a question of scale

bathroom shelf

I look at this little group of things tidied up onto my bathroom shelf every day, several times, and it always make me smile:

the tiny lady sitting on the bigger verdigris lady’s lap in front of an apparently huge cactus plant, while toy domestic fowl of Brobdingnagian proportions peck about their feet. The whole thing takes up no more than 8 inches. I remember as a child wishing, wishing, wishing I could shrink like Alice and get inside my dolls house to see what the hidden part of the staircase was really like. 

dolls house

At the other end of the scale is this enormous hedge being topiarised into a giant leafy dragon – scales again – it’s taken thirteen years a-growing so far.NWS_DMCF_BROOKER_2

And an Australian enthusiast has folded a Gargantuan paper plane which elegantly dips and glides on its long languorous flight.


The English language being what it is, the word scale has plenty of meanings; last week I was treated to a performance of Daniel Barenboim at the RFH playing Schubert sonatas on his special new piano.

The moment of his arrival on the stage was extraordinary. The hall was packed, buzzing with anticipation, the lights were dimmed and to thunderous applause one small man walked onto the platform, a hero holding so much promise in his hands. He graciously acknowledged his audience, and for a moment I imagined he might suddenly decide ‘not tonight’ or ‘not Schubert’ or ‘I’d rather turn a somersault, tell a joke’ – he could have, he had all the power, but he didn’t. He sat down and played us his river of stories. I happened to be sitting right in the middle of the hall, and for some reason the structure of the place took on an overwhelming significance for me: the symmetry of the architecture seemed to hold us all steady as we focussed on what those flashing fingers were magicking up. It appeared to emphasise the tension between the many watchers and the one watched, the huge finite space and that small but infinite run of keys – thrilling!

festival hall

An extra little by-chance pleasure for me was to see a friend sitting a few rows ahead wearing a scarf I’d specially hand-painted for her birthday.

We humans are so clever with our hands: take some time and look at these craftsmen involved in the whole process of making, cutting and fitting mosaics.

Peering closely at the work of Eric Ravilious in the Dulwich Picture Gallery it’s possible to really see his meticulous methods of building light and shade, dapple and dark.

anchor and boatsI could imagine his brushes making the careful strokes and dabs, with little pencil lines and notes to guide, from a watery translucent wash to a full texture of colour, with marks woven and patterned across the paper’s surface. The compositions, and the contrast between sharp shapes and soft contours, show masterful draughtsmanship; the pictures seem both empty and full. As a war artist he went ‘missing in action’ in 1942, a young man of 39 years. RaviliousHMSGLoriousintheArcticThe exhibition made me feel that illustrative as his work was, had he lived his painting might have developed in a much more abstract direction through his investigations of surface and painted marks. Ravilious had been very close to the designer Peggy Angus, and he and his wife Tirzah particularly loved her house Furlongs on the Sussex Downs. It turns out that the friend who cooked us such a delicious lunch the other Saturday had been Peggy’s assistant and as a young woman had helped print her wallpapers! I hope to learn more…. 

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 9.53.18 PMStories of my working life always get told at The Textile Society members’ visits to the studio, and each group brings different interests and aspects.

weiner's folly liberty

Last time I found myself talking about the first ‘real’ design I sold to Liberty of London Prints that was dubbed ‘Weiner’s Folly’! The pattern itself was a landscape; for some unknown reason on the evening before my graphics course Diploma Show (Chelsea 1969) I was moved to draw a huge backdrop for my display.

weiner's folly sketch

It was of a river meandering through a leafy parkland, set above a band of stuck-on miniature brick-print paper. George Weiner, the fabric producer at LOLP, came to the show and bought it there and then. (By then I’d been working with Susan and painting designs in repeat for him for some time.) I put it in repeat and have some yardage still.


More than fifty years later I was asked by a new customer to make a more up-to-date version of that original… And my interest in painting story patterns has always continued – Cote d’Azure being one of our most enduring designs in that narrative genre.

cote d'azur chairThese painted bus shelters in Belarus turn the whole thing around by bringing bright decorative pattern into rather a flat landscape; huge roses bloom in the snowy fields, giant daisies among the puddles.

soldatova2 soldatova8

In the last blog I promised some treats made from the new Michael Miller range, Melodies.

sarah campbell michael miller fabrics

jewel family modflowerMy clever online friend at Modflowers (thanks Twitter) has really excelled herself with this little gang of rabbity folk, the Jewel family – adorable from their tips to their toes, including the teeny toy cat. The Tropic family’s to follow and there are other products in the pipeline too.

jewel girl doll mod flower

The online ArtRoom chair auction runs for another few days until the 9th June – place your bids here on chairs transformed by ninety different designers and artists, including yours truly. Here they all are hanging from ceiling to floor in the atrium.


Selfridges have rather an amazing ‘free’ space called the Ultralounge which is host to events, talks, experiments, and currently a pop-up ArtRoom. Workshops are on offer, and we had a great time there one afternoon with members of the shop’s creative team getting their hands dirty to good effect.

ultralounge selfridges

It’s the start of June – for a nostalgic shot of summer style visit the Riviera exhibition at the FTM; lounge by the lido and enjoy the sunfrocks and ruched swimsuits!

FTM Riviera

And to help make the season even prettier we’re running an offer on all our silk scarves! Enter the code SUNNY at the checkout for a 20% discount this month.


We’ve had two nice bits of press coverage lately – yesterday’s Sunday Mirror gave these little painted fellows an outing

Sunday Mirror 31st MAY animals 2

and I’m answering a Q&A here on the Designer Insights blog, and getting to pick some of my favourites in the current marketplace. Next friday 5th June is World Environment Day, with the UN concentrating on the theme Consume with Care – I think there’ll be useful tips all over the place including on the Hubbub blog…

And just a note about short courses: the Morley College silk painting course next weekend is full, but there will be more opportunities coming in the next academic year. And the course at Bradness is also full for the weekend of 12th/13th September. We’re proposing to offer a weekday course during the last weeks of October. Please contact Emma direct if you’re interested in attending. On both occasions our starting point will be the glorious garden full of autumn colours and shapes.


Thanks to, Molly and Steve.

jewel dad

18 thoughts on “a question of scale

  1. Ah, such fond memories. You always blew me away by your natural creativity. Thank you once again for the pond plants from your garden. Melvyn (Biddulph) ((facebook) adurArtscollective)

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Pleasure to read, as always.

    Cote d’Azure deck chairs, now there’s an idea – must have a rummage around in the cellar to see if we have enough left over…

    How are the plans for the flag making course coming along?


  3. Overwhelming in its diversity, the range, the quality, the variety and how do you keep all the data in the air, and find time to produce too – just amazing. See you soon in mid – summer, I hope, cheers and love Dave x

  4. I forgot to say what fun the art space at Selfridges was, but when I visited the tablecloth didn’t look that clean anymore. Mary

  5. Another interesting and nice to the eye blog. By mistake I went to your web-site and saw the intros to blogs dating back to march 2012. Wow have you worked hard and created an enormous amount of gorgeous artworks. I recommend anyone to browse back over the last few years of Sarah’s blogs. Amazing.


  6. Hi Sarah, Great blog as always. Just wondering how you are? Haven’t seen you for a while so next time I am in London I’ll give you a shout! Jo x

  7. Another great blog on your hugely varied activities Sarah. Lovely. I particularly liked the film of the men making and cutting the mosaic shapes. I will look at those mosaics with new eyes having seen it. What precision they manage in the cutting, with just those sharp hammers. Wow.

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