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Designers Guild Giardino Segreto © James Merrell

Bring the Secrets of the Garden into the House

Adding a unique piece of art to an on-trend room adds your own personal statement to a stylish backdrop
Kate Turnbull

"I enjoy the idea that these bold patterns can be combined with the delicate variations of colour, and tones of indoor greenery, to create a visually striking aesthetic"

According to Designers Guild, internationally renowned home and lifestyle experts known for their creativity and enduring colour sense, to add a spring to your step, your interior décor this season should be all about refinement and the sophistication of a secluded Italian garden.


Their latest collection, Giardino Segreto, presents watercolour prints on beautifully tactile linens and cottons, timeless and sophisticated geometric weaves and vibrant designs in which one colour hue gradually blends into another, the tints and shades shifting seamlessly from light to dark.

Adding a unique piece of art to an on-trend room adds your own personal statement to a stylish backdrop. Esther Lafferty, festival director of Oxfordshire Artweeks, talks to three local textile artists inspired by the secrets of the garden. They will be showing their work during next month’s Oxfordshire Artweeks festival.

Dragonfly by Barbara Shaw


On the green borders of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, where a windmill stands proudly atop Brill Hill, Kate Turnbull runs a studio in which she produces innovative textile designs and botanical silk prints, harmonious in any home. She depicts twisted root structures and diaphanous petals in exquisite detail, immortalising even the most humble of garden plants.

It was while studying experimental textiles at Saint Martin’s School of Art, that Kate fell in love with the alchemy of fabric manipulation, using unusual chemicals and ancient techniques, and when working at the cutting edge of couture, her avant-garde fabrics even graced the catwalks of London Fashion Week as clothes designed by Alexander McQueen and worn by Kate Moss.

“Surrounded by technology, we spend less time outdoors, hence our understanding of the importance of plants is dwindling,” says Kate. “I’m keen to reawaken people’s interest in all things botanical, combining this age-old inspiration with cutting edge printing techniques. I use a mixed media approach to the prints, combining heat-reactive inks with more traditional silk screen printing methods in an attempt to bring to life some of the most simple plant forms. The halo effect created by the heat press process gives the botanicals an ethereal quality, aimed to entice the viewer while giving the plant a sense of mystery and importance. Some of the botanicals are then overlaid on hand-painted grounds of silk.”

Barbara Shaw creates her art by gathering many scraps of fabric together in layers to produce unique textured collages. “Like many artists I am inspired by plants,” she explains, “and use their ever-changing display in my tiny garden as a basis for my art. In some of my pictures I delve right into small details, for others I work on a big scale; they are all gloriously coloured and look like impressionist paintings from a distance. I have been influenced by Claude Monet’s style, Gustav Klimt’s use of lustrous materials, and the textile artist Kaffe Fassett who combines pattern and colour so effectively.

“The range of fabric I use includes patchwork cotton, silk, chiffon, lace and sparkly pieces, which give life to my work and for the viewer a fascinating palette of marks and shapes when seen close up.

“I stitch using a grey or beige thread – the randomness of the lines and knots are visible and become part of the picture; frayed edges add softness and subtle shading.

“For my recent series of pictures showing the Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, where I will be exhibiting for Artweeks, I wanted to capture the view from a window seat and the lavender walk, which hint at secret spaces waiting to be discovered. As a scene in my mind unfurls I imagine the layers and detail within – such as the creatures which might visit – and think about how to depict a close-up of flowers. My Dragonfly and Red Admiral were based on observations of the insects’ habitats and flight. I love to experiment with composition and have used a contemporary geometric fabric for my Yellow and Black.”

The simplicity of contemporary and geometric design is what printmaker artist Miesje Chafer is best known for. Her products, which are all hand screen printed, tend to be in bold strong colours. She uses a mix of Scandinavian and 1950s inspired design and incorporate a wide range of different fabrics into her collections including leather, for example, alongside cotton, linen, and silk. “I have always had a love of textiles, right from a young age when I used to knit terrible scarves full of holes,” she laughs. “Now a professional designer-maker, I am still inspired by the desire to create things that are not only beautiful, but also functional,” she says. “My love of geometric design stems from the desire to create products with a clean, distinctive and uncluttered look. I enjoy the idea that these bold patterns can be combined with the delicate variations of colour, and tones of indoor greenery, to create a visually striking aesthetic with the geometric complementing the organic forms of nature.”

Next month, as part of Artweeks, when hundreds of artists open their studios and homes to the public and host pop-up exhibitions in interesting spaces, you will find Kate Turnbull in Brill near Bicester (venue 1); Barbara Shaw at the Weston Manor Country House Hotel, Weston-on-the-Green (venue 16) where she will be showing her work alongside that of sculptor Beatrice Hoffman and wildlife painter Andrew Forkner; and Miesje Chafer in Oxford’s Northmoor Road (venue 267).


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