to come to fruition, so, it seems is the collection as a whole. It will probably be the end of November that all the work is available to buy and see on the website. So meanwhile if you would like samples sent out please get in touch. And we do have limited stock available on the roll to buy, so do drop in, we would love to see you. And remember, we’re in Sydney and in Melbourne now. How good is that! x Julie