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book reviews

The Lost Words - Nature Book Review

book reviews, inspiration, nature, well beingCharlotte BrownComment

I received a copy of the beautiful The Lost Words book, recently, as a gift from my husband... and I'm utterly transfixed by it...

I love it so much I just had to share it with you...

The premise of the book is how we are becoming disconnected from nature, especially our children, who are 'losing' words from the world of nature and the realities that are joined to these special words...

And yet nature is soo essential to our everyday wellbeing...

And it's such a beautiful book - wonderful poems seeking to 'spell' the world of nature back into life and illustrated with the exquisite art of Jackie Morris...

Watch her creating her wren below...

It's a very large-size book, which makes the illustrations all the more beautiful - perfect as a coffee-table book to peruse at your leisure or equally so for reading to children who will, I'm sure, be captivated by the world that this book evokes...

It's particularly poignant since we are starting, now, to recognise how much benefit we can gain from time spent in the green of the great outdoors, or even just from our small, mindful, everyday connections with nature, so it's particularly important for children to be able to appreciate and access the natural world and make it part of their growing lives.

Campaigns have now started to raise money to get a copy of this enchanting book into all primary schools and even, as the word gets out, for residents of care homes who may not be able to access nature in person, but who will be helped by being able to access the memories of nature that the book will surely evoke, to be able to benefit from the magical words and images in the book.

Crowdfunding is currently taking place for all primary schools in my local area, North and East Yorkshire, to all receive a copy of this inspiring book - you can donate here to become a part of this project (till 19th July 2018) or search the Crowdfunder site to see Lost Words fundraisers for your own area.

I love to just sit with this book in the evening, read the words and absorb the images - feeling the magic of nature it evokes...

If you love art and love nature I know that you will adore this book - a work of art!

If you purchase The Lost Words through the above link I will earn a small commission. The price paid by you is always the same and please know that I only ever recommend books and products I genuinely love and believe are worthwhile sharing with others. Thank you.

You might also be interested in this article about the dictionary's lost words of nature

Book Review - 1980s Fashion Print by Marnie Fogg

book reviews, fashion, historyCharlotte BrownComment

Reviewing fashion pattern and print from the 1980s, with Marnie Fogg’s design book…

Marnie Fogg's book: 1980s Fashion Print

The eighties were my decade as a child and young teen. Naturally, my youthful fashion experimentations have evolved over the years into many cringe-worthy moments, as my adult self now looks back over old photos.

Thank goodness there were no digital cameras or social media, or the embarrassment could have been a whole lot worse! My only consolation being that everyone else’s eighties photos look just the same...!

So you can imagine how much enthusiasm I would be likely to muster for the eighties-inspired design and fashion prints in this Marnie Fogg design book.

I was curious enough to buy it though – as I love all kinds of colour and pattern – and realising how much recent trends in fabric and surface pattern design have been influenced by a colourful look back at the eighties.

On looking through the book, my fears of eighties fashion faux-pas were, of course, eased - a combination of my own (clearly poor) fashion choices as a teen, and Marnie Fogg showcasing the crème-de-la-crème of eighties fashion prints.

In the introduction, Fogg describes how eighties fashions were loud – bright, bold and ostentatious – looking to new ideas and creativity to create the patterns that the public lapped up.

In Britain, London started to be seen as the centre of the ‘designer decade’ with eccentric and avant-garde ideas, combined with smaller-scale ‘craft’ print studios.

Italy produced the ‘Memphis’ design movement, which had a huge influence on the decade. Surface pattern design broke rules on colour and ‘good taste’ with bold, vibrant colours, and energetic, dissonant pattern and layout.

Fogg describes how the eighties was the decade for ‘celebration of excess’ and ‘unparalleled creativity’.

Browse a preview of the book below (supplied by Google Books):

Neon Blitz

This section showcases a collection of bold, colourful and abstract prints, with texture given equal importance to colour and form.

Designers experimented with mark-making, and creative printing, and interdisciplinary design techniques.

