Visitors to our studio, especially students of design, often ask me what goes into putting together a creative textile collection. For many years I have worked closely with Carole, and previously with Rod Davison, learning design and screen-printing skills to create beautiful fabric collections. This week, I thought I would share some of this artisanal process with you.
As you begin the design process, you need to ask yourself these essential questions:
Question 1) What theme are you working with?
Whenever we design for a collection, we need a hero piece. The first one that Carole designed, is this big bold Ndebele pattern. It is inspired by the art of the Ndebele People of Southern Africa. It became the main theme as it really epitomizes the heart of South African pattern design.
Question 2) What are the linking designs?
A collection needs smaller patterns to accompany the hero piece and continue the story of the theme. This gives more options to play with when creating an interior. For instance, you could use the hero piece for your headboard and couch and then you might want to use one of the linking designs in a scatter cushion or for trimming. Linking designs connect with the hero through pattern and colour. We already had the Zalenga and Mali (smaller geometrics) that also speak of Africa’s culture and tradition (textiles with soul). These worked quite well as linking designs when added to the collection.
Additionally, we wanted to showcase the diversity and richness of African wildlife in our collection. Because of its bold, graphic hide, the zebra was our animal of choice. We designed the zebra pattern with a lot of space to bring a sense of calm to the other accompanying designs.
We are particularly fortunate in that we have our own printing and design studio, so we can add new patterns to our collection continuously. The following are examples of new linking designs you can expect to see in the near future.
Our Design and Printing Process
Screen printing is a centuries-old craft that relies on the expertise of trained craftspeople to bring imaginative designs to life. We are really proud to carry on this legacy and pass it on to the next generation, especially in this day and age when everything is being digitized and the personal touch is slowly fading from our culture. We do all of our design work by hand and then transfer this to the computer. We then print this onto acetate film (positives), which will be used to produce the silkscreen (stencil).
A light-reactive emulsion is applied to our screen and is allowed to dry. The positive film is then placed on the coated screen and exposed (in our darkroom) to light to harden and develop. After exposure, the screen is taken to the wash bay where a high-pressure washer shoots out what is not part of the design. Now we are ready to test the design and colours with the screen, each screen represents one colour of the design.
Question 3) What is your Colour Palette?
Colour is one of the most significant design elements in a collection. We took our colour inspiration from a more traditional Ndebele home, which as you can see above features a warmer palette. Modern examples of this pattern have become much brighter.
Carole decided to use a more grounded colour palette for this collection. It is because she felt warm earthy colours suited the end-use (contemporary African-inspired decor and game lodges). We have also received numerous requests in the past for such a palette.
Question 4) What are your base fabrics and the end-use?
We chose flax linen because of its natural colour, it also seamlessly complements our rich, warmer palette with its rough textures. You also end up with an interesting variation of colour tones. Linen has a raw honesty and natural texture that lends itself to a tactile and natural interior.
You are welcome to tour our studio, and we can take you through the design and production process in detail. If we happen to be in the middle of a design, you can participate and learn more, you can also watch the screen making, colour mixing and screen-printing process at the tables.
If you have found this helpful and interesting, let me know and I will be happy to share more information in future blogs on topics such as screen making, printing and the colour mixing process.
If you are thinking of putting together a textile collection and need assistance please contact us whether you are local or abroad. Thank you to all our collaborators and clients.
Carole (Creative Director)
Donovan (Production Manager)
Naomi (Marketing Assistant)