Sunday, 27 November 2011

Masterclass (Old Style) ... Interested?

About two years ago when I was deciding whether or not to leave my job as an Interior Decorator/Stylist, 6 years working with fabulous fabrics, wallpapers and paints, I realised that I wanted to return to Surface Pattern Design where I had previously been in the industry for 30 years.
I was using fabrics and papers in designs which I knew I could create and the urge to design again was too strong to ignore. I had only decided to leave designing and look at a new career in 2003 as on my return from living in Pakistan, I noticed that the key trends in the UK were minimalism, woven texture and lots of beige, encouraging me to change my career. Then in 2009/10, when Pattern and colour had firmly established itself again and a "Gold Rush" of very talented young designers appeared, I was excited with the prospect of being a part of it all.

FAST FORWARD to the present. How the Industry has changed.
Without boring everyone in great detail about what has changed in the industry and why etc.... (another blog post, another time, maybe) there were other interesting issues that I have noticed over the last two years and one of them has been the type of surface design training in the Colleges/Universities. I do not want to get bogged down (in this post) with details as this is not a negative criticism but more of an observation as to what may be "missing" from the current programme. Now I would like some Feedback here... it may be missing because it is not necessary or required in the industry... or perhaps there is nobody with the skills or experience to teach.
What I am referring to is old style training methods of master craftsmen teaching (by showing) junior designers hand painting techniques and styles, based on traditional apprenticeship principles.
What I have found interesting is that since I have been doing this blog (just over a year now) the increase in viewers to my "step by step" guides to creating a design. I have also had numerous emails from young designers asking me if they can work with me including students from St Martins in London (one who said she would pay me to teach her hand painting styles and techniques as she was hungry to learn all aspects of design)
I have also had lots of feedback after I had done various interviews for Pattern People and a Chinese Interior magazine.
After numerous meetings with various authorities to see what government funding was available to enable me to set up a working design studio/training school..... lets just say that it has been put on the "back burner". Meanwhile I consider my options concerning sharing my skills.
By now you may ask what are my skills? are they unique? does anybody want these skills or really care?........ Well you tell me! To answer that question will be another blog post, another time....... Too time consuming to put 30 yrs down in one session.
But I do believe that when I started designing at the ripe old age of 17, understudying some amazing artists in studios in UK, Europe and also the textile mills...... I did realise that I was one of the last designers to experience such a wealth of talent which could very well disappear totally unless the few designers like myself pass the skills on.
I think that Designers now are so much more market savvy than I ever was. As an all round designer we were expected to master all styles, techniques for most Interior products over all markets. The studios I worked at created collections for all of the most important companies. Designers today are more niche and focussed on their own identity. But in my opinion there are so many new designers and it is becoming increasingly difficult to make your voice heard above the loud noise of all the others. Will it all reach saturation point?..... What will happen when trends change.... and they will. I never in a million years thought that Ditsey florals a la Cath Kidson would become a key trend, or the "Mid century" 50s retro would have so much influence. How can all these designers with similar skills hope to make a mark or a earn a living in the current economic climate? I have been following on Twitter, a very successful designer Rachael Taylor who has launched an e course for designers, sharing her skills and experiences. Again, designers eager to have more information.
Recently on Linkedin, I had been following, what seemed like a never ending debate about handpainted designs versus digitally created designs. To be honest I do not think that it is a matter of either, or but should be as well as. (Another subject which will be interesting to discuss in another post). If designers had more hand painting skills it would give them another "Tool" to work with and open up so much more possibilities and set themselves apart from the competition. When the trends change, and designs become less simple and more complicated... or just different, then I believe that the designer that has extra skills will lead the way. Which leads me back to the Sharing of my skills. As starting a design studio is not an immediate option, I have recently started to consider either writing a manual, with pictures, or video.... early days yet.... and would I be wasting my time?...... just creating a book or information for the archives? to gather dust....... Seems a shame that all my years of studying something that I am so passionate about may just disappear.
I would love to know what you think...... Please send comments and feedback..... Diane.


  1. Since putting this blog post on yesterday... I have had over 40 viewers... obviously all of them with no opinion. I would love some feedback from you all.

  2. Seems like everyone is having a problem posting comments... sorry I am trying to sort it out, Diane

  3. Hello I am Rosemary from the Etsy forum Linked in
    and i just changed my name there and Facebook

    i am fascinated by yr blog and pleased you have so many viewers, NO ONE comments on my Website and I've had over 3,500 viewers!!!
    Must be rotten I suppose...

