Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016

8.12.2007

Summer Book Club: Florence Broadhurst



Above, Weego Home sells pillows and wall hangings made from Florence Broadhurst hand-printed Asian-inspired fabric. Shown here, Bamboo in yellow.

Did she or didn't she? Did Florence Broadhurst use her own unique aesthetic, life experience and vision to direct a group of young artists in creating one cohesive wallpaper collection, or was it all serendipity? A phenomenon that sprang out of the dynamic 1960s, with diverse creative people each adding something to the mix?

After reading Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives.what questions are on your mind?

If you're an Australian reader, are you happy the Broadhurst collection is currently receiving so much attention, regardless of who truly designed it? Do you think the collection really speaks Australia?

Related links:
signatureprints.com.au.
Weego Home
Walnut Wallpaper
Woodson and Rummerfield
Powerhouse Museum

12 comments:

The Peak of Chic said...

I think that it is very interesting that the poll results (so far) are split evenly. I'm split myself! I do believe that it was Broadhurst's business acumen and flair for self-promotion that made the company the success that it was. And, I do think she had vision, or at least a very good idea as to what to introduce to the Australian market. She seemed to tap into the 60s vibe that was so popular in Europe and the US (and in particular the crazy mylar papers).

In terms of the designs themselves, it does seem like Broadhurst took the lion's share of the credit when that may not have been warranted. I would like to hear what Australian readers think about her designs.

style court said...

Jennifer,

Everything you said is pretty much what I'm thinking. Since Florence told so many tall tales, and for years pretended to be the sole "artist" behind all the designs, it's so easy to doubt her.

Clearly she depended on input and skill from others. But when I look at photos of her, in the last phase of her life, with that wild red hair and those bold print outfits, she does look like her collection!

Maybe she was some sort of muse for her staff? Or maybe she was the one orchestrating the whole Broadhurst look.

I too hope some Australian readers will add their thoughts :) Thanks for yours!!

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

This same dilemma exists in most design fields.
I may have the idea for a sofa for example - yet I am reliant upon my frame maker's and upholsterer's skill to realise my vision. A symbiotic relationship - we would not exist without each other. As designers, though, we also create the desire and without that desire there would be nothing.

The Peak of Chic said...

I would also like to know which patterns everyone prefers. I like "Phoenix", "The Cranes", "Ikeda", and "Exotic Birds".

patriciagrayinc.com said...

Being a designer myself I agree with House of Beauty and Culture.
Someone needs to have the vision and the orgainzing abilty to bring creations to fruition. And then when the vision is brought to fruition it is nothing if is not sold! In my estimation after I had read the book on Florence Broadhurst, she was the one that wrote the symphony and conducted it. She had different instruments that played the notes.She was the supreme maestro.

style court said...

Patricia,

Great analogy!

style court said...

I have a weakness for the geometrics, but I think the patterns Peak of Chic mentioned have true Broadhurst flair!

Anna said...

Personally I like "Circles and Squares" and "The Cranes" the most. I do agree with Patricia and the House of Beauty & Culture in that it does take the skills of many people to design a particular product and to actually move it from a sketch on a piece of paper through the design process and manufacturing process to the end product. With this in mind she (Broadhurst) certainly coordinated the entire thing very well but I do think that she deceived alot of people and wasn't true to herself. In saying all of that her designs then and now are a huge success and are a product which Australia is very proud of. I personally don't think that these fabrics portray Australian design; I think they portray design at that particular time and most probably were inspired by overseas trends during that period. Overall I do feel that for the most part Australian design is very much influenced by European design (not so much American design) and it is very rare that I see anything designed by an Australian designer which I feel is truely Australian inspired. There is probably 1 fabric designer which I think is truely Australian and that is Cloth fabrics. Anyway, these are the thoughts and ramblings of an Australian!
XO
Anna

Anna said...

Oh, and this is a fantastic Post topic Courtney and the poll is great - I can't wait to see the final results!
XO
Anna

style court said...

Anna,

I so appreciate your input! You addressed everything I wanted to know!

Thanks
xo

paola said...

I really enjoyed the book. Thanks for the nudge I needed to read it!

Some (fairly random) thoughts.

It seemed clear to me that Florence Broadhurst was the one with the vision and the flair to create commercial designs and a recognisable 'Florence Broadhurst' look.

She chose the colours, the papers, the scale 'bigger and bolder' and the images and had the final say over the images produced by her artists in response to her ideas. And she clearly had enough artistic talent to at least produce some preliminary sketches, if not develop the final designs.

Yes, it does sound like she was lucky or skilful enough to pull a great team round her, who also gave their input in terms of technical solutions and artistic flair. But serendipity? I don't think so.

In my opinion she was just a designer in the modern sense of the word - directing a design team to produce a coherent style statement. I think nowadays she would be putting out all sorts of stationery, bags, rugs and linens a la Orla Kiely, Cath Kidston or Tricia Guild and we wouldn't be questioning her integrity at all.

I found her business acumen and the fact that she became so successful late in life incredibly inspirational and just think she felt she needed to be photographed sitting behind a drawing board because that's what was expected of a designer in those days. I also think that many of the stories she told were to her just a form of 'marketing' and necessary in that day and age which would not have been so tolerant of her flamboyant lifestyle. But I do think that ultimately she was true to herself. Her collection reflected both her look and the life and travels which had brought her to that point.

I thought the book was exquisitely produced and I'll definitely be referring to it again and again.

I did find all the 'mysteries' annoyingly over-egged though. The murder appeared to be solved and the motive was dull. The controversy over whether she actually drew the designs herself seemed over-dramatised and, unless I missed something (all too easy as I always read before dropping off to sleep), all the melodrama about the mysterious 'Aunt Dorothy' in the the preface was never fully explained or even really referred to again.

Great read though, if ultimately unsatisfying.

(My fave designs are the Florals 100 and 300 and also Japanese Flora)

style court said...

Paola,

Thanks for such detailed analysis -- more to ponder. I agree the book was exquisitely put together!