In 2016 I began work on a commission for a private residence in Hove, East Sussex. The project included two curtain designs featuring the architectural highlights of Montpelier (the client’s local neighbourhood) and Falmer Campus at Sussex University (the site of the client’s former studies). Measuring 15 square meters each, this large scale project involved photography and sculptural elements to create a bespoke textile digital print onto linen fabric. The curtains would provide a dominant decorative feature for two rooms; the bedroom and living room, each curtain to cover the floor to ceiling sized windows.
The project begins with a collaborative activity, walking with the client around the two sights of focus for the curtain designs. We spend a couple of hours exploring the Montpelier neighbourhood in Brighton & Hove. My client shares his visual interests in the area for me to photograph. Montpelier is described in Wikipedia; ‘Developed in the mid-19th century, it forms a high-class, architecturally cohesive residential district with “an exceptionally complete character”. Stucco-clad terraced housing and villas predominate and two of the city’s most significant Victorian churches.
Walking down to the seafront, the architecture changes and we decide to include the modernist 1930’s Embassy Court in our photo walk. The eleven storey residence is described as “something like a great ocean liner” and is in great contrast with the surrounding regency buildings.
A week or so later, my client and I repeat the photo walk activity, but this time focusing on the Falmer campus, part of Sussex University. This was home to my client’s Philosophy PHD. A place of great personal significance along with a strong visual identity to explore. ‘Writing about the creation of the University in 1961, founding architect Sir Basil Spence said: “The whole precinct should have the ‘sense of a university’ and should, if possible, grow out of the soil of Sussex to become a natural part of this beautiful site”. Its campus was praised as gorgeously modernist and groundbreaking, receiving numerous awards.’ For me the stand out elements are the strong lines of red brick and open green spaces which connect the modernist buildings. My client notes his preferred features; pathways throughout the campus, the trees, open squares and quiet corners.
With these two sets of original photographs for Montpelier and Falmer, the client and I make an initial edit of the few hundred images to about ten images per site. I get to work with each set of ten images; transforming, developing and merging the imagery together to create new, vibrant compositions.
I like to use digital projection as a light source for re-photographing work in a space. I want to interrupt the original architectural images and re-arrange how the familiar locations are perceived. I use paper collage, concrete and transparent materials to act as surfaces for the projection. In my studio, I re-photograph the surface projections, building a new collection of distorted and transformed imagery. I then move into Adobe Photoshop as a digital tool for editing and resolving the imagery into the two curtain designs.
I start to layer these new digital compositions together, gradually forming a large scale composition for each curtain design. Mid way through the design process I present some design drafts to the client and make notes on preferred colour palettes and motifs.
Before the last stages of image editing, the client and I meet with the soft furnishings technician to discuss fabric choice and curtain hanging mechanisms. I share some fabric samples of hemp, linen and silk and we select a heavyweight irish linen. Because both windows will receive large areas of direct sunlight we also agree on a UV protective backing layer to preserve the digital print and enhance the drape of each curtain.
During one more final meeting, I present my completed digital designs and make notes for any last adjustments. We confirm measurements and timescales. The work is now ready to send for digital printing onto the linen using UK fabric printers. Once printed, the fabric is sent to the technician to assemble the curtain panels ready for installation.