the eyes have it


I came down to earth with a bump: one minute looking up at the stars, the next tripping on something uneven, I was sprawled on the ground, knocked senseless.

As I got up, tentatively relieved, and gathered myself together, I thought how brilliant a fortress the forehead is. My brow, though bruised, had protected both my eyes and my brain; I developed quite a shiner though!eyeBy the morning my eye was a fine indigo and puffed-up purple – I dressed to match. As the day progressed my little internal phagocytes went speedily to work busily cleaning up the debris of burst capillaries and reclaiming the errant red blood cells for themselves. My skin turned from blue to green to yellow as the healing housework progressed – luckily I have garments to compliment all these variations!


Partway through the week, on the day of the UN climate change meeting, the 23rd, I was at the Southbank and noticed a group of young people all with black circles painted around their right eyes. I stopped to enquire what their gang was and raised my dark glasses to ask if I would qualify for membership with my ‘natural’ ring. They were part of TheFuture and handed me their Mayhem Map of the Future Underground, a little manifesto – they’re the Watchers, rather menacingly keeping an eye on our political leaders. They cheerfully invited me to join their impromptu open-air yoga class – they’d done with disruption for the moment they said. I went to have my supper, but I’m a sucker for that word mayhem… black eye gang

20130329-174917My fall came at the end of rather a splendid few days – make of that what you will. Coinciding with LDF week WestElm had a special open evening where I was pleased to see quite a few of my American colleagues again. And down in Soho, Ham Yard Hotel is a great place to meet for lunch; just coming across the Acalder.circuslexander Calder tapestry at the bottom of the stairs makes my heart beat faster. He is one of my all-time heroes. Have you ever seen the film of his circus? Take some time and enjoy it here. DSC07326


On the thursday Habitat launched the Design Reunion products, shown in an intriguing Tunnel of Love type of exhibition layout which can be still visited at Platform in the Kings Road; and that was followed on friday with a very enjoyable discussion between us designers and David Nicholls of the Telegraph in which we investigated the idea of inspiration. We meandered together down the paths of influence.  We all find the spark of ideas where we can – in nature, factories, museums, the dog. For me journeys make for great thinking times; being neither here nor there, loosened from the usual ties of brown envelopes and washing up; and sitting on the beach between dry land and the sea is equally productive, though not as easily achieved as sitting on the bus! My own form of creativity seems to be a hard-working progression of inner thoughts and ideas, what-ifs and intuition; the leaps of non-sequiturs – those rare and really new imaginings, could be called inspirations in themselves. And they seem to spring from unknown places.

habitat talkWe were askeDSC07348d to show something which had set us off, inspired us. Having recently unearthed this dear old Afghan dress in my own domestic archaeology I saw both what a rich example of textile culture it is, and what a long and exciting design journey it set me on, from apparel, furnishing, scarf, product fabric in the 80s to a very recent record sleeve. This is the dress, and the first painting I did in response to it.


An aside – as a child, and even now, I was fascinated on my visits to the travelling fair by the Tunnel of Love and the Ghost Train – how on earth did they get all that labyrinth of mileage out of one trailer? In principle it’s the same miracle as the paper-cutter’s party trick of snipping an ordinary postcard into a huge open circle – zig and zag!

pleasure with paper

Then I really enjoyed my Saturday in Streatham leading a workshop concerned with painting directly onto calico.


I think this was new to all seven participants, a couple of whom rarely if ever picked up a brush at all, and it was exciting to see everyone take to this new experience with gusto, never mind the drips and splodges, and produce a lot of lovely lively textiles. We were able to enjoy the tropical garden too, and a delicious potluck lunch – for which many thanks.

There are plans to repeat this type of workshop once or twice again next year so watch this space.


And that exhilerating day was followed by an evening of Joan Baez  ijoanbaez_new_imagen concert at the RFH – still magnetic despite the lower register she’s had to embrace in her 70s. The soaring notes of her younger voice continue to ring in my ears’ memory. I was pleased when she sang as one encore John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (listen here) – I’d only just been thinking about that song and the ideal of ‘no countries’ in the light of our present chopped up and divided, warring world. So, given all that, perhaps it’s not surprising that I lost concentration for a moment… An eye-test this week shows that all is well in that department, by the way. 

