For love of Lucienne

Magnetic for Heals, 1957. Picture Tony Johnson.Magnetic for Heals, 1957. Picture Tony Johnson.
Magnetic for Heals, 1957. Picture Tony Johnson.
An exhibition of Lucienne Day's designs has launched at Salts Mill. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Tony Johnson.

This year has been one of celebration for fans of virtuoso pattern designer and colourist Lucienne Day. The centenary of her birth is being marked by a programme of exhibitions, events and product launches promoted by the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation.

The organisation was founded by the Day’s daughter, Paula, to protect their exceptional design legacy. The couple met at the Royal College of Art in 1937, where Lucienne specialised in textiles. They married two years later, creating one of the world’s most famous design duos. Sharing the same studio on the ground floor of their Chelsea town house, they encouraged each other though rarely collaborated.

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Lucienne, who died in 2010 aged 93, worked in a variety of media, including dress fabrics, table linen, carpets, wallpapers, china and hand-crafted silk mosaics. Her designs were wildly adventurous and inspired by modern art. They were also technically perfect, paying close attention to colourways and pattern repeats.

The Delphis design, 1962, with Two Many Cooks tea towel.The Delphis design, 1962, with Two Many Cooks tea towel.
The Delphis design, 1962, with Two Many Cooks tea towel.

Her skill has long been admired by Patricia Silver, a former fashion designer and co-owner of The Home store at Salts Mill, Saltaire. She has paid tribute to her design heroine by staging a mini exhibition at The Home featuring favourite items from her own collection of Lucienne Day products.

“I have been collecting her designs for many years and decided that, as it would have been her 100th birthday this year, it would be fitting to put them together in an exhibition as a small tribute to her work.”

She adds: “Occasionally a designer comes along who stands out from the crowd. Lucienne Day was one such designer. She was one of those people who oozed style from every pore and bone in her body.

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“If you are a designer, whatever you create, whether it is fashion, textiles porcelain, furniture or buildings. then you take an interest in all forms of design. Lucienne Day was very much cast in this vein and you can see that from photographs of the homes she lived in, her clothes and her jewellery.

Esplanade coffee pot, 1960.Esplanade coffee pot, 1960.
Esplanade coffee pot, 1960.

“Her designs are absolutely astonishing. They are timeless. They are also still fresh and so current because she had the most amazing sense of colour and line.

Among Patricia’s favourite designs are Columbine, created in 1958 for the Rosenthal porcelain studio in Germany; Graphica. a black and white fabric, designed in 1953 for Heals; Calyx, from 1951, also created for Heal’s, and the 1966 Flower Pot for Bristol Pottery.

*The Lucienne Day mini exhibition is at The Home, Salts Mill, Saltaire,;

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* The V&A Museum and the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation have launched a campaign to trace Lucienne Day’s silk mosaics. She created several hundred between the late 1970s and the end of the century. The foundation has catalogued 250 images of them but wants to find more. Owners of silk mosaics can get in touch via the website, www.robin

The site also has details about Lucienne and her work, along with events to celebrate the centenary of her birth.

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