Caroline: Book Review: Celia Birtwell

When my favourite craft book publishers, Quadrille, said they’d send me a preview copy of the Celia Birtwell biography to review, I was expecting a print heavy volume – a typical biography of Celia’s life. I was not expecting a beautiful, picture-laden coffee table book, chock-full of photographs and illustrations charting Celia’s career in fashion and fabric design.

Seduced as I was by the aesthetics of the book, I was very strict, after my initial flick through, not to flick again. This was for the simple reason that I didn’t want to rush it! I wanted to savour every image, to pore over every photograph in context, and to leave myself page after page of treats to enjoy over the evenings to come.

Content-wise, I found myself inspired simply by reading about Celia’s own inspirations. Her most famous prints are explored and their secrets revealed – and I will never look at a museum artifact or work of art in the same light, able as I now find myself to see their potential in design.

The book illustrates most effectively the powerful coupling a textiles designer and fashion designer can be when working in tandem. Celia’s success seems to rely on Ossie Clark’s ability to turn her designs into wearable masterpieces. Equally, it is made clear that much of Ossie’s success is down to Celia’s fabulous eye for movement and colour. This emphasis on their partnership really set me thinking about designing for purpose and the whole process of “making”.

For inspiration alone, I give this book 9/10.


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