THE LOOK recommends: Celia Birtwell by Celia Birtwell + Dominic Lutyens

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

Celia Birtwell’s discreet yet substantial contribution to British fashion, interiors and art has been overlooked for decades. This autumn’s publication of a book penned by the designer with Dominic Lutyens is a welcome addition to THE LOOK library, writes Mrs G.

Best known as Ossie Clark’s wife and collaborator, Birtwell’s triumph in that partnership was in the application of highly imaginative patterns onto the female form. By distilling art references with daring colours and intriguing motifs, Birtwell’s supremely confident textiles animated Clark’s audacious creations.

Celia-birtwell-Book

Loaded with illustrations, sketches and photographs, Birtwell’s book is presented in four sections; the first setting the scene by charting Birtwell’s early life, entry to Salford Art School at the age 13 and subsequent move to the heart of London’s bohemian Notting Hill (including the pop-art moment when she became the subject of Pauline Boty’s Celia And Her Idols).

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

Birtwell’s life in fashion, with Clark and as a designer in her own right; her relationship with David Hockney as muse and friend;¬†and her more recent incarnation as a designer for interiors and homewares – all are captured by Lutyens, whose airy text enables his subject to finally step from the shadows.

This is not a dense 60s memoir or tell-all. Appropriately the pages brim with pattern, colour and a lightness of touch. Meanwhile, tantalising glimpses are offered of such fascinating figures as Pauline Boty, Alice Pollock and Mo McDermott (each of whom deserve greater recognition and, in my opinion, books dedicated to their achievements).

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

From Celia Birtwell's book, text by Dominic Lutyens.

But this is Birtwell’s time, and quite right too. Ossie Clark’s star shone fast, bright and high, but the measured nature of his partner’s creative arc has, as it turns out, been all the more satisfying. My advice: skip the aprons and watering cans and acquire a copy of this excellent book.

Further reading: The Ossie Clark Diaries ed Henrietta Rous; Chequered Past: A Visual Diary of the 60s and 70s by Peter Schlesinger.

Sweet Jane said,

December 14, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

Totally agree with you, it’s a lovely book, (I got it as a present a few weeks ago)
Particularly like the photo’s of Celia and Ossie together and the descriptions of how
they worked side by side..and yes, you’re also right about Alice Pollock,Mo McDermott
and Pauline Boty..they’re all brilliant book material waiting to happen,although there is
one in existence about Pauline but it’s almost impossible to find a copy.

rockpopfashion said,

December 16, 2011 @ 11:35 am

HI Jane

The PB book was online in it’s entirety a couple of years ago – I haven’t checked since. It was really very good. Only a matter of time before she rises again to prominence I guess. As long as the end result isn’t a patchy biopic with her played by someone boring that would be great.

Sweet Jane said,

December 16, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

Thanks, i’ll definitely keep a look out for that,
Yeah,i’m surprised that it hasn’t happened already,
but like you say it is only a matter of time…
Actually, someone finally just uploaded their copy of “Pop goes the easel”
on to youtube a couple of weeks ago..great to see it again,hadn’t seen it
since it was shown on tv sometime in the late 80s/early 90’s.

http://youtu.be/3tbVTEW7wS8

rockpopfashion said,

December 18, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

Will have a look at it again. I’m conducting a q&a with Derek Boshier in January. Should be illuminating. We will cover but not dwell on Pop – much more to discuss, inc his workw ith The Clash, Bowie + B.Bubbles, films, etc.

Sweet Jane said,

December 21, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

The Q&A with Derek sounds really interesting, won’t be able to make that one unfortunately,
hopefully someone may record it,Lookin’ forward to catching the Lloyd Johnson exhibition at
the Chelsea Space at some stage tho’.

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