Having recently been one of the judging panel for this year’s Texprint prizes I’ve now received the compliment of being asked to act as guest curator for the range of products soon to be produced by Surface View for one of their Edits collections. I’ve found this new job fascinating and am enjoying having some fresh brain-muscles exercised in choosing and collating the work of five of the clever winning students.

Nancy Honey has now published the book of her 100 Leading Ladies project, and an exhibition of all the portraits is on at Somerset House until the 26th October. I am proud to be in the company of such influential and important women – and can’t help thinking that had they been pictures of blokes their presences would have been far less colourful, humorous and direct.DSC07617

And although I’ve taken things a bit easier this week there have been advances on the home front: the 2015 calendar is well under way – here’s a little peak at next October’s page – and yes, it will be ready to buy from our shop very soon. This month we are running a special offer on the A5 card packs – pop over and have a look. And our shawl-printing adventures in the wool trade are gathering speed. There’s new wool on the floor via WestElm, fresh fabric designs are being painted, and patterns for another new venture into product too – more nearer the day.


It’s been National Poetry Day; I read again this poem by Wislawa Szymborska ‘Love at first sight’ which I like for many reasons. This is the last verse:Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 13.35.36

You can enjoy the whole poem here.

Not having managed a summer break yet I’m really looking forward to a weekend in the woods – I’ve signed up for this short course with Ben Willis later in October. There are still places available should you want to join in too.


Thanks to Molly, Steve, Carol Grantham, to A.van Breda and his 1954 book Pleasure with Paper, and to my opposite neighbour Isabel for re-introducing me, after many years, to the pleasures of Tai Chi in the early October sun – soft movements – hard work! And the eye is now fully recovered.


15 thoughts on “the eyes have it

  1. Pingback: a travelling encyclopedia | Sarah Campbell Designs

  2. You are the absolute survivor and I expect now with the knock on the head even more extraordinary designs with amazing colours will appear – take care – you are too precious to lose. Dave x

  3. How like you Sarah to see wonderful colours in a bruised eye! And have the wardrobe to match it! …………I know what you mean though with indigos and oranges so on trend! Glad you’re all well now though! xx

  4. I hope you are feeling less bruised now – and I love the idea of dressing to match the bruise’s many colours (I took one of my boys to see Joseph and his coat of many colours at the Churchill Theatre this week!) Thank you for another fascinating and inspiring post. I look forward to the calendar, and hope you enjoy the woodland weekend! Olivia x

  5. Ouch! Glad to hear the eye is healed; bruise colours can be delightful in their own way can’t they but preferably not so public! love reading your blog; thanks especially for the link to the delightful circus. Reminds me of my great uncle Charlie who kept the elephants at Sangers Circus 100 years ago.

  6. Sarah—how come you are able to look SO stylish with a black eye? I danced into my own fist (holding hands and dancing in a circle on Hogmanay) once and my resulting black eye only attracted attention from kind strangers who thought I was a domestic-violence victim, which gave me much to consider re the plight of other women. I definitely didn’t look as elegant as you. Glad you are recovered. Covet your Habitat rug—it’s on my wish list! Pat x

  7. Dear Sarah, I loved the work produced by your students ,painting on calico( was it un bleached.?).Please can you tell me which paint they used,as I have lots of off -cuts of canvas which I’d love to use in a similar way. I wish you a speedy recovery from your fall,tho the changing colours of your ” shiner” may be inspirational. Kind regards, Jan Taylor.


    • Thanks – we used a selection of fabric painting inks that can be set by ironing on the reverse of the fabric when dry. The easiest to find are the little Dy-lon pots – many art and craft stores have them and others. The calico was unbleached – from Ikea in fact! Good luck.

  8. The woodworking course sounds great. It takes a while to work my way through all the interesting links you add in but now I found my way back to say hope the eye is better soon.

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