  4. Hi Rosemary... I shall try and post a comment on your page. I totally understand. I have had lots of viewers but generally I also do not get many comments. People do not seem to want to. However this latest blog post has created some interest but most viewers have not been able to leave a comment here.... I have tried to sort it. they have messaged me via linkedin or email

  5. Hi Diane,
    I have found your post fascinating in relation to my background. Your skills are a very precious commodity I think in the world of design which should be passed on in some way. Unfortunately it is rare that the traditional skills of hand painting a design is taught in colleges. I know that the top design houses still rely on hand painted designs alongside the use of computer design. I think there will always be a place for both. I was brought in to create designs from artwork using CAD but was then offered the traditional painting training which unfortunately I never completed. Computers have naturally aided the manipulation of designs and allowed colouring to be quicker, but in my experience the initial design we worked from was more often than not a hand painted design... even if it was a 100 years old!! It could be that providing a training scheme for young designers may be the best way to pass on your skills. I imagine many design houses likely buy in artwork these days and there will be designers who want to learn how to create a design in the traditional way.
    Keep posting your ideas... they seem like good sense to me!!

  6. Thanks Sarah... My long term plan is to have a working design studio/school. Spent a big part of last year investigating what was possible concerning funding. Not an option at this moment with economy like it is..... this idea just occurred to me quite recently. I feel very excited about achieving it but there will be a lot of work involved...... wish I could split myself into many parts at the moment.

  7. Hi Diane
    I love your idea of the masterclass/ school. I started in textile design in 1991, learning on the job, and remember two co-workers who were Russian trained and had the most exquisite floral painting skills. I tried to learn as much as I could from them, and have watched as standards for florals seem to go down and down over the years...such a shame!

  8. Hi, I.Good,
    I do agree that to learn this skill requires watching and putting the hours in to master the techniques. It can take a long time but no more than practicing photoshop to achieve good results. It just depends how many students are passionate enough to learn these skills.
    However I do hope to break the manual into sections and the basics will be easy to master. I think that in a few months student will produce amazing results.

  9. I think you would be filling a much needed gap in the market and one which would be of great interest to all designers young and old.

  10. Many Thanks again to everyone........ I shall try and keep everyone updated here on the blog, as to how I go about producing the book.

  11. Diane, thanks for bringing this up. I think there will be demand for techniques by hand and that you should definitely do that book, or set of workshops or however you want to share your knowledge. The richer visually the better, but I would also give attention to using contemporary colour with older techniques. By all means, do it! The younger designers are perhaps steeped in pressures to conform to digital now, but with Asian market developing, it seems to me an appreciation for the hand made is going to continue and grow.

  12. Thanks Jayne,
    I am researching the old training manuals and will combine with all my practical experience, with the intention of simplifying everything. I want to use lots of images to illustrate this. I am already planning workshops locally and I totally agree that traditional techniques need to be adapted for modern tastes and trends. However I want to steer away from marketing or other subjects which are covered in the existing curriculum and focus on the manual being a "how to guide" of easy achievable steps to creating a design by hand.

  13. i definitely feel handpainting is a great skill to have - so i would imagine your courses would be very popular with the young designers of today. well done diane for having the passion and enthusiasm to launch such a project : )

  14. Thanks Marie,
    It looks like I have quite a challenge on my hands, but I cannot wait to get started. To create a course or instruction manual seems to be the best alternative to my design studio, which I hope to have in the next few years.
    I shall keep everyone posted on this blog.

  15. Hi Marie,

    I am a self taught designer, always learning and always eager to learn traditional techniques. I have found that for myself my best designs start with a hand drawn or hand painted design. I prefer starting on paper and then working digitally. I think my creativity flows better to that end. So, yes, I would love to learn some traditional hand painting techniques and look forward to your blog and what you are planning!

  16. I love trying to mix contempoary with traditional in any work I create. I would love to go to a class if you start it up!

    Louise Swanton

  17. Hello Louise..... I feel so encouraged that this conversation through my blog, emails and linkedin is still creating interest... I have such a schedule planned for this year... I hope that I can complete this project sooner rather than later.....

  18. Hi Diane, This is a subject close to my heart. I too have worked as a freelance textile designer for 25 years using traditional hand painted self taught techniques in wallpaper and fabrics, in Uk and overseas. I stopped designing in 2008 as I felt my artistic talents were being exploited in a churn it out commercial world. Design prices had not really increased over the 25 years and I felt the designer was not valued. Since then I returned to University where I am in the final year of MA at Bath Spa Uni. I have reinvented my design and am now producing art/interior surface design with meaning and narrative. I have been invited to show at Surface design Show, Islington. It worries me that the Universities are churning out hundreds of designers every year onto a saturated market place. I know how hard it is to make a living designing and I feel Companies and Designers are at fault for making this happen. Companies do not value design, commercial trends encourage throw away product and the desperate Designer sell out at low prices. The answer is for our culture to value the designer better and so training in skills as well as a push towards better recognition in our industry is hugely important. I would love to discuss this further and good luck. Sue Edwards. My website:

  19. Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.

    Country Houses for Sale in Perthshire


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...