Bloomsbury Group at Charleston inspired Pattern Design – Part 1: Sketching

This July I’m looking forward teaching a workshop on Pattern Design at Charleston, the home of the Bloomsbury group of artists in East Sussex. (Book here if you’re interested and grab the last couple of spaces). We’ll be designing an emblem inspired by the house and gardens, which will then be lino-cut and made into a print-block for repeat pattern making.

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The workshop has provided the perfect opportunity for some practical research so last week I spent a wonderful hour in the house followed by a bit more time in the beautiful gardens sketching and looking for inspiration – it wasn’t hard to find! The swift brush strokes and simple shapes that characterise the patterns within the house were challenging to record with a pencil but nonetheless as I advanced through the house some common themes were emerging.

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Moving into the garden, I’d intended to concentrate on finding abstract shapes but I was initially completely distracted by the range of flowers and plants.

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My method for starting to design a pattern involves folding an A2 sheet of paper onto about 24 squares and then drawing what I see into each square. Sometimes I use a view-finder to help compose the pattern or restrict my view.  I use pen so that I commit to the form and I’m not tempted to rub anything out. This is very quick and I typically don’t spent more that a minute or two on each sketch, I also keep moving into new locations as much as I can. I find this less restrictive than a sketchbook as afterwards I can open the whole sheet out and already begin to see patterns mapping out on the page.

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After just a couple of hours I had several sheets filled, plus further notes and a few snaps on my phone, ready to take back to the studio to respond to. The workshop will follow a similar format and it was useful to check how much time this first stage might take, I’m aiming that by lunchtime everyone will have some sketches and notes to respond to.

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