When Clare from Bloomsbury Publishing got in touch out of the blue to ask if I’d be interested in writing a book I said yes. That was in October 2020 and the proposition was, loosely, for a ‘maker’s guide’ to painting on fabric. After a lifetime of painting patterns on paper for ‘the industry’ I’d been slowly developing a new repertoire of pattern and gesture applied directly onto cloth. Re-reading my very first email sent in response to her I see that I’ve remained pretty-well true to my starting point:
When Clare from Bloomsbury Publishing got in touch out of the blue to ask if I’d be interested in writing a book I said yes, although I’d never undertaken, or even considered, quite such a huge venture before. That was in October 2020 and the proposition was, loosely, for a ‘maker’s guide’ to painting on fabric. After a lifetime of painting patterns on paper for ‘the industry’ I’d been slowly developing a new repertoire of pattern and gesture applied directly onto cloth. Re-reading my very first email sent in response to her I see that I’ve remained pretty-well true to my starting point:
‘Certainly, alongside my long design career, I do now teach several courses and workshops. My methods have been quite experimental in this field. My interest lies in how I myself can develop ideas and expertise and do new things, and how I can encourage others to be bold. It’s an approach that seems to work for me and my students! But what had you in mind, and how might we proceed?’
With my synopsis, well more of a story really, accepted, and all the formalities agreed, I began properly in the spring of 2021, against the background of covid and lockdowns. I fondly imagined it would be put to bed by the end of the summer – madness! The contract stipulated the inclusion of 120 photographs for which there was a very modest budget; I imagined that I’d be taking them myself – I already had quite a number that I knew I could use. Luckily my friend and close neighbour, James Balston, noted for his photographs of interiors, pointed out that my ‘action’ photographs would actually need another pair of hands on the camera shutter; he kindly offered his. He also agreed to take the location shots: the editor was keen to include some luscious colour and atmosphere with my painted pieces in situ. The first pictures to be taken, in July ’21, were actually planned both for the book and as a double-page spread ad in Selvedge magazine; they show a painted panel, some cushions and an armchair with bespoke painted upholstery fabric. Here’s a photocopy of my little ipad drawing for the suggested layout of the shot in front of the actual scene on James’s laptop.
The chair fabric, which was painted that February, was commissioned by another old friend, Chris Winter, a remarkable seamstress; she had been an integral part in completing the small collection of hand-painted clothes I’d made for Livingstone Studios in the lockdown spring of 2020, and the painted chair was in exchange for her wonderful sewing. Chris had an almost-renovated house, and her newly plastered walls, that lovely soft pinky wash, were the perfect setting. You’re probably getting the picture of how fortunate I’ve been with the links between friends and opportunities. My strong personal connection to my work is reflected in all the commissions shown in the book.
As the months of ’21 progressed, the chapters and sections began to take shape; at the same time I was working on some lovely new design ranges for Anthropologie for Spring/Summer2022 and for Free Spirit Fabrics, along with other projects and design developments.
My picture library reminds me how many things were going on; here’s a photographic glimpse at part of the year in miniature!
I had quite a knock-back to my timing, emotions and energy when I was suddenly required to pack up and move the archive collection out of its 1200sq ft home to – I knew not where. In the event we managed to postpone that enormous change for some months, though for a while we had to keep part of the collection locked in containers!
It’s now happily rehoused and in much better shape, but the whole experience delayed work on the book quite considerably.
The premise of Hand-Painted Textiles is to encourage my dear readers to try things for themselves at home, and to gain confidence and pleasure in the doing – from practising making marks on fabric with different tools, to cutting stencils, to experimenting with resists, tapes, free painting, embellishments and so on – not forgetting carving and printing with that reliable old veg the potato; and to think about pattern and colour and their organisation into design – and most of all to have fun. The kitchen table, simple equipment, imagination are all you need, and along with all the different techniques are suggestions and explanations of projects to make.
From late summer into late autumn the days were filled with mark-making, painting, making and photographing all these endeavours. The most difficult part for me was pulling these all together, making sense of them as I saw it, writing in an easy, friendly, comprehensible way. I approached the whole book really as I do teaching – as a conversation with many examples, suggestions and stories.
Everything – words and pictures – being amassed and organised, I submitted the final manuscript on March 1st ’22 – much later than I’d hoped and anticipated. The next huge job was the editing! I’d sent about 3 times too many photographs (and so many had already been culled) – my long-suffering editor Tash and I had some work to do. I could never have done that online – zoom meetings would have been impossible – the real to and fro of a conversation is so important for me. In March and April ’22 we had physical meetings at the Royal Festival Hall cafe to go through and edit every page, every sentence, every picture, every layout. The book designer had a challenge to fit it all in (in the end I was granted more pages) while still retaining the logic and the sense of space and clarity: she did a marvellous job.
Some sections and chapters begin with a reference to the wider world of pattern or technique to give context and a tiny bit of history; I think these are the only pictures that are not of my work. The title picture at the start of the blog shows the piles of different fabrics painted for the book!
The publication day – Thursday 16 February – is fast approaching! On the day, and in celebration, I’ll be ‘in conversation’ at the Fashion and Textile Museum with Dennis Nothdruft, their Head of Exhibitions. The event runs from 6.00 – 7.30pm, and I’ll be signing books too. Tickets are available here, and you can pre-order the book too or simply purchase on the night if the fancy takes you. I do hope some of you will be able to come along.
And here’s just a quick look at some more newness coming soon – a newsletter will follow with more details.
