Getting the needlepoint collection together
In the first part of The Story of Glorafilia, I spoke about the lack of interest shown to our very small collection by the traditional needlepoint shops and how our break through came when interior design shops were delighted for us to design special collections to go with their fabrics.
It was an exciting time as we could see, with perseverance we were getting somewhere. The kits were meticulously hand painted onto the canvas by Carole and me and were a mixture of florals and geometrics, all intricate to design and difficult to paint. Carole worked at her house and I worked from mine and we met to choose the yarns. We were determined that the designs would have no boring background and included instructions for different stitches so that they would have texture, although the kits could be stitched in tent stitch if preferred.
At that time in the mid 70’s Designers Guild fabrics were sold at Browns Living in South Molton Street and most of the designs were geometric. Those patterns are still gorgeous today and were the start of many years’ collaboration with Tricia Guild, supplying her with a few collections a year. At the same time, we worked with the manager of the fabric and haberdashery department at Liberty producing kits based on their most iconic fabrics: the immediately recognisable William Morris patterns and Liberty’s own slant on traditional paisley designs – and we usually added a geometric element. We were given a section of the department and one or other of us needlepointed away trying to spread the word that this was something different, not posies or wreaths but something that would complement homes and furnishings. We were hand painting canvases in our sleep. We employed a couple of girls to paint the canvases with us so that we could then have a chance to design our own collection and move further afield.
Other fabric designers followed. There were needlepoint picture frames for Nina Campbell using her designs and gorgeous rose and trellis designs for The Upstairs Shop in Pimlico Road and beautiful cushions based on the wonderful chintz designs of Colefax and Fowler. We got the orders, painted the canvases, plaited the wool, rolled the designs, tied them with ribbon and delivered them to the shops. Looking back, we don’t know how we did it. The kits began to sell in Harvey Nichols, again their own collection. We employed two more people, and all painted and plaited and rolled and ribboned. And still fed our children and managed to exchange a few words with our husbands.
We decided that we must move on with our own designs and so rented a house in Selsea for a month to finalise a collection that we decided we were going to show at a trade fair in the autumn of 1977. We found people to stitch the samples who remained loyal for many years and an extremely talented upholsterer who made up our cushions until about 15 years ago when another equally accomplished lady took over.
In Selsea we had Mara, a gorgeous Italian girl from Venice to look after our children: my son, Jason and Carole’s two daughters, Sorel and Tamsin. At the weekends our husbands came down from London expecting to be fed and entertained. It was a beautiful summer, we walked on the beach and listened non – stop to Neil Diamond. We ate Mara’s delicious food. Her speciality was Russian Salad which we still cook (click here for the recipe). By the end of the month we had consolidated the first of the Glorafilia collections, all still hand painted.
The Knitting and Stitching show took place in Brighton every year and as we had never been to one of these shows we didn’t know what to expect. So, we wallpapered and dressed our stand like a room set, borrowed furniture, had it styled and propped by a professional display artist. That stand was to be the prototype for how our shop, The Old Mill House, would be. (More later). We were not to know that almost every other stand at that Brighton exhibition had basic metal units to show their goods, no made up samples as we had, just a table and a couple of chairs. Ours was the Cecil B de Mille of exhibition stands, not because we were showing off, but purely out of naivety. And the buyers swamped us with attention which was overwhelming, even the notoriously difficult buyer from Harrods placed a large order. Every night we went to Wheelers, a popular fish chain and ordered lobster and champagne and enjoyed replaying the accolades with something like disbelief. We were bursting with enthusiasm and possibilities, we were in our thirties with flesh still in the right places, unlined and energetic. We knew things would change as it would now be impossible to paint the canvases in quantity and our frustrating search for a printer began.
To be continued ………………..
If you have missed part 1 you will find it here.
Jennifer and Carole.
Colefax and Fowler.
The Upstairs Shop.
Colefax and Fowler.
Rolled and Ribboned.