Josef Frank at Fashion and Textile Museum


If the long cold winter is getting you down, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Fashion and Textile Museum to see  “Josef Frank: Patterns – Furniture – Painting”. The riotous lushness of his colourful designs will send your spirits soaring.

The exhibition covers his textile designs, furniture and watercolours, including many paintings that have never been seen in public before. But it was his textile designs I found most entrancing, so I focus on those here.

Josef Frank (1885-1967) was born in Austria and trained as an architect. However, he was interested not only in construction but also in interior design, feeling that a home should be a cosy and comfortable haven.

In 1925 he founded the design and furnishings firm Haus & Garten, but in 1933, with anti-Semitism on the rise, he moved to Stockholm with his Swedish wife Anna. For almost 30 years he worked with Estrid Ericson at Svenskt Tenn, producing more than 2000 pieces of furniture and around 200 carpets, wallpapers and textile designs.

Frank was a great admirer of William Morris, as can be seen in his stylised motifs from nature, geometric order and repeat patterns.

Teheran, 1943-45
Nippon, 1943-45
Nippon, 1943-45


Aralia, 1928

There was humour, too, as in this design called “Italian Dinner”, showing aubergines, peas and garlic growing alongside a river stuffed with seafood.

Italian Dinner, 1943-45
Italian Dinner, 1943-45

Some designs zing with colour.

Three Islands in the Black Sea, 1935
Three Islands in the Black Sea, 1935

Others use a pared down palette.

Aristidia, 1925-30
Aristidia, 1925-30
Window, 1943
Window, 1943

Other natural inspirations included birds.

Green Birds in the Trees, 1943-45
Green Birds in the Trees, 1943-45
Anakreon, 1938
Anakreon, 1938

I also liked Rocks and Figs, clearly influenced by Chinese ink paintings of mountains.

Rocks and Figs, 1943-45
Rocks and Figs, 1943-45

In contrast, Terrazzo was inspired by agate rocks embedded in a terrazzo floor.

Terrazzo, 1943-45
Terrazzo, 1943-45

And Manhattan featured maps of New York.

Manhattan, 1943-45
Manhattan, 1943-45

Finally, there was also a complete room showing examples of how the furnishings worked together. So that’s where Ikea got the idea from! 😉


Josef Frank: Patterns – Furniture – Painting runs at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 7 May.

Svenskt Tenn still sells textiles, wallpaper and furniture designed by Frank – and its website has much better photos than mine!

And here are a couple of felt flowers I made, inspired by the exhibition. 🙂



Marian Clayden Art Textiles

As someone who does quite a lot of tie dye, or shibori, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Marian Clayden before visiting this exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. Yet her skills – and influence – extended well beyond dyeing – for example, her work was behind the widespread popularity of velvet devoré in the 1990s (I had several scarves!).

Clayden was born in the UK and went to Nottingham School of Art. But it wasn’t until she emigrated to Australia in 1962 that she took up dyeing, teaching herself from a book. She then moved to California and was commissioned to produce all the textiles for tours of the musical Hair.

Her work from this period very much reflects the palette of the period, in purple, orange and brown – but the painterly effects she produced are far from common.

marian clayden dress marian clayden dress

These dresses were made using stitch resist (nui shibori), which normally produces broken lines – so I suspect that after stitching and gathering the fabric she then bound over the top of the stitching.

After receiving a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1971 she was able to scale up, producing large hanging pieces of silk using several stages of stitching, dyeing and discharge.

marian clayden silk hanging marian clayden silk hanging

My favourite from this period was cotton rather than silk, in more earthy colours of blue and ochre – a detail is shown below.

Marian clayden hanging

I also liked a wonderful coarse cotton mask, inspired by Australian Aboriginal masks.

Marian clayden mask

In the mid-70s Clayden developed an interest in clamped resist (itajime shibori) and discharge dyeing – most of these pieces in the exhibition were from later periods, like this silk organza coat from 2001.

marian clayden coat

She also became increasingly interested in texture, experimenting with non-loom weaving. This stunning hanging consists of ropes made from cotton roving, dyed, discharged and hand plied.

marian clayden rope hanging marian clayden rope hanging

Her innovation continued throughout the 1980s, perhaps best exemplified by her “toaster print”, originally produced by coating the ridges of a sandwich toaster with ink, adding the fabric and closing the toaster. 🙂 You can see this on the tulip coat below.

clayden toaster printclayden toaster print detail

Clayden also developed the technique of ombre discharge, producing subtle shading, and cut velvet panels, widely imitated by the cheaper devoré semi-sheer cloth with pile patterns (my scarves!).

clayden ombre dyeclayden devore

For me, two other pieces in the exhibition highlight Clayden’s global range of influences. The Japanese aesthetic clearly shows in these beautifully minimal “towers” of cotton strapping discharge dyed and wrapped around dowelling. They were inspired by palm trees wrapped in fronds that she saw in Hawaii.

clayden towers

Then, in 1992, Clayden was invited by Aid to Artisans to work with felt makers in Hungary. The result was a series of felt hats and waistcoats, dyed, discharged and appliquéd.

clayden felt hat clayden felt waistcoat

Marian Clayden Art Textiles runs at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 17 April 2016.