Inspired By Plants: New Textile Design

Words by
Julie Paterson
| October 7, 2014

In July last year we were over in California for a wedding. A big lavish one. An old friend from college had done good- living the life in America, marrying a Californian girl up in his beautiful house in the hills beyond ‘Frisco. It was summer holiday season and the weather was golden, magnificent.

Still on a high from the three day wedding festival with its abundant displays of exotic looking orchids and moss in giant gourds hanging from the ceilings, the perfection of the ethically sourced organic feasts and the whole traditional shaman-chanting bare-footed spectacularness of at all, Amanda and I were having some quiet city time, slowly coming back down to real life on Valencia Street.

It was the flowering trees lining the streets that caught my eye. They looked familiar somehow. Something about those masses of scarlet blooms shining bright against the cerulean blue sky made me stop and look closer. We recognised the soft green curving leaves with their very tips tinted red, the cadmium and tangerine blossoms and pinkish pods bursting with delicate fingery stamens curling and unfolding.

The trees were Australian natives, red flowering gums, blooming so abundant and glorious like I’d never quite seen before. We sat on a bench for a while, happy to be surrounded by something so familiar yet out of place and I made a couple of quick sketches in the book I carry just for occasions like this.

Back home I did a bit of research on this red flowering gum. Turns out that the Corymbia ficifolia is from the coast of Western Australia and is a popular tree to plant on the streets. Even in Ireland they grow easily, don’t need much pruning and don’t get too big. It isn’t really a Eucalyptus at all but a bloodwood, and the flowers can be cream coloured, pink, orange or red.

I thought the blossoms would make a good subject for a new design and I started looking out for them in my neighbourhood. Sure enough just across the street a someone had just planted a smallish pink flowering version. Then I came across a second bigger tree just around the corner with tangerine coloured flowers.

In fact there was a number of these trees all around my ‘hood. Funny how it takes a trip away to reacquaint yourself with the beauty of what is often in your own backyard.

I’ve started making this red flowering gum into a textile design. It’s been a fairly lengthy process but right now we are almost there, having got the first colour trials back from the printer this week. We should be all set to blossom in mid November. Stay tuned for more…

Julie’s design based on the red flowering gum, Gum Blossom, is a flat bed screen print on upholstery grade linen and is hand-made in Sydney. The design forms part of Bloom – the latest Cloth Fabric collection. It will be released in mid November at the Ascraft showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne. Stay tuned for the second instalment of the story later this month!

Process pics:

Travel sketchbook painting of red flowering gum in San Francisco
Lino cut print of the design
Fabric samples of the design!