Monday, 21 October 2013

Going Loco for ROCOCO

Swirls, Curls and Pearls adorn my first design for LEWIS & WOOD

Rococo Wallpaper – heraldic
Rococo Wallpaper – heraldic

Rococo is an exciting new collaboration with innovative fabric and wallpaper producers Lewis & Wood

Rococo selvedge
Rococo selvedge

When Stephen Lewis and creative director Magdalen Jebb came down to visit my Hastings studio back in winter 2012 their enthusiasm was contagious. 

Melissa White studio
my studio on a sunny day

My studio is always chockablock with painted panels and fabrics, experiments and samples but with their designer goggles on Stephen and Magdalen were instantly focusing in on pieces they liked and within an hour had pin pointed several designs they wanted to develop with me.

I then transformed my paintings into repeats, painted the final artwork and handed it over to be translated into printable fabrics and wallpapers. 

The first of these designs, Rococo, launched in September 2013 during FOCUS (I posted about it here).

Detail of my original artwork for Rococo
Detail of my original artwork for Rococo, 
painted in a burnt orange colourway

This damask-y design fuses ornate, scrolling, shell-like motifs reminiscent of the rococo period with floral Indian motifs, all painted as if wood-block printed.

Rococo comes as a wide width wallpaper in 4 metallic finishes....

Rococo Metallic Wallpaper – Gilt & Platinum
Rococo Metallic Wallpaper – Gilt & Platinum
and 3 matte colourways....

Rococo Matte Wallpaper – Oasis
Rococo Matte Wallpaper – Oasis

As a fabric, Rococo comes printed on a fine, tumbled linen in 3 vintage colourways....

Rococo Linen – Fritillary
Rococo Linen – Fritillary

...and finally as a sumptuous velvet in cranberry and slate blue with an irresistible "teddy bear" finish.

Rococo Velvet - Imperial
Rococo Velvet - Imperial

There are more designs to come next Spring when Lewis & Wood join forces with me and another two amazing artists in a truly adventurous new collection. Stay tuned!

Pricing, dimensions, composition etc are available on the Lewis & Wood website

Monday, 14 October 2013


FOCUS September 2013 
Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

Rococo and Gondolier fabrics

So I had a double whammy at the interior designer's paradise that is Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Crammed with 99 showrooms FOCUS is their annual new collections launch fest.

I had two new designs launching. One with ZOFFANY and one with LEWIS & WOOD.

Here are a few snaps I took in the showrooms on the day I went up. First up....


Tespi and Arden fabric books
The new Tespi book (left) and last year's Arden book (right) 

After the success of my Arden Collection last year (here's my post for from that day) it was great to be back at the Zoffany showroom to see the launch of my new design for them.

The Gondolier depicts scenes of Venice and gives a narrative element to their luscious new Tespi Collection

Available as a velvet and a wallpaper, you can read more about the design in this recent post.

At the showroom The Gondolier was everywhere from their window display....

the gondolier in Zoffany's showroom window a lush upholstered chair (with cushions and piping in Zoffany's utterly sumptuous Curzon velvet) ....

the gondolier upholstering a chair

....and here it is, all velvety, snuggled between other Tespi fabrics

left to right: Oreste, Gondolier, Granada
left to right: Oreste, Gondolier, Granada,
....and finally here is The Gondolier on Zoffany's gift bags...
(i confess I was embarrassingly chuffed to bits with the bags!)

the gondolier on zoffany's gift bags

Then it was over to the Lewis & Wood showroom to see my first design with them...

ROCOCO for Lewis & Wood

rococo swatches

This exuberant damask-y design is my first collaboration with the charming Lewis & Wood team.

In my next post I'll share some professional shots of Rococo, meanwhile here are a few glimpses of the design on launch day.

Suspended from the ceiling is Rococo as a wide-width metallic wallpaper (ultimately 4 colourways)

rococo papers at showrom

Here is Rococo as a romantic linen. The colourways are cleverly designed to sit comfortably amongst other Lewis & Wood fabrics.

rococo linen hanging at showroom

 I just love how Rococo works on a cushion. It crops really nicely because of the empty space within the design.

The cushions either side feature Skittery which is a lovely, fine linen with a tumbled finish. Skittery comes in a mouthwatering range of faded sherbet-y colours and I especially love the lemon yellow.

rococo cushion
Cushions: Rococo linen in Fritillary colourway flanked with Skittery linen cushions.  

