She helped create the image of the 19508, set the tone for John Lewis and is celebrated by Habitat. Now LUCIENNE DAY is being acclaimed in Glasgow. yams; Helen Monaghan
he l'uture never looked brighter than it did in the l‘)5()s.
Alter the deprivation and austerity ol' World War II. the
decade dawned with a l‘ecling ol' prosperity and positivity. It had the ideal lamily'. the dream home and a picture—perl‘ect lil'e l'uelled by post-war optimism and technological innovation. More disposable income triggered a growth in consumerism. .‘vlen went back to work while women returned to the home. enjoying domestic bliss surrounded by an increasing number ol‘ products and appliances designed to make life just that little bit easier. The era was a hotbed of creative ideas. not least in its technological advances and in the lield of design.
Rellecting that optimism was l.ucienne Day. Picture the look ol' the 50s and chances are you'll be thinking of the style she dreamt up. Along with her husband Robin. she was a driving force behind the decades visionary school of British design. The revival of all things 50s has renewed interest in the cotlple and it's invigorating to discover that her work looks as lresh and modern as the day it went into production.
ller line linear patterns would employ everything from the recognisable motils ol’ plants and jet planes to the llemingway-inspired 'I'om with its images of bulllighters. (‘olour was of equal importance. The designs remain distinctive to this day. carefully considered yet evoking a sense of dynamism and spontaneity. .-\s il‘ to prove the point. llabitat recently reproduced her spidery (imp/mu l 1953) on a curtain and her Black Leaf tea towel design on a duvet cover.
She and Robin. who she met in l‘)-l(). the year she graduated in textile design l'rom the Royal (‘ollege ol‘ .-\rt. were united in their commitment to establish a new. clean-lined modern style. Working individually -- l.ucicnne l‘octising on textiles. Robin on furniture — they pioneered the introduction ol‘ contemporary design during the 50s and b()s.
With a long—term aim to design textiles l'or interiors. l.ucicnne had to put her plans on hold during the war years. l-‘urnishing firms were producing only blackout materials. Those l‘cw designs for dress l‘abrics that she did create came up against
14 THE LIST r ; .:;~
'I WANTED TO HAVE
MY TEXTILE DESIGNS BOUGHT BY MASSES AND MASSES
OF YOUNG PEOPLE'
considerable prejudice. ‘The dress trade were not a very pleasant lot.‘ recalls the well-spoken l.ucicnne today. "They were Used to seeing women selling designs but they tended to try and take advantage. Design was not an accepted prol‘ession and one was seen as just trying it on.’
When the war was over and government restrictions relaxed. l.ucicnne began selling designs tor labrics. (iaining commissions lrom a number ol companies. including lidinburgh Weavers and later llcal's. with whom she enjoy ed a working relationship l'or over 20 years. l.ucicnne really made her name at the l-‘estival ol~ Britain in “)5 1.
Robin had been invited to design three room settings tor the Homes and (iardens pavilion. In the Low (‘ost room. l.ucicnne came up with the now iconic (‘u/yzv which was produced by lleal's. Displayed in the entrance ol' the Home lintcitainment section. the pattern had a huge impact on public taste. This original and conlident design used a palette ol‘ lime yellow. vermilion and black-on—olivc. its title rcl‘erring to the outer coverings ol‘ a ﬂower. lichoing the work ol .\liro and Klee. the abstract cup—like structure was an instant hit. It not only served as a springboard for her career. but won an American Institute of Decorators :\ward. lt also convinced the then director ol' lleal's. Tom Worthington. that l.ucienne's lrcsh approach to pattern design was the company's way l‘orvvard.
The success ol’ ('u/yv led to similar designs. I’lnu'l/u t l‘)52l consisted ol‘ brightly coloured buoys. I’vrpvluu (1953) was inspired by the mobiles ol' .-\lexandcr (‘alder and Her/2 Antony ( IUSm. which combined line white lines with primary colours on a black background. hinted at the work ()l. Miro.
In much ol‘ l.ucicnne's work. she drew inspiration lrom the natural world as well as modern art. But it w asn't just imagination and aesthetics: she and Robin had a passionate commitment to make their work allordable. 'l was very idealistic at the time.’ she says. ‘There were some quite good designs coming out of lidinburgb Weavers because they" were commissioning artists like (iraham Sutherland and Ben .\'icolson. but they were very expensive. I wanted something dillerent. I wanted to have my textile designs bought by