This merry print Coffee Break is definitely having its turn in the sun. Making its first appearance as a cotton fabric, above, it has now spread its wings onto biscuit tins, trays and caddies, a printed aluminium insulated travel mug, table napkins, notecards, social stationery, wrapping paper and a phonecase
And, by public demand, a small litter of new black velvet kitties are on their way from Modflowers too. Dressed in Liberty vintage from our archive, and bedecked with hearts and flowers headbands they really are delightful. They’ll be available on my website shortly.
Some news about workshops and courses:
On February 18 I’m running my Decorative Collage 1-day workshop at The Fashion and Textile Museum and there are still a couple of places; I’m told that the next Painting on Fabric course there (Feb 24) is fully booked, but you could add your name to the wait list, and there’ll be more later in the Spring…
At West Dean I’ll be teaching about Painting Freely on Silks on the long weekend of 3 – 6 March, and I think there are still some places available.
This is a lovely venue – great studios, gardens, accomodation and food – and a gorgeous way to immerse yourself in a world of colour, pattern and texture for a few days. I’m also repeating my short course about painting flowers on fabric later in the summer.
You don’t need former experience for any of my courses – they’re for everyone, all ages and abilities – just come with an open mind. All equipment is provided, but of course bring any reference you particularly love, scraps of colours or fabrics that sing for you and your favourite paintbrushes if you have them! I look forward to seeing you…
I’ve started a new series – a Design Surgery – at Minerva Studios, where I also teach regularly about making pattern repeats by hand. This has grown out of several students wanting to progress their professional practice and needing some help and advice along the way. We run sessions every two months or so, looking at problems, obstacles, development etc and are beginning to build up quite a little community. The other courses in Pattern Repeats, Colourways and Design- Making repeat (naturally!) throughout the year.
Lastly here’s news of a brand new design adventure, a year in the making: I’ve collaborated with Pukka Prints, and in celebration of their tenth birthday we’ve made a small range of furnishing and upholstery fabrics hand-blocked on cotton in India. This will be launching formally during London Design Week, 13-17 March, at Chelsea Harbour and will be available from the Tissus d’Helene showroom. I’ll also be taking part in a design panel discussion with Elfrida Pownall on that Monday.
It’s been such an exciting challenge – there’s nothing I like more than learning about new processes, methods, markets. Here’s a tiny amuse-bouche – full menu coming very soon. You’ll see it’s not your usual block-printed look…
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I would have loved to be at the launch, but it wasn’t possible for me… instead I had the thrill of its arrival in the post! It is so beautiful, and I will have a great time trying out lots of the techniques which are really well explained. I had the privilege of taking workshops with you at Moreley College in 2021. The book captures your teaching style and is a wonderful reminder of two stimulating days.
Best wishes, Eileen
Thank you for your generous comment Eileen – enjoy your painting adventures! Sarah
Oh this is gorgeous to see! I will have to get this. book! Your patterns never get tired. Sitting typing this with a table lamp beside me covered inOrange and cream Bauhaus for liberty. It makes me happy every time I see it xxxxx
Thank you Yvonne; the book will soon be on my website as a pre-order, and I can sign and dedicate if wanted…. love the sound of the lampshade.
Congratulations Sarah, I love the incredible energy in your work, what exciting developments!
Thanks so much Barbara – love to you all, Sarah
Hello Sarah, I ordered your book and can’t wait to see it and devour the pages.
It does not come out in the USA until April, a great birthday present for me.
Will you ever come to the USA and teach a class?
I will be in England in September of 2024. Perhaps I could do a class with you then.
Thank you – it is a bit of a delay in the States – thanks for your order an glad it will hit your birthday. I’d love to come to teach in the US again – just need an irresistable invitation! I do have a couple of classes already scheduled here in September, and there may be others…
Hello Sarah Thank you so much for your quick response.
Hopefully, I can do a class with you in 2024 in September.
I will let you know when my beautiful book arrives.
Dear Sarah, Extraordinary output and diversity. Busy bees have nothing on you. Love,Joe
Thank you Joe – it does seem to have been quite a whirl lately. xx
Gosh, Sarah, you have been keeping busy – your seemingly endless energy puts me to shame!
I’ll be in London again in a couple of months and would like to come to one of your workshops, or at least grab a coffee or lunch somewhere.
Many congrats on the book
Lots of love, Peter xxx
Thank you Peter – yes, let’s meet when you’re next in this country – I’d love you to come to a workshop too! xxx
I have been waiting with eager anticipation for your new book to be published and will order at my local independent bookshop. I’ll be at our Wanstead WI meeting on Thursday.so can’t make the launch but I will spread the word to our members, your talk a few years back is still talked about with enthusiasm.
Thanks Cathy – enjoy your meeting!
Hello from Luxembourg! Your new book looks delicious, brimming with positive energy and colours. I know I loved your painting on fabric workshop in France, and I have continued to experiment and combine painting, textiles and photography. I’m looking forward to diving into your book! Fiona 😊
Thank you Fiona – yes that was a memorable week at the Chateau – I’m glad it continues to fuel your work. Sarah x
Sarah hi xx What a terrific news post – you are a one woman textile army!! Your book sounds absolutely brilliant I can’t wait to see it – I know it’s going to be such a success and a great bible of your skills for all aspiring textile artists and hobbyists. What a marathon of a task!
So wish I could come to the launch night but I’m battling a truly nasty fluey cold / cough bug which has knocked me sideways.
Looking forward to seeing you for our meeting.
Much love Sue xxx
Sent from my iPhone – Sue Mac
Thanks so much Sue – yes, looking forward to seeing you soon. xx
Congratulations, always so motivating and look at those textiles next to you, feeding our need for colour and pattern. Cheers Judith
Sent from Mailhttps://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986 for Windows
Thank you – very important nourishment!
Thanks Martin – xxx