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International Womens Day 2018! Amazing Women Profile – Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day OBE RDI FCSD is one of my favourite textile designers. So much so the Lucienne chair is named after her.

Her influence is still felt in design and you can still see the spirit of her designs in printed textiles in the collections of companies today. She is widely credited with bringing “art for the people” by designing beautiful fabric that looked great and was affordable, thus allowing the general public for the first time to be able to afford to furnish their homes in fabrics popular of the time.

Lucienne Day’s early textiles were inspired by her love of modern art, especially the abstract paintings of Paul Klee and Joan Miró. With these influences, she went on to develop a new style of abstract pattern-making in post-war British textiles, known as ‘Contemporary’ design. She was also known for her wallpapers, ceramics and carpets.

She trained at the RCA and it was here that she met her future husband, furniture designer Robin Day Together they went on to combine her love of textiles and his love of furniture in a long and happy partnership.

During the war she taught at Beckenham School of Art and once the war was over she began working as a freelance textile designer. Lucienne intially found work designing dress fabrics, where her clients included Stevenson & Sons, Argand, Pasman Fabrics, Silkella, Horrockses and Cavendish Textiles.

However, Lucienne’s real love was for home furnishings fabrics. Her first significant client was the Edinburgh Weavers, who produced two screen-printed furnishing fabrics in 1949. However, it was working for Heals where her career in home furnishings designs really took flight. She was commissioned to design a stylised floral by Heal’s Wholesale and Export (later known as Heal Fabrics). This started a long relationship with her long relationship with Heal’s, which lasted until 1974.

Exhibiting at the Festival of Britain in 1951 brought her real fame and was the launchpad for one of her most famous design’s – Calyx. A large expanse of it hung in the Homes and Gardens pavilion, in the “contemporary” dining room designed by Robin.

Calyx was a large-scale abstract pattern composed of cup-shaped motifs connected by spindly lines, which conjured up the aesthetic of modern painters and sculptors, such as Alexander Calder and Paul Klee. She was then commisionned by Heals to design a further 6 designs.

At this date Lucienne’s textiles were characterised by energetic rhythms and a spidery, doodle-like graphic style, highlightd in the design Dandelion Clocks. Her technical skill was particulrly evident in her colurways and repeats. Which she was a true master in. Her style evolved and her designs grew in scale and became more painterly. The popularity of her and her design meant her career went on to span 60 years.

Luciennes design genuis did not go unoticed and she won many awards, including a Gold Medal for Calyx at the Milan Triennale in 1951 and a Citation of Merit from the American Institute of Decorators in 1952. In 1954, four of her Heal’s fabrics (Ticker TapeLinear, Spectators and Graphica) won a Gran Premio at the Milan Triennale.

In 1957 she won a Design Centre Award from the Council of Industrial Design for her Tesserae carpet for Tomkinsons, her second was for three tea towels for Thomas Somerset – Black LeafBouquet Garni and Too Many Cooks – in 1960 and her thir d in 1968 for her Chrevron furnishing fabric for Heal Fabrics.

In 1962, Lucienne Day was made a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI), an appointment which, according to the Royal Society of Arts, honours designers who have achieved “sustained excellence in aesthetic and efficient design for industry.” At that date she was only the fifth woman to be made an RDI, and she later served as the first female Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry from 1987-9. In 2004, she was awarded an OBE.

Lucienne Day I salute you. Thank you for the gorgeous designs that you brought into the world, for the pioneering vision that you had and for helping pave the way for women in design.


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