The impact Lucienne Day’s textiles had in brightening up homes

PUBLISHED: 10:34 11 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:34 11 April 2017

Lucienne Day in New York in 1952 with her best-selling textile design Calyx © The Robin & Lucienne Day Foundation/Photographer: Studio Briggs

Lucienne Day in New York in 1952 with her best-selling textile design Calyx © The Robin & Lucienne Day Foundation/Photographer: Studio Briggs


Dr Paula Day reflects on the positive impact Lucienne Day’s upbeat modern everyday textiles had in brightening up homes across post-war Britain, as her centenary is celebrated at a special exhibition at Arts University Bournemouth

My mother, Lucienne Day (1917 – 2010), completed her textiles training at the Royal College of Art, London in 1940. She began her design career as soon as the Second World War ended, but it was only at the Festival of Britain in 1951 that she achieved her career breakthrough with her strikingly ‘Contemporary’ textile Calyx, which became a world bestseller.

For the next 25 years she was Heal’s star textile designer, producing a whole raft of vibrant prints – such as Graphica, Dandelion Clocks, Spectators, Trio and Magnetic – which have become iconic. She was approached by numerous other companies in Britain and abroad, and responded to the challenge of designing patterns for all kinds of applications including wallpapers for Rasch and WPM, carpets for Tomkinson’s and Wilton Royal, tea towels for Thomas Somerset and china tableware for Rosenthal. In 1962 she and my father, furniture designer Robin Day, were appointed joint Design Consultants to John Lewis. In their 25 years with the company they implemented a transformation of the house style.

When she was in her sixties my mother gave up industrial design to develop a new art form, the silk mosaic. These one-off wall-hangings, hand-stitched by her assistants from tiny squares of richly coloured silk, were widely exhibited and still grace the walls of public buildings all over the world. In 1987 she became the first-ever woman Master of Royal Designers for Industry, and she was awarded an OBE in 2004. In a lifetime of dedicated design practice, she created a body of work which is still vital, and is steadily coming back into commercial production to excite and inspire a new generation.

In 2012 I set up the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation, a design education charity dedicated to furthering public knowledge of and access to their design legacies. We are fortunate to enjoy close links with Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) through our locally-based Trustee, Mary Mullin, and AUB Chancellor Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, who is also our Patron. We are immensely grateful to AUB for hosting and realising the inaugural exhibition of the Lucienne Day Centenary Year in their fine gallery. I hope visitors will come away with a new appreciation of the rich variety and quality of my mother’s work, and of her personal achievement in a career spanning six decades.

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