Innovative design labels:
•    ‘Bodymap
•    Stephen Sprouse – influenced by graffiti
•    Vivienne Westwood – inspired by other cultures, “searching for the primitive”
•    ‘The Cloth’ design group – focusing on the drawn or painted line
•    ‘Tio Gruppen’ (Ten Swedish Designers) – innovative colour and energy

Other designers followed suit - with deliberately naïve, colourful, textural, and hectic designs overtaking this style.

My favourites in this style are the simple, textural, and hand-painted Liberty geometrics, with a more muted colour palette.


The eighties woman was powerful and glamorous. Her clothes were bold, colourful and ostentatious, with trompe l’oeil printed cords, tassels, and trims being very popular. Animal prints also helped to display a feminine power.

Aspirational occasion-wear was created with lavish, large-size pattern and embellishment, by design houses such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Adolfo, James Galanos, Karl Lagerfield, Gucci, Coco Chanel.

To be honest, this isn’t my favourite look, but I’m quite fond of the colourful, large-scale, patterned florals of Furphy Simpson, shown in the book.

Catch the Wave

Active wear became a business in itself in the 80s, as the public concentrated on creating the ‘body-beautiful’ and ‘feeling the burn’. The new popularity of the fabric Elastene or Spandex (such as Lycra) gave new opportunities to fashion print designers.

Surf, skateboard, and rave cultures influenced the popularity of bright and neon colours, tie-dye, and the ubiquitous ‘smiley face’ icon.

Tropical motifs were popular, often combined with the new trend for hand-drawn and hand-painted textures.

I love the richly patterned designs of the ‘Cote d’Azure’ furnishing fabric by Collier Campbell (shown in the book) which I feel has rather a beautiful, retro-inspired, 50s feel – and definitely a cool Riviera style.

Urban Jungle

Fogg writes that the fashionable eighties alternative to power-dressing was an elegant, avant-garde Italian label, ‘Etro’. Paisley patterns were their recognised look.

Other cultures and folklore began to be the inspiration for a growing alternative style, with eclectic tropical florals, animals and birds, in bold, simplified, and stylised juxtaposition.

I really love some of these designs, particularly those by designer Natalie Gibson, with fun and colourful, tropical motifs against dramatic backgrounds.

As the decade went on, the wild colours of the earlier years developed into simpler, two-colour prints, such as in the work of design partnership, Furphy Simpson.

Radical Classical

Fogg writes that classical Greek and Roman art were given a new look by eighties designers, such as Sue Timney, Grahame Fowler, and English Eccentrics. Neo-classical statues, maps, and architectures featured in the designs.

Colours tended to be more subdued than the wilder Urban Jungle, Glamazon and Neon Blitz styles.

Designers such as English Eccentrics also began looking back for historical inspiration, at medieval heraldic designs, architecture, and stained glass.

The very popular appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1986 inspired a new interest in the night sky, which was reflected in fashion prints at the time.

Georgina Von Etzdorf created artistic designs with rich colours, textures, and a baroque style in abstract form, concentrating, as many designers do these days, on the craft process of the design.

The designs illustrating the book, by Georgina Von Etzdorf, are some of my very favourite designs of the decade, for the beautiful movement and energy in the swirling, colourful shapes, with surprising detail and texture in the complex designs.

My Conclusion

As the eighties isn’t my favourite decade, I wasn’t expecting to be very impressed by the designs in this book – but I was wrong – and I very much enjoyed it, in spite of myself!

It’s true, there were designs I wasn’t so keen on, (but aren’t there in any decade?) but there were also plenty, too, that I really loved.

Reading more about the influences of the decade gave me a better appreciation of the design developments and inspirations of that period.

I really enjoyed seeing how innovations from eighties design have a bearing, still, on our design techniques of today: the growing interest in the craft of design, the experimentation in the design process itself, and a new focus away from pure digital design - into including hand-drawn or hand-painted elements, and textures created from ‘real world’ multi-media techniques.

Of course, many eighties-style motifs and design styles are also popular at the moment, with abstract, textural prints, bold colours, and tropical prints all being very popular now, as well as a renewed interest in the patterns and influences of different cultures which, these days, are seen in juxtaposition with each other, rather than purely as separate trends.

