local royalty


There were no buses coming our way; as I stood chatting with a hopeful co-passenger an extraordinary procession approached from the other side. Up the hill came six plumed white horses pulling a white glass-sided carriage.

As it passed we saw the coffin, flanked by a large white floral tribute to PADDY. Then followed about a dozen sparkling white limos, some with music playing, filled to the brim with mourners. Next came an open cream-coloured Bedford truck loaded with flowers and huge white floral constructions – full-height pearly gates, enormous heart-shaped plaques, a wagon, replica caravans and many cars, all white. The motorcade continued – another open lorry, white and grey cars, some overflowing with more elaborate flowery tributes – and finally a traditional pony and cart trotted up the hill with a floral aeroplane propped in the back. The whole spectacle took about ten minutes to pass – the funeral cortège of the Gypsy King Patrick Ward. It took our minds off the lack of buses – and maybe explained the delay.

Chatting with the local florist a day or two later she told me the whole thing was rumoured to have cost 35,000 – and the ‘florals’ had mainly been done by the families themselves. Paddy left eight children and seventy grandchildren apparently, so there’d have been plenty of help at hand.


A different white flower has come my way – the Queen of the Night. My Chinese neighbour  has given me a stick with two leaves and the promise of a performance to come! It’s the tànhua. A type of cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) it flowers rarely, usually at night and with only one bloom at a time, which lasts for barely twenty-four hours. Hence the Chinese phrase ‘tànhua yi xian’, which loosely translates as ‘a flash in the pan’. Catch it here while you can! I’m sure my stick has grown since last week….

Other flowers have lasted longer: as I was being generously shown my neighbours’ lovely collection of paintings and calligraphy, enjoying each one’s story and provenance, I was somewhat taken aback to see, on their bed and in a house full of all things Chinese, one of our designs! It had been bought years back in Hong Kong. What an amazing coincidence. ‘Tambourine’ was one of Susan’s favourites, which we first painted for fabric in 1990 and then extended into bedlinen and wallpapers. By some fateful hand, learning Taichi has re-acquainted us in Gipsy Hill.


After our trip to Piet’s meadow in September we went to Wisley RHS gardens to look at his autumn borders. wisley-stripesOn that day I only seemed to see things in bands – of colour, of texture, of form – and was very taken with this arrangement: strict clipped green hedges contained swathes of tall buff grasses, which rippled noisily in front of the dark and stately pines, themselves stirring slowly in the wind. Other beds were less structured but had a similar juxtaposition of lush and dry, spiky and curvaceous – lovely. The lack of dahlias – wouldn’t autumn beds of these be delicious here? – was made up for on a later very rainy trip to Sarah Raven’s garden at Perch Hill Farm. Her bountiful variety and gorgeous colour are famous, and we weren’t disappointed. And at the end of the garden her beautiful Hamburg hens were scratching about in the grass.


So the year travels on. Paddy the Gypsy King spent his last years in Croydon. And today, at last, some of the refugee children from the Calais Jungle camp will be here, arriving in that same town. Only they themselves will ever really know the trauma and hardships they’ve born, the outrages they’ve witnessed, and we must acknowledge the courage and resilience with which they’ve sustained their journeys. That too is the subject of the show currently playing at The Young Vic, A Man of Good Hope. Adapted from the book by Johnny Steinberg, the South African company Isango Ensemble shows us 8-year-old Asad’s long journey of flight, loss and growth into manhood and possible safety; it’s spoken, sung and danced with vigour, pathos and some joy. Aspects of his weary and dogged optimism reminded me of Candide and Dr Pangloss.

amogh326morley-paintingI’d been in the flower shop buying a modest bundle of leaves and flowers as inspiration and reference for the last day of my course at Morley College. Extending the ‘Drawing and Painting for Textiles’ to three days gave us more time to experiment with mixing and applying colour – very worthwhile.


Some of the words I heard myself saying over the days were “take your time, enjoy your brush”, and here’s a tiny video of me doing just that.

The next course at Morley is in February – a weekend of silk-painting. Before that I’ll be teaching at West Dean in January, and before that – next week in fact – I’ll be returning to teach in Guadalajara. If anyone’s on their way to Mexico they can now book here! Now, where’s my suitcase…?


anna-huix-photo-1Talking of flowers – these just popped into my Instagram thingy! (yes, I’m finally there – @sarahcampbelldesigns ) It’s very exciting to begin to see the fruits of Anna Huix’s labours earlier in the summer – and the fruits of ours from some time ago. More to come, I’m sure.

These Liberty christmas tree fairies just came through the post from our stitching collaborator, the meticulous miniaturist Modflowers… 

hand made liberty fairies

…and the fabric scrap wreaths are on their way... and our 2017 calendar has just gone off to the printer… and Spot the Dog cushions are getting piped… Note to self again – hurry up with the new shop!

sarah campbell 2017 calendar


Thanks to Molly, Steve, Peter, Isabel, Mak Lo, Charlotte, Lucy and Ross.


We made this message in a bottle filmette for the National Poetry Day celebrations..

10 thoughts on “local royalty

  1. Dear Sarah,
    I am reading your Archive book cover to cover and cross referencing designs as they come up. I need a definition of Mercury Satin please. I know many textile terms from years of home sewing and a actual university class in textiles, but I cannot get Google to show me anything under search terms (with and without quotes) “Mercury Satin” . My guess is that it is a silk satin, but maybe a loose weave for more drape ? Or woven satin on both sides ?

    My mom had all silk undies she may have had some nightgowns made from a very flow-y bias-cut satin.

    You know with sewing/tayloring on the decline in the States and most people’s clothes bought at places like Wal-Mart, I find that almost none of the younger set know what is crepe, boucle, twill, sateen, lawn, poplin, georgette, hopsack, etc. etc…so sad.

    Anyway, I am very curious about mercury satin.
    As for gypsy info, I read a poorly edited but very entertaining non-fiction called “Bury Me Standing” …answered many questions I have had about gypsies and how they think.

    Thanks, Lundy Wilder

    • Hi,

      Thank you for all your comments. I can’t recall the exact construction of the satin I’m afraid; ‘Mercury’ was simply the descriptive name we gave to the silk satin – it was so glamorous and mercurial! Most of the Liberty fabrics had such names – ‘Tana’ lawn and ‘Country’ cotton for instance.

      I’m not sure about clothes sewing and tailoring, but there seems to be quite a movement around piecing and quilting in the States and other places – hence the success of our Michael Miller Fabric collections.

  2. Hi Sarah

    Lovely to receive another post from you – inspiring as ever! Hope all is well with you?

    Lets meet up again – at least before Christmas

    Saw Sue Duckworth yesterday – we went to the Caravaggio. Great exhibition – well curated and surprisingly it was good to have other painters who had been inspired by him. I love Georges de la Tour and others of course in the exhibition

    Sue wondered if you had ever done designs for Poole Pottery – as she had come across a Sarah Campbell who had done some work with the Pottery? I think maybe the dates don’t match up – but thought I would ask!

    Lots of love

    Christine 07956 808859

    Christine Hanscomb Photography

  3. Gypsy King Patrick Ward is a character larger than life by the sound of it and what a wonderful send off and all those floral tributes in house -amazing as were the horses and the rest of what you saw Sarah. I loved the painting with the eyes closed and how you managed to keep such symmetry and balance is extraordinary – thank you for an intriguing blog David

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