Sanderson: The Essence of English Decoration

It seems like an extraordinarily long time since I wrote my original post about Sanderson prints and the exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum.

Since writing it – in fact almost straight after writing it – the kindly folks at Thames & Hudson sent me a copy of the exhibition’s corresponding book, The Essence of English Decoration. It’s a real treat of a coffee table style, full of amazing images that can’t fail to get you excited if you’re a textile geek. It’s also done nothing to discourage my crazy nesting habit, which has recently extended to bidding on Alfred Meakin plates on eBay. Speaking of which, if anyone has any Circus designs knocking around, I’ll buy them off you.

Anyway… Here are some of my favourite designs from the book;

Cover, obviously.

Savaric, a block-printed wallpaper designed c. 1896. As with most of Sanderson’s designs, it’s amazing how modern and right for now this print feels. This was originally used in a bedroom in Victor Horta’s house in Brussels. It’s still available in the Sanderson hand-print range, supplied to order.

Block-printed Percy Heffer design, c. 1912. The colours on this IRL are amazing. So dark with incredible punches of bright, almost neon pink. I love it but can’t even imagine how intense it would be on the wall of… well, any room. Having just read Dope Girls and London society’s obsession with opium dens at the time, can’t help but imagine it lining some sordidly amazing bedroom.

This is a detail from a 1930 advert by Horace Taylor. The wording reads as follows;

When you decorate a dull room with a Sanderson Wallpaper you transform it. It is like pulling up the blinds on a sunny morning. The room which had the sulks now smiles, the room which was so dowdy and dreary is now the sunniest room in the house. The Sanderson Wallpaper Book shows you paper after paper which is a joy to look at, and will be a pleasure to live with. On no account have any decorating done until you have asked your decorator to show you this most inspiring book.

Inspiring words for an inspiring book, but all I care about is getting sunshine print paper like on the right page of the book.

This Snow White print from 1938 reminds me, of course, of my beloved dress. Such lovely colours, not like the primary hued Disney of today.

Sanderson is famous for its chintz and Chapter 9 is (fabulously) called ‘Whole Hoggers on Chintz’. All the ad campaigns in this section are brilliant – ‘To save pennies, some manufacturers prune their roses’ on a particularly floral number. Here we see the cover of House & Garden from 1980 with an entire room decorated in ‘Only a Rose’. The design was eventually proved to bold and was withdrawn. Boo!


Very Sanderson at the Fashion and Textiles Museum

Another week, another great exhibition… Aren’t we lucky to live in London? This week the Very Sanderson exhibition opened at the Fashion and Textiles Museum and I’m really excited to get down and see it ASAP. Along with the quilts, it’s probably a bit geeky if you’re not into textiles but I enjoy any opportunity to get down to the FTM and there are loads of good pubs round there too which always makes a trip worthwhile.

Sanderson is one of the oldest English design houses still going and its their 150th anniversary which is being celebrated at this exhibition. They’re the people responsible for some of the most iconic prints you’ll have seen — all those classic kitschy 50s Festival prints that you study in art school and drool over, triangles and circles and Miro-esque squiggles… lovely lovely. They were also the first people to create a range of mass produced coordinated wallpapers and curtains and created all sorts of revolutionary technical techniques to get excited about.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what the FTM have done with the collections as their exhibits are always so brilliantly curated. You can read more about the exhibition here and more about Sanderson here. Up there are some of my favourite wallpapers, showing designs from the 1800s up the 50s. Isn’t it weird/fantastic how any one of those would work just as well I’ve today?

Facehunter book: a first look!

Facehunter Book

The kindly folk at Thames & Hudson sent me a copy of the new Facehunter book today, which presumably means that the embarrassing letter I sent them five years ago begging for a job on the basis that I was a senior bookseller at Waterstones and really, really liked books, never made it onto their weirdo blacklist. Phew!

Facehunter (Yvan Rodic) is a bit like Stylebubble in that it’s been a permanent presence in my bookmarks folder since it started all those moons ago. Other blogs come and go, my tastes change, but Facehunter remains a constant for me. I guess that’s largely because, like Susie’s blog, it’s more about straight up personal reportage than following trends. And yes, I do still rely on a bookmarks folder not a reader. I could reveal a whole bunch of your favourite internet superstars who do too ‘cos I’ve asked them. OMG!

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Facehunter and The Sartorialist, seeing as how they’re both successful street style photographers, but I think there’s a lot of differences. Sart is obviously an incredible photographer and I have a lot of love for him too but his pictures are kind of as much about as him as they are the subject. It’s his view of someone and the photos are judged as much on the fact that the nice blue sky works with the yellow hat or the fact that the subject is old/homeless/smoking as they are on the clothes. With Yvan, maybe the photographs aren’t as pristine but that just means you focus more on the outfit, which is pretty much the point… right?

Yvan says in the book that often street style photographers are obsessed with asking their subjects what they’re wearing. He says, ‘who cares! I’m not writing a shopping guide.’ He’s right. Although sometimes it’s nice to find out where an outfit is from if there’s something you want, does it really matter? I’d rather just look at a good outfit and enjoy it. I absolutely love the fact that in this book each image is just captioned with the city and date. No names, no job titles, no pithy description of their personal style mantra. Just a good picture of a great outfit. It’s nice in this era of information overload to just be given the bare minimum and do the rest in your head. Why is he wearing that? What made her think that dress was a good choice? You get to use your noggin, how’s about that? There are a few choice paragraphs from Yvan about his process and some bits about his favourite shots, but for the most part it’s just about the pictures. As it should be! At one point he does say, ‘sorry guys — I don’t know much about fashion’ and that warms my cockles heartily.

Needless to say, the pictures are great. Apologies for the quality of these ones, they’re in no way indicative of the book. As I was fannying around trying to take these shots of my favourite looks (some of which are saved in folders on my laptop from when I first saw them on Facehunter years ago!), my boyfriend pointed out that I could have just copied the pictures off the blog, seeing as how they’re all dated and referenced in the book. That’s why he has a proper job and I don’t.

Anyway, the book is a lovely hardbacked hunk of beauty — the perfect addition to my new coffee table which is arriving on Saturday after being purchased in December and locked in my mum’s garage in Sheffield ever since, awaiting the kindness of someone with a car.

Facehunter by Yvan Rodic, £14.95 goes on sale 15th March 2010, published by Thames & Hudson. If you’re in London town, get down to Foyles on Charing Cross Road at 5pm on 12th March 2010, where Yvan himself will be signing copies of the book!

Thanks to Lauren at Thames & Hudson for the love!