Some discerning ladies handling Rococo which is printed on a fine, tumbled linen

ladies handling rococo linen

rococo linen detail
Rococo in Sparrow colourway - detail

Rococo wallpaper in display cabinet
Rococo wallpaper in display cabinet

Facts and figures about Rococo wallpaper and fabric can be found on the Lewis and Wood website.

I'll show you the gorgeous velvet version in my next post.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

THE GONDOLIER, a new design for Zoffany

The latest fabric and wallpaper design by Melissa White

The Gondolier - velvet upholstered chair

This scenic design forms part of Zoffany's new TESPI Collection launching September 2013

The Gondolier - wallpaper

Following the success of our Arden Collection with Zoffany last year I was invited to produce artwork for their new Tespi collection which aims to "transport you to a place where the grandeur of Venice in bygone days meets the charm of Umbria"

The Gondolier - velvet upholstered sofa - brochure cover

The Gondolier - velvet upholstered sofa - detail

The commission was to design and paint a Venice scene featuring iconic canals, bridges and architecture.

So here is the original artwork at my studio, painted to scale on plaster so I could rub it back and distress it a little before it went off to the Zoffany team to be processed.

"The Gondolier" Melissa's original artwork

The Gondolier - Melissa's original artwork - detail

The collection is inspired by the creative legacy of the amazing Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny.

The Tespi Collection is "based on antique brocades, damasks, velvets and paisleys found in the Zoffany archive, the designs were re-worked by the (zoffany) design studio using contemporary techniques such as printing on foil and digital printing to capture the spirit of the original textiles. The Collection is complemented by the luxurious Tespi Prints, Weaves and Embroideries." 
From Zoffany's website: 

My figurative Gondolier print completes the collection by adding a narrative twist.

Tespi is Zoffany at its most sumptuous and opulent and the fabrics really need to be handled to appreciate their luxuriousness.

The Gondolier will be available soon as a wallpaper and a velvet (colourways are Dawn, Sunset and Twilight)

Tespi will launch at Zoffany's Chelsea Harbour showroom during FOCUS and features in the October issues of Elle Decoration and World of Interiors:

The Gondolier - in Elle Decoration

The Gondolier - in World of Interiors

Learn more about the rest of the gorgeous Tespi Collection on Zoffany's Facebook page

See the Zoffany website for stockists

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Melissa painting at studio

To celebrate the Coronation Festival in July I was invited to create a mural for the Summer House within the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Coronation Festival logo

I was one of five artisans from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) selected to transform the octagonal Summer House.

On the Festival's Royal Preview Day I presented my canvas murals to H.M. The Queen and TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.

Melissa meeting HM The Queen
Meeting HM The Queen in the Summer House, Buckingham Palace

Here's how it all happened:

The Coronation Festival was a celebration of the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation. 

This unique event took place in the Gardens of Buckingham Palace and was hosted by the Royal Warrant Holders Association (RWHA). Over 200 companies with Royal Warrants had marquees displaying their wares and "celebrating innovation, excellence and industry through trade and craft".

Loads more info and photos at the Coronation Festival website

Summer House exterior with wicker corgi
Summer House exterior with wicker corgi

QEST, being the charitable branch of the RWHA, was invited to decorate the Summer House set within the Palace gardens. A scholar since 2007, I was approached to submit ideas for the three blank walls of the building (the other 5 walls being glass doors). Of the proposals I put forward it was a scene of rolling landscape that won favour.

I foraged through the Royal Collection online for inspiration and discovered two perfect scenes by the Georgian landscape artist John Wootton. Both depicted bucolic rolling landscapes with views of Henley-on-Thames.

A View of Henley-on-Thames, John Wootton, The Royal Collection

A Distant View of Henley-on-Thames, John Wootton
A Distant View of Henley-on-Thames, John Wootton, The Royal Collection

Eventually I unearthed a third Wootton painting called “View of Park Place”. It turned out the three paintings had likely been conceived to hang together in the same room so it was destiny that they should be reunited for this panoramic commission.

A View of Park Place, Henley, John Wootton
A View of Park Place, Henley, John Wootton, The Royal Collection

Painstakingly I stitched the scenes together in Photoshop, depopulating them of their hunting narratives, joining up the horizons and adding a few strategic trees. The resulting composition was now a seamless panorama that would flow across the three walls of the Summer House.

Next the design needed to be scaled up to fill the Summer House’s 22 square metres of wall?

It was impractical to paint on site so I had nine stretcher frames constructed (109 x 211cm each) in order to paint at my studio.

