Sunday, 4 May 2014

From Start to Finish - The Collier Campbell/Sarah Campbell Story UPDATED

In my first year at Polytechnic, many years ago, I was given the task of finding out as much as I could about the Collier Campbell design duo.  It was the days of no internet and I found it very difficult indeed - I wrote to Liberty in London and they sent me some fabric samples but that was about as far as it went, apart from some magazine cuttings.  Imagine how thrilled I was to find that there was a special exhibition of past works by Collier Campbell, alongside new work by Sarah Campbell in the same room as my Pattern Cutting course at the Fashion and Textile Museum a few weeks ago.
Collier Campbell were sisters and they worked together for 50 years - sadly, Susan Collier died recently but Sarah Campbell continues to design. What I did find out about them years ago is that they started designing in the 1960's when they couldn't find anything available to buy that they would like to use as fabrics themselves.  They had their big break in the early 1970's when Yves Saint Laurent used their fabrics in his collections.  This special display gave an insight into the design process from start to finish - in fact the exhibition was entitled, 'From Start to Finish', which I really enjoyed. It included both the early work and new current designs by Sarah Campbell. There were sketchbook drawings, colour swatches, large A1 sheets of designs and examples of the finished products along with magazine tearsheets of the products in use.  I took loads of photos - they are all self explanatory really.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the exhibition!  Sorry about the glare on some - under glass.

This is Mariposa, a bedding design for Marks & Spencer, Spring 2013.  The bright and cheery butterfly idea developed from sketches and includes several ideas for coordinates.

Neat Ceramics came about when Sarah was asked by west elm to think about the subject in 2012.  The first sketches were done in a notebook on the plane home and the next designs in situ on the paper covering of the kitchen table, later neatened up.  


Jungle Leaves - commissioned by west elm in 2012.  The brief was for 'lush and green leaves, flowers, pods and some creatures too'.  The leaves started out very tiny, like a map.

Boho Patch - Marks & Spencer bedding, summer 2013.  The brief went with the popular design trend and consists of a large painting giving fun and variety over the bed.  It began with tiny sketches done on the train on the way home.

Chedworth - Marks & Spencer bedding 2013.  The result of being given a voluptuous bunch of flowers with a navy vase.  The bold floral changes from dark to light up the bed - an advantage of printing bedding patterns width for length.

Rye Flowers - Marks & Spencer bedding, Spring 2013.  A series of painted sketches inspired by a painting seen in a cafe in Rye.  Consists of an artwork repeat for the duvet face and a blue and cream painting for the reverse.

Greeting Cards - Roger la Borde commissioned a collection of six greeting cards late last year, three to include the words 'Happy Birthday'.  They wanted them to have the feel of continuous pattern.  The display panel shows the final cards and various starting points.

Winter Trees and Autumn Flowers - Marks & Spencer, Winter 2012.  Painted originally with a dark blotch but the flowers evolved with a cream ground and a coordinating stripe.  The bed ensemble designs give a 'sweeter' impression than Computer Aided Design.

Little Indigos - first commissioned by west elm, the Brooklyn based home store, 2012.  Garden path gives a nod to the first design ever sold to Liberty of London Prints in 1969.  The brief was for Liberty like flowers. Collier Campbell did many in the 60's and 70's for Liberty.  These are all new.

Lastly, a little collage of some furnishings - embroidered and sequinned cushions - done for the west elm group and a scarf commission for The National Theatre.  The final image shows Sarah Campbell painting and on an exhibition display panel she states that, 'At heart, I love painting patterns, inventing designs'.  There is a book available, The Collier Campbell Archive.  A wonderful treat - saving up time for me!


  1. Thank you for this write-up Marguerite, I'm so glad you enjoyed the exhibition. I do need to make one important point - although Susan and I did indeed co-found the ORIGINAL Collier Campbell in the early 80s I am no longer connected to the new company of that name and I have neither the interest nor indeed the right to use that name in my current commercial endeavours. Shortly after Susan's death the current owner and I parted company and since July '11 my work has been produced by me solely at Sarah Campbell Ltd, as I make clear in the captions. Although some of the designs the new CC use were originally painted and coloured by me - the two above being a case in point - I do not profit from their sale. I have a small but growing range of stationery and goods and your readers can own a little bit of Sarah Campbell, as you put it, via my own website - - and read more on my blog - and through WestElm as well. If you'd like to get in touch with me further about any of this please use the contact form on my website. Sarah Campbell

  2. See later posts with more of Sarah Campbell's wonderful work!


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