Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Barron and Larcher - back to life!

This week I have been lucky enough to be sampling my heroes of 1930's block-printing - Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher. The visionary Michal Silver at Christopher Farr Cloth is reviving their archive in partnership with the wonderful Craft Study Centre at the University of the Arts, Farnham - and we are lucky enough to be sampling the designs at Ivo Print. It's been an emotional experience to be printing their designs myself after so many years of tracking their fabrics down in dusty archives…Let's hope they now get the recognition they richly deserve.


Barron and Larcher were truly radical - printing by hand and hacking the process into the bargain: they appropriated found materials - like a rubber car mat (their design 'Motor' is above) or a plastic nailbrush to make dots. They also embraced spontaneity and accident - often combining and overlaying multiple blocks at random. As the poet Jane Weir describes in her book, 'Walking the Block', they

'explored and experimented with the idea of what a block is and what it could achieve. They used found 

objects such as car mats, kitchen utensils, mollusc shells, cotton reels and seed heads, conjuring a kind 
of magic out of the ordinary and by so doing transformed the nature 
of shape and line and contour with colour.

Their printed textiles embraced the eclecticism of modernity through movements such as 
Vorticism, with an emphasis on movement through image and its abstraction on cloth. 
[And by] combining traditional production methods of hand block printing and vegetable 
dyeing with their avant-garde designs, [they] attracted substantial commissions from a
range of wealthy and influential clients.'

For me the magic of their designs lies in the harmony and beauty of their mark-making (they cut their many hundreds of blocks by hand) and their sense of colour - drawn from earthy natural dyes - like iron, rust and gall nuts as well as indigo which are given the occasional punch with citrus lemons and bright reds. Barron and Larcher were alive to all the subtle possibilities that the printing process offered and in this sense were true pioneers of cloth.


Together with Michal and the team at Ivo's we are trying to stay true to their original vision - with sensitive contemporary translations that we hope will bring their wonderful work to a new and wider audience.

We are so grateful to Jean Vacher and her husband from  Craft Study Centre, who dropped by the factory with a box of original Barron and Larcher cuttings! Do have a look at their online archive - if you can - it's truly inspiring.



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