Liberty have just sent through these photos from our visit to the factory, near Milan. Great shots of the commercial print process on a massive scale…
And here we are – me and the other three winners – with the print samples (strike-offs) that the design team had prepared so the Liberty buyers could make their selection of colourways for production. Chosen designs will be revealed at the launch at the Liberty store on 8th May 2019.
A beautiful sunny day with a Force 9 gale battering the prom seemed like the perfect backdrop for a nautical themed Explore and Draw session on the magnificent, retired lightship Light Vessel 21 – LV21 – now moored at St Andrew’s Quay in Gravesend, Kent.
I was booked to give an introductory talk to the artists and after that, taking care not to be blown overboard, we set off to explore the ship in search of inspiration for our drawings .
LV 21 was acquired in 2009 by Päivi Seppälä and Gary Weston who have converted the 400m, steel-hulled ship into a thriving cultural and heritage centre. https://lv21.co.uk/ It was the last lightship to be built by Dartmouth-based Philip and Son, and spent most of its service off the Kent coast on the Varne, East Goodwin and Channel stations. Derek Grieve, the last Master of the lightship, explains what daily life was like for the crew on board. website https://lv21.co.uk/about/history-of-lv21/crew-stories/
The Thames has inspired artists for centuries. Many people will be familiar with J.M.W. Turner’s work but you may not have heard of The Wapping Group of Artists, founded in 1946, who met initially to record the busy life of London’s dockland and, since then, have painted the Thames and the land either side of it. http://thewappinggroupofartists.co.uk/
Being born and bred in Gravesend, the river hasalways been part of my life and, inevitably, its history and childhood memories have found their way into my art.
This limited edition lino cut shows the Chapman Lighthouse, which stood off the coast of Canvey Island in the Thames Estuary from 1851 to 1957, warning sailors away from the mud flats. It featured in Chapter 1 of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. https://duncangrantartist.com/product/chapman-light/
The digital print (below right) depicts Lower Hope, a stretch of the tidal Thames, below Gravesend, near the Ship and Lobster pub. The picture, which was originaly an acrylic painting, is about remembering my dad. We would go walking down by the sea wall when I was a kid. The background is a doodle of elements from my life. I am the small figure in the middle. I guess I am walking on my own these days. http://duncangrantartist.com/product/ac364-print/
This final image, also a digital print from an acrylic painting, is a view of the Thames from Gravesend High Street. Visitors to Gravesend are often amazed to see 7-storey cruise ships appearing from behind the buildings at the end of the road. http://duncangrantartist.com/product/to-the-river-print/
The variety offered by Thames and LV21 did not disappoint the Explore and Draw artists. Encouraged by workshop leader and artist Luna Zsigo, they captured their surroundings in very different ways – from detailed drawings of ropes, to windswept landscapes framed by the lightship’s portholes. My LV21 inspired drawing is at the top of this post.
Everyone is welcome at Explore and Draw sessions – from absolute beginners to more experienced artists. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and non-judgemental…oh, and the cake is to die for!
If you are interested in joining or attending other cultural events on board L21 or organised by Päivi and Gary, visit the website: https://lv21.co.uk/events/ Explore and Draw workshop photographs by Neil Thorne Photography – 07715 681855
Finally, talented musician Ian Kirton has set some of my Thames-related work to one of his original compositions ‘Simplicity’. See the You Tube link below.
Early on Tuesday last week, I flew out from Gatwick with my three fellow #Liberty Open Call winners to Gorla Minore, near Milan, to visit Olonia Stamperia, the factory where Liberty prints many of its fabrics. Things were about to get real. We were going to see our Open Call designs transformed into Liberty fabric!
We arrived just in time for an Espresso and Liberty biscuits with two of the designers that we’d met during our initial visit to Liberty London and some of the Italian design team.
They gave us a bit of background about the factory – it’s been there since 1969, and as well as printing Liberty designs on their famous Tana Lawn – a cotton fabric that behaves like silk – it produces materials for other high end companies, including Versace. The factory is committed to sustainability – it doesn’t use toxic dyes or heavy metals in the print process.
The factory tour that followed was fascinating. We saw how Liberty uses traditional screen printing and digital technology to make designs come to life and watched the whole process from colour mixing, though to printing. Once the fabrics have been printed, they are conditioned and washed, before being stored in giant rolls, ready for dispatch. Because of commercial sensitivities, unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photographs, although we are promised some from Liberty, which I’ll add here if I get them.
After a delicious lunch – a pizza washed down with a nice Sardinian beer – we got down to business with our own designs.
Liberty have made two designs from the image that I entered into the competition – one with chimneys and one without. They will be produced as separate Liberty fabrics for their 2019 summer collection. They are going to be called ‘Duncan Grant’ and ‘Small Town’. For our visit, the Liberty designers had prepared a series of ‘strike offs’ for each winning design. A strike off is a print sample that is made to check design and colours before bulk printing is done.
For each of my designs, the team had produced about ten different ‘colourways’ on Tana Lawn and silk, with two versions of each colourway in contrasting intensities. We discussed our own and each others’ designs with the team – which ones we preferred, which ones we weren’t so keen on. But the final choices about which colourways will make it to production and onto the shelves, is down to the Liberty buyers, who know their customers and the wider market, as well as what will be ‘on trend’ for 2020. They will produce fabric in at least one colourway from each of our designs – so at least two for me – more if they really like them and think they will sell. I haven’t heard yet which have been chosen but a camouflage treatment and a bright orange print seemed very popular on the day. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Left home at 3.30 a.m. back home at 10pm. A long but exciting day. I wonder where this journey will take me next. Watch this space!