Get the Book

Available at Amazon, through my affiliate links (below):

Book Review – The Pattern Sourcebook: A century of surface design, by Drusilla Cole

book reviews, patternsCharlotte BrownComment

I wanted to share with you one of my (many!) all-time favourite books about surface pattern design – so good its cover is already falling off!

This book is a visual delight, and is exactly what it says on the cover: ‘A century of surface design’.

Book review - The Pattern Sourcebook; A century of surface design, by Drusilla Cole

The interesting thing about this book, though, is that it isn't a straight-forward history of how patterns have developed over the last hundred years – but simply a celebration of beautiful patterns over the years.

Unusually (although you would think this would be the norm for design books, I think!) the patterns are divided by colour... 

So, for example, in the yellow section, (which sits nicely between the lime-green and brown sections, as you might hope), a Voysey pattern from 1907 sits next to a Japanese fabric from 2005, and with a bone china tea plate from 1912.

It is an education in itself to spend some time studying how Drusilla Cole, and her publishers, have put the patterns next to each other – asking yourself why these two or three particular patterns work well together…

Perhaps the colours (always!) but also the shapes of the motifs, the layouts, style and/or the subject matter.

It’s lovely that there is so much variety on display in the book – fabrics, as you might expect, but also lino-cuts, paper-cuttings, tiles, table-tops and ceramics – all of which gives you some ideas of how many different products surface pattern designs can end up on.

I found particularly interesting the drawings of designs applied to (or for application to) plates, tea-cups etc. Some of the images are the designs intended to be hand-painted onto the pottery – kind of a template to be copied, I guess.

All kinds of different styles are included (and many of my favourite designers) but, as Drusilla Cole says in the introduction, she does concentrate on ‘hand-generated patterns’.

The introduction to the book is the only (relatively) lengthy piece of text in the book. It’s just a brief introduction, and explanation of how designs and printing techniques developed over the years, and where she gathered her patterns from... 

Not too wordy, and very interesting and informative, so well-worth reading, rather than skipping over.

The patterns themselves are presented as large images (usually one per page) with a brief note with the designer or manufacturer, date, and a small snippet of noteworthy information about the design, history, and/or technique.

List of contacts and picture credits at the back of the book.

My version of the book came with a free CD with 100 patterns. I had not looked at this before, but checked it out for the purposes of this review.

It comprises 100 pattern images, all watermarked, plus a list of picture credits. These seemed to show larger extracts of some of the patterns in the book.

One thing I did think about the book was its potentially slightly confusing title of ‘sourcebook’...

This is certainly a sourcebook in the sense of a collection or archive of patterns, but it’s not a copyright-free resource for designers to source patterns. The book itself and all the patterns on the accompanying CD are ‘all rights reserved’.

However, as a visual treat, to immerse yourself in some simply gorgeous colours and patterns, it’s a perfect delight.

You can while away a few minutes, or an hour, just flicking through, concentrating on whichever colour draws you on a particular day.

The cover design, by Mark Hearld, is one of my favourite designs – beautiful – and make sure you open out the cover to see the design in just reds, inside – dramatic and very tactile.

I highly recommend this beautiful book as a source of visual inspiration.

You might also like:

Marnie Fogg's 1980s Fashion Print book

Marnie Fogg's 1960s Fashion Print book

Book Review - '1960s Fashion Print' by Marnie Fogg

fabric, patterns, history, book reviewsCharlotte BrownComment

I thought I would start the year with something a bit light hearted, colourful and fun… so I’ve taken myself back in time with a little look at the sixties and seventies…

As a child born in the early seventies, the patterns and prints of the sixties and seventies were the ever-present backdrop of my first years - and in all my earliest memories.

I find myself sub-consciously drawing on these ingrained patterns as I draw and design. And it’s fair to say these decades have had a heavier influence on my artistic vision than most.

I didn’t actually realise this until I got this book, and started looking through at all the patterns, when I could see how I’d been influenced by the colours and swirls.


This is a wonderful book, and whether you’re already a big fan of sixties and seventies prints, or if you’ve not yet been introduced to the joys of this era, you’re in for a treat.

