Collier Campbell - Alhambra artwork and colourways.

Collier Campbell – Alhambra artwork and colourways.

Since Christmas I have been reading my way through this tome – the Collier Campbell Archive – a massive but beautiful and very comprehensive biography and pictorial archive of the last 50 years of the Collier Campbell design studio.

Collier Campbell - Crocuses, Snowdrops and Primroses.

Collier Campbell – Crocuses, Snowdrops and Primroses.

“It has always been our guiding principle that the painted mark gives energy and beauty to fabric.”

Collier Campbell  Dancing leaves, Garden stripe, Tropical and Patterned leaves

Collier Campbell Dancing leaves, Garden stripe, Tropical and Patterned leaves

Susan Collier and her sister Sarah Campbell were brought up by creative parents and lived a bohemian childhood rich in colour and culture. Incredibly, given the body of work that they went on to create, neither sister set out to pursue an artistic career or had a formal art training.

Collier Campbell - studio scene, Tropical Landscape and Central Park.

Collier Campbell – studio scene, Tropical Landscape and Central Park.

Susan began painting designs at night once her children were in bed. She pitched up to Liberty’s one day and was awestruck to have 6 designs bought. This began a life-long partnership with Liberty’s. Whilst still a teenager, Sarah helped Susan out in the evenings and found herself not studying anthropology as expected but working for a French design house.

Collier Campbell - sketch of Kasbah and Tango co-ordinate

Collier Campbell – sketch of Kasbah and Tango co-ordinate

In 1977 having found favour with Liberty, Terence Conran and Soieries Nouvealites, they began working for themselves under their own name – Collier Campbell.

They went onto to sell designs to Jaeger, Habitat and international market partners and more recently Marks and Spencer’s and Debenham’s, grew their studio to 7, licensed designs globally and opened (but later closed) a shop in London.

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I love their work for it’s painterly approach and beautiful colouring – you can find designs ranging from pastels to hot spices.

” Their brushes were an extension of their brains” – Joan Karron Martex

They have designed everything from delicate floral’s to bold geometric’s to painted ikat’s and fabrics with pictorial scenes. If you want design reference then this book is full of it.

Collier Campbell

Collier Campbell

The 1980’s was a prolific decade for the sisters. World travel and people movement made for a rich, ethnic society to find inspiration in and demand for their work was constant.

“the…feel of the painted hand was an essential quality of the studio.”

Collier Campbell - Grand Ikat, Chine Diamond (colourways).

Collier Campbell – Grand Ikat, Chine Diamond (colourways).

The 1990′ s brought about a change in tastes which leaned towards more minimalist designs and interiors and so demand for their vibrant work dropped off. I left college in 1988 with my degree in textile design. I looked to Collier Campbell as icons and business models. This was the first time I have been able to plot my own experience within the greater trend for textile design at that time. I can now see I was trying to enter an industry which was changing (possible declining) at that time.

Collier Campbell - Susan Collier in the studio

Collier Campbell – Susan Collier in the studio

During the following decade Collier Campbell adapted their processes and found markets for their work in stores on the British high street. Sadly in May 2011 Susan Collier lost her battle with cancer. Sarah Campbell continues to design under her own name while Collier Campbell has been acquired and sells a selection of items from the design archives.

This book is an easy but informative account of their design life together and has enough inspiration to last other designers a lifetime too.

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