Robin and Lucienne’s daughter Paula Day set up The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation in 2012 to further public knowledge of and access to her parents’ design legacies, and to provide resources for the study of design. The Foundation is run by a Board of Trustees chaired by Paula Day. In this guest blog she tells how she has collaborated with Alternative Flooring to bring authentic Lucienne Day carpet designs back in production, more than fifty years after her mother created them.
Q&A edit, 10 January 2018
What is The Robin and Lucienne Foundation?
I set up the Foundation in 2012, two years after my parents Robin and Lucienne Day died. We are a design education charity dedicated to furthering public knowledge of and access to my parents’ design legacies. My mother was born in 1917 and last year we celebrated her centenary with a hugely successful programme of exhibitions, events, awards and new product ranges, mounted by partner organisations all over the country.
How did the collaboration with Alternative Flooring begin?
In December 2016, we were introduced to Alternative Flooring/ Wilton Carpets CEO James Sprint and Alternative Flooring Creative and Marketing Director Lorna Haigh to explore the possibility of collaborating on a new Lucienne Day carpet range to launch in the Centenary year. I was immediately impressed by the fresh and lively Alternative Flooring brand and by James and Lorna’s creative and positive thinking. The company clearly had a strong identity of its own but they were willing to listen and understand where I was coming from as representative of a design education charity.
Did Lucienne Day have a connection with Wilton Carpets, Alternative Flooring’s sister company?
Yes, there was already a historic connection between Lucienne Day and Wilton, as Wilton Royal was an important client of hers from 1957 onwards. Initially she did colourways for carpets by Wilton’s in-house designers such as Philip Coombes. In 1964, she created her own collection for the company’s ‘Architects’ Nova’ range – these are the designs which are now being revived.
Lucienne Day is best known for fabric, what about her carpet designs?
My mother is best-known for her curtain fabrics, but in fact she also designed patterns for many other applications, including carpets. One of her carpet clients was Wilton Royal. By the time she came to do her 1964 ‘Architects Nova’ collection for Wilton she had a lot of carpet design experience. This is a substantial body of work by one of Britain’s greatest textile designers, which up to now has been very little-known. I’m absolutely thrilled that the public is now being introduced to some of these wonderful designs for the first time.
Where did you find the original carpets?
When I met James and Lorna, I already knew that samples of four of my mother’s 1964 carpets for Wilton were held in the archive of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. (Some of these carpet samples had been given to the Whitworth by my mother herself, others by Wilton). We had commissioned a photoshoot of all the Lucienne Day items held at the Whitworth, so I was able to show them images of my mother’s historic designs for their own company. I’ll never forget the moment when James looked at a picture of ‘Octagon’ and said ‘that’ll work’!
James promised to check the Wilton Carpets archives for the year 1964. A few days later he sent me images of their handwritten design records for that year, listing four ‘Lucienne Day’ designs, plus the painted artwork for some of them. I was so excited! As soon as we had launched the Lucienne Day centenary year in early January, I set off hotfoot to visit the Wilton factory and see this wonderful archive material for myself. From then on, the dream of reviving my mother’s original carpet designs seemed a real possibility.
Are these vibrant colourways authentic?
Initially I’d understood that the designs would have to be re-coloured to be commercially viable. But when Wilton’s designer Damian Roscoe saw the original carpet samples at the Whitworth he was bowled over by my mother’s colourways, which he thought would be perfect for today’s market! Working with him closely on the new products has been fascinating – he recognized just how subtle and skillful a colourist she was, and took great pains to match each colour exactly, using the dyes available today. A colourway is a bit like a musical chord – one false note spoils the whole harmony.
How did you feel watching the carpets being woven again at Wilton?
I was so moved to see my mother’s carpets being woven again in the very factory and possibly the very loom on which they had originally been made, more than fifty years ago. I found myself wondering if my mother had actually visited the factory and stood on the same spot in 1964.
Why the name Authentic Lucienne?
The name ‘Authentic Lucienne’ was Lorna’s idea and exactly reflects the Foundation’s mission to bring my mother’s original work back into production, so that the people can enjoy her actual designs. On our website page Licensees we celebrate our new relationship with Alternative Flooring, as a company which produces ‘high-quality, authentic productions of Lucienne Day’s original designs.’
Is design integrity and British making important here?
The ‘Authentic Lucienne’ range is an absolute model of what we aim to achieve in our collaborations with manufacturers. These are authentic Lucienne Day designs, produced for the original application, to the original scale and colourways, by the company which originally produced them, in the factory where they were originally made.
The best of 20th century British design has been brought back to life by a company which is maintaining the best of traditional British manufacturing. My parents worked for the British design industry all their lives and would have been proud and glad that their designs are still making a contribution. I should also say that my mother worked only for the very best companies – and I’m confident that we are following her example by collaborating with Alternative Flooring.
Will you have one of these runners in your home?
I’ve ordered a 45cm x 45cm sample of ‘Squares and Diamonds’ on the Alternative Flooring website.
I can’t wait to receive it! I think the intricate pattern and glowing fuchsia colourway will be absolutely perfect in my bedroom, with white walls, timber beams (it’s a barn conversion) and of course Robin Day furniture!
Q&A edit, 10 January 2018
Find out more about The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation here
The Authentic Lucienne collection becomes part of the new Quirky Runners collection, explore the collection here