The book is packed with big, colourful images, with everything from original artwork, fabrics, fashion photos, and design sketches – so you can get a really thorough feel for the whole design process.

The book actually only includes prints from the sixties, but looking through the book, as it moves towards the later years of the decade, I can certainly see what I, personally, would recognise as a distinctly seventies vibe,

In the book, several separate styles are identified, moving from the start of the decade, to the end.

  • Art into Print
  • Revivals and Reflections
  • Flower Power
  • Lost in Multicoloured Hues
  • Magical Mystery Tour

Take a look at this sample content below.... (from Google Books)

My review continues beneath...


Art into Print

Marnie Fogg writes that large scale motifs were in trend, influenced by Op Art and Pop Art, the work of Op Artist Bridget Riley and Richard Anuskiewicz

‘Swinging London’ was hip – with Union Jacks and depictions of the famous trendy London street ‘Carnaby Street’

  • Monochromatic designs were common
  • Optical illusions seen in designs
  • Everyday objects become design motifs
  • Intense colours and unusual colour combinations

Revivals and Reflections

Designers started to look to history for inspiration, writes Fogg. They turned towards the soft swirls of Art nouveau, as a reaction against the harder lines of the previous modernist style.

The values of the Arts and Crafts movement were also looked back to with nostalgia and revived.

This is one of my favourite sixties styles, and if you’re familiar with the 1960s revival of William Morris, this is the design movement it was a part of. Colours were definitely given a saturated sixties twist compared to the 19th century originals.

  • Intricate and psychedelic paisleys, art nouveau ogees, and art deco geometric motifs are also part of this style, looking back to design history and reinterpreting it for the new era.
  • Natalie Gibson and Bernard Nevill both worked in these beautiful styles, and the fashion boutique ‘Biba’ brought the look to popular culture.

Flower Power

Marnie Fogg writes that the modern world brought a plethora of commercialism and plastic, and the sixties ‘Flower Power’ hippies were a reaction against this, looking instead to nature for inspiration.

At its peak in the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ and during the following years of political upheaval, ‘Flower Power’ became symbolic of a desire for peace and love.

  • The daisy motif was popular, because of its innocence and simplicity.
  • Flowers were bright, brilliant, and stylised.
  • Painter and ‘fashion gardener’ Ken Scott created intricate, painterly and colourful floral designs that are most beautiful – I love them.

Lost in Multi-coloured Hues

As someone who’s grown up in the seventies, psychedelia is part of my mental picture of childhood – particularly remembered from childrens’ books and TV programs. But in the sixties, writes Fogg, psychedelia was heavily inspired by drugs – specifically LSD or ‘acid’.

Patterns swirl and undulate, and colours are ‘acid bright’ – truly multi-coloured and lavish! This was a period of excess and fantasy, and the patterns and colours celebrated in this style reached popular culture and design too.

  • Natalie Gibson and Alexander Henry Fabrics created my favourite designs in this exuberant style.

Magical Mystery Tour

Towards the end of the decade, moving into the seventies, Fogg writes that patterns took inspiration from the wanderlust of the hippies – ‘exotic’ prints were treasured, and previously unfamiliar techniques, such as batik and tie-dye, captured the imagination.

India and the Far East provided much inspiration for designers, with paisleys and mandalas becoming popular motifs, and spicy hues providing the colour palettes.

Home-spun arts and crafts, and interest in sustainable lifestyles and recycling still continued, writes Fogg.

The patterns and designs of this period are some of the most interesting, for me – a real mixing pot of influences, cultures and styles to create a very colourful end to the sixties, ready to move into the seventies.

The book devotes a large part of this section looking at the designs of Celia Birtwell and Zandra Rhodes, which I found quite interesting, but I think my favourite pattern in this section has got to be the flamboyant design by Bernard Nevill for Cantini on page 186.

I highly recommend this book if you have even the slightest interest in colour, pattern and design. I loved it.

I have several other Marnie Fogg books (which I intend to review in due course) but this is definitely my favourite.

If this has whetted your appetite for the book, you can get it below through my affiliate links...

from Amazon.co.uk

from Amazon.com