Several of the artists whose paper designs we publish were friends, especially the group who studied at the Royal Collage of Art in the early 1920s. Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) and Edward Bawden (1903-1989) are the most famous of these, and both have been enjoying a big revival recently. They both worked for the Curwen Press (see Art and Print: the Curwen Story by Alan Powers, published by Tate, 2008), illustrating books and advertisements, as well as designing patterns.
Ravilious's design that we have in our range was never issued as sheets of paper, and only appeared briefly on the cover of a promotional booklet for the outfitters, Austin Reed, printed by Curwen. Bawden only made one design for a Curwen Paper, but in 1989 we issued a previously unpublished design for London Underground, which shows people sitting on seats in the tube. Like everything he did, this is both witty and beautifully composed as an abstract image.
Enid Marx (1902-1998) was a friend of both of them. She started her career printing textiles by hand with lively patterns cut on wood and lino blocks, using natural dyes. Her pattern-making skills were applied first of all to pattern papers for Curwen Press, as early as 1925, when she was picked out by Paul Nash, one of the tutors at the Royal College, and recommended to the Press. She went on to design many patterns, cut on boxwood blocks. Her work was one of the inspirations for Judd Street Gallery Pattern Papers, and she began to cut new designs in her 90s for us to use. Pallant House Gallery in Chichester is holding an exhibition of her work in 2012.
Harold Jones (1904-1992) was also at the Royal College. He began to work as a children's book illustrator in the 1930s, and drew illustrations, endpapers and covers for a series of books by M. E. Atkinson, published by The Bodley Head. We bought the original artwork for the endpapers for one of these, The Compass Points North, 1938, in order to make it into a pattern paper, and it has been one of the most successful ever since.
Diana Wilbraham was never famous like the artists listed above, but she was a great pattern designer, whose talent was spotted by the Curwen Press when she was a student in the 1930s. We were able to catch up with her in the 1980s when we started our business, and use two of her wood engraved blocks for our patterns.
Margaret Calkin James (1895-1985) designed posters for London Underground and two pattern papers for Curwen Press, early in their series. She disappeared from history as an artist until the late 1980s when the research of Betty Miles, combined with the energy of her daughter, Elizabeth Argent, created a well-deserved revival with an exhibition and book, At the Sign of the Rainbow. The pattern that we published came from a sketchbook, where a small piece was worked out in red and blue.
Kenneth Rowntree (1915-1997) was a painter, teacher and graphic artist. During the war years, he lived at Great Bardfield in Essex, the home of Edward Bawden and other artists, and his work shares the clear, slightly naive vision of Bawden and Ravilious, with an affection for everyday objects, the quirky and the old-fashioned. In 1958, a fabric design by him with an alphabet motif was produced by Edinburgh Weavers. It has a lot in common with the sketch design which is the basis for our pattern paper, and this must have been one of his first studies for it. The drawing was included in a large sale of Rowntree's studio held in September 2008, and we were luckily able to buy it and turn it into a paper.
Jonathan Gibbs (1954-) is Head of Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. He is a painter and engraver with strong roots in the interwar Romantic aesthetic. When we started the Judd Street papers, we revived an old friendship with his exquisitely cut pattern that has been popular ever since.
A word about our printers
We print our papers at Northend Creative Print Solutions in Sheffield (http://www.northend.co.uk). This company does excellent work and is a mainstay for small publishers of fine editions.