It took an intensive six weeks to paint the series including several days of knuckle busting canvas stretching.

stretching canvases at the studio
stretching canvases at the studio
With such large canvases the linen had to be de-crimped (double stretched) and close-stapled to avoid sagging and ensure a tight painting surface that would survive the fluctuating temperatures of the Summer House. 

After thorough priming and two coats of gesso I set to work painting the sky then worked my way across the nine panels one field at a time.

Painting the first 3 panels
Painting the first 3 panels 
Whilst I usually paint with natural pigments or chalk paint I decided to use best quality acrylics here for their stability and colour mixing versatility.

Paint set-up at studio
Paint set-up at studio

I beamed my designs onto the canvas with an overhead projector to give me the basic lay-of-the-land but once the darker colours are applied it becomes very hard to see what's being projected so I relied mostly on my printouts for the details.

painting the last 3 panels
painting the last 3 panels
Below are shots of my references followed by the finished painted panels.

left hand wall reference
left hand wall reference
left hand wall, finished canvases
left hand wall, finished canvases
middle wall reference
middle wall reference 
middle wall finished panels
middle wall finished panels 
right hand wall reference
right hand wall reference 
right hand wall, finished panels
right hand wall, finished panels
To enhance the illusion of distance I added a simple wall along the bottom with trompe l'oeil panelling.

Given the tight deadline for completion I needed to approach the commission in quite a bold, theatrical way as might a scenic painter, focusing on one tree at a time rather than one leaf at a time. That said, 
when I contemplated the prestigious final setting for these paintings, I found myself obsessing over the minutiae.

Melissa matte varnishing the canvases
matte varnishing the canvases
With a set-in-stone deadline for completion I worked long days and weekends to finish in time. With subject matter like this I could have gone on for days tweaking trees, adding people to the empty paths and livestock to empty fields. Ultimately my last brush stroke was dictated by varnish drying times.

To celebrate varnishing day I had an impromptu party where with friends and family, we quaffed the Queen's favourite tipple Dubbonet and gin (crikey!) and ate salmon and cucumber sandwiches (crusts removed of course!)

Melissa infront of her canvases
Finishing party: spot the tiara and the Dubonnet and gin

Then it took another day to pack up the canvases. The courier was knocking on my door just as I was strapping in the last panel. Skin of my teeth! Phew!

Off they went to London based master upholsterers Albert E. Chapman Ltd to be infilled with insulating materials. The team then installed the panels at the Summer House by hanging them on cross bars fitted to the walls.

installing panels at Summer House
The guys from Albert E.Chapman Ltd 
installing the panels in the Summer House
When I went up to London to see the installation it was my first chance to see all nine panels in a row. It was a relief to see that the scene flowed nicely across the three walls and that the horizons all joined up. 

The resulting panoramic scene was designed to suit the informal, relaxing atmosphere of a summer house. 

Ultimately, I think the scene is peaceful yet vibrant; 
sort of serene and surreal at the same time.

Panels installed in Summer House
Panels installed in Summer House

Of course the Summer House make-over was a team effort:

In the photo below you can see fresco artist Sarah Hocombe's magnificent sky ceiling. Gazing up at it is Bob Johnston's charming wicker corgi and next to him are two chairs upholstered in Jean Monro's "Jubilee Bouquet" fabric by specialist upholsterers Anthea Laing and Stephen Mills.

Summer House with artisans' work
Summer House with artisans' work

Joining our work as permanent fixtures within the Summer House were a stunning cherry and walnut wood dining table made by Aidan McEvoy (pictured below being thoroughly admired by TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.) Plus an elegant engraved plaque by letter cutter Daniel Meek commemorating QEST. 

Aidan McEvoy's table. TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall
Aidan McEvoy's table admired by 
TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. 
My landscape panels in the background
For the four day Coronation Festival many other QEST scholars were invited to display their work in and around the Summer House. It was great to meet some of them for the first time and the range of skills is incredible. Everything from pewterers to milliners, stone sculptors to dolls house restorers.

You can read about all of us artisans in the QEST newsletter.

This legacy project will be enjoyed for years to come. 
It highlights the eclectic range of crafts that QEST has supported since it was established by the Royal Warrant Holders Association in 1990. 

I'm thrilled to have been involved...

.....and of course I got to meet the Queen.....;-)


Huge thanks to the QEST team for putting this amazing event together:
QEST trustee and development director Penny Bendall and her assistant Julia Robinson for looking after us scholars and curating the event.

QEST Chairman Nick Farrow for organising the event and keeping it fun

QEST press officer Shelley-Anne Claircourt for being the fairy god-mother of PR

detail of Melissa' landscape canvas with corgi
spot the corgi