Centenary events celebrate the brilliance of Lucienne Day

This year marks the centenary of Lucienne Day's birth
This year marks the centenary of Lucienne Day's birth
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by Robin and Patricia Silver, The Home, Salts Mill, www.thehomeonline.co.uk

This year marks the centenary of the birth of Lucienne Day. Her actual birthday was on January 5 but throughout the whole of 2017, look out for a series of commemorative exhibitions, lectures and other celebratory events.

This specially commissioned logo, pictured, embodies the calyx shape - a sort of asymmetrical triangular shield - that was first used in a textile design for The Festival of Britain in 1951 and rapidly became Lucienne Day’s graphic calling card. Her use of colour was always original and striking whether this applied to the bannisters in her London home, painted alternatively white, black and lemony yellow, or her bold prints on curtain and upholstery fabrics, tea towels, wallpaper, carpets, china dinnerware and other ceramics.

From the 1950s to the mid 70s, Lucienne Day was hugely prolific: she lived to be 93 and in many ways her work epitomised Britain’s post war design, mixing an optimistic contemporary style that was more in tune with artists of the day than other designers with the highly skilled craftsmen artisans that gave British manufacturing pride of place in the world. Whilst our love and appreciation of mid century modern design from both sides of the Atlantic and from Scandinavia has never been stronger and iconic designs from this period are rapidly becoming timeless classics, our home life has changed irrevocably.

Just think of a world without lap tops and tablets, a world with very few computers and the few that existed were the size of a large room. A world with party line telephones (not some wild social activity but a phone line shared with a close neighbour) instead of smart phones with internet access, texts, memory files, GPS and thousands of apps. Back in the 1950s, shops were closed on Sundays and often half a day during the week, there were no supermarkets and daily shopping trips were essential as few homes had freezers and not many had fridges. Dishwashers didn’t exist and washing machines weren’t automatic and still had mangles. A gym was where you learnt how to box!

This was a world without late night buses, motorways, plastic bottles of water or take aways (except fish and chips), few imported cars and no on-line shopping. Home deliveries were generally made from local shops by bicycles with big baskets strapped over the front wheels.

There were, just about, two TV channels with highly restricted hours of broadcasting: weekday television was between 9am and 11pm with no more than two hours of television before 1pm and no broadcasting at all between 6pm and 7pm. Holidays were generally at British seaside resorts or Butlins as the package holidays to sunny Europe were still embryonic. The very first trip in 1950 was to Corsica to stay in former US Army tents with the promise of meals full of meat and cheap wine. Remember that it wasn’t until 1954 that rationing in the UK finally ended.

In that world, Lucienne Day’s designs must have appeared terrifically futuristic and yet they always managed to retain a warmth and be on a domestic scale. Today’s world may have changed immeasurably but her designs live on as fresh and modern and progressive as the day they were first created.

*The Home at Salts Mill, Saltaire, is stocking a Lucienne Day 100 Designs poster. For details of centenary events visit robinandluciennedayfoundation.org