Sue Timney formed Timney-Fowler with Grahame Fowler in 1979 after she graduated from the Royal College of Art, and together the pair went on to create some of the design world’s most enduring and evocative prints. Graphic, bold and modern with twists on neo-classical, their work flowed from the world of interiors onto catwalks and back again, as they collaborated with big names such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Diane von Furstenberg. The Fashion and Textile museum is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Timney-Fowler, and Sue’s career in design with a special retrospective – Sue Timney and The Design of Timney-Fowler.
So checkout our Q&A with Timney.
How would you describe your style? The most difficult question I can think of answering. Some key words would be graphic, disciplined, perhaps a sense of theatre. My influences are from so many areas of art and design history – the Renaissance, William de Morgan to Zaha Hadid as well as the street.
How do you approach a new design? With an open mind…
When you first launched Timney-Fowler, what inspired your designs? The biggest single element was travel. I was born in North Africa and travelled constantly as a child, so a lot of this experience came into the work that I did in those early days with Grahame Fowler.
And what tends to inspire them now? Everything, everyday. That’s what’s exciting, you never know where the inspiration is coming from. There is no doubt, though, that as a designer there is a huge advantage getting older as this inspiration becomes easier to translate into visuals.
What is it that makes your work so adaptable from fashion to interiors? Probably because I wasn’t originally trained as a designer – but as a fine artist, which in turn makes me probably look at things more laterally. But overwhelmingly too I’m not sure I believe in “boxes” of creative thought. One idea influences another – it’s just the way you approach it that changes.
How do you think design changed in the three decades you have been working in the industry? The biggest change for all of us in this industry has been the advance of technology without a doubt – for bad and good. It means I can network now with my team on a project, which in turn means I don’t run a huge studio (which I miss) – however it is more time efficient and it means I don’t have to be in London all the time (which I don’t miss).
What design are you most proud of? Definitely my four children, Alix, Louis, Max and Todd!
And aside from your own work, is there another design or designer you admire? I’m not sure I admire my own work, and it’s always a very hard to isolate one name as I’m daily in admiration of designers past and present. But Lucienne Day was an amazing designer and mark maker that I can relate to. Her fabrics and ceramic designs were unique and still feel contemporary. She was an independent woman who worked all her life because she believed in what she was doing.
What’s next? As well as the exhibition, I’ve also just launched a book so I’m travelling around the country and to New York to do signings. Meanwhile, I have been working with House of Fraser as it will be launching a Timney brand in the spring for home and fashion across many product areas – it’s very exciting.
What is your own home like? Well, there’s definitely black and white in it! But I am also a big collector and so I’ve got a lot of these collections from groups of ceramics to 20th century prints and boxes grouped in various places around the house. Justin [de Villeneuve], my husband’s work also has a prominent place as his past and current photography fits very well with my colours and wallpapers!
Describe your perfect room, fictional or otherwise. Somewhere I can relax and be happy with all my family – without them there is no perfect room.
I’m sure you have seen her face before, but not knowing this woman, and what is her story. Is she just a pretty face? Or has she got a darker life behind her angelic face. As we go back in time lets start with the creator.
Fornasetti (10 November 1913 – 9 October 1988) was an Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver.
He lived most of his life in Milan, attending the Brera Art Academy from 1930-32 when he was expelled for insubordination. During World War II, he went into exile in Switzerland from 1943-46. He created more than 11,000 items, many featuring the face of a woman, operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri, as a motif. Fornasetti found her face in a 19th-century magazine. “What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?” asks Italian designer, Piero Fornasetti of himself. “I don’t know,” he admits, “I began to make them and I never stopped.” The “Tema e Variazioni” (theme and variation) plate series based on Cavalieri’s face numbered more than 350.
Other common features in his work include heavy use of black and white, the sun and time. His style is reminiscent of Greek and Roman architecture, by which he was heavily influenced.
Today it is most common to see Fornasetti’s style in fashion and room accessories such as scarves, ties, lamps, furniture, china plates and tables and his son, Barnaba Fornasetti, continues to design in his father’s name.
Lina Cavalieri (25 December 1874 – 7 February 1944) was an Italian operatic soprano known for her great beauty. Cavalieri, born in Viterbo, Latium, Italy, she lost her parents at the age of fifteen and became a ward of the state, sent to live in a Roman Catholic orphanage. The vivacious young girl was extremely unhappy under the strict raising of the nuns, and at the first opportunity she ran away with a touring theatrical group. Blessed with a good singing voice, a young Cavalieri made her way to Paris, France, where her stunning good looks opened doors and she obtained work as a singer at one of the city’s café-concerts. From there she performed at a variety of music halls and other such venues around Europe while still working to develop her voice for the opera. A soprano, Cavalieri took voice lessons and made her opera debut in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1900, the same year she married her first husband, the Russian Prince Bariatinsky. Eventually she followed in the footsteps of Hariclea Darclée as one of the first stars of Puccini’s Tosca. In 1904 she sang at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo then in 1905, at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, Cavalieri starred opposite Enrico Caruso in the Umberto Giordano opera, Fedora. From there, she and Caruso took the show to New York City, debuting with it at the Metropolitan Opera on 5 December 1906.
During her career, Cavalieri sang with other opera greats such as the Italian baritone Titta Ruffo and the French tenor Lucien Muratore, whom she married in 1913. After retiring from the stage, Cavalieri ran a cosmetic salon in Paris. In 1914, on the eve of her fortieth birthday — her beauty still spectacular — she wrote an advice column on make-up for women in Femina magazine and published a book, My Secrets of Beauty. In 1915, she returned to her native Italy to make motion pictures. When that country became involved in World War I, she went to the United States where she made four more silent films. The last three of her films were the product of her friend, the Belgian film director Edward José.
Eventually Paolo d’Arvanni, Cavalieri returned to live with her husband in Italy. Well into her sixties when World War II broke out, she nevertheless worked as a volunteer nurse. Cavalieri was killed in 1944 during an Allied bombing raid that destroyed her home in the outskirts of Florence.
La Cavalieri’s discography is slim. In 1910, for Columbia, she recorded arias from Faust, Carmen, Mefistofele, La bohème, Manon Lescaut and Tosca, as well as the song, “Maria, Marì! (Ah! Marì! Ah! Marì!).” In 1917, for Pathé, the soprano recorded “Le rêve passé,” with Muratore.
She was painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini (acquired by Maurice Rothschild) and by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862-1947). The latter is now the property of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the gift of Nicholas Meredith Turner in memory of his wife the soprano Jessica Dragonette. Hers is the face that appears repeatedly, obsessively in Piero Fornasetti’s designs. Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida portrayed Cavalieri in the film The World’s Most Beautiful Woman. In 2004, a book was published authored by Paul Fryer and Olga Usova titled Lina Cavalieri -The Life of Opera’s Greatest Beauty, 1874–1944.
Ukrainian designer Konstantin Kofta imagined a collection of bags and backpacks that mimics the baroque architecture. His collection, called Arxi, is inspired by sculptural, natural and dramatic lines and curves of the XVIth century buildings. Decorative elements of a grey stone facade are here applied to fashion. The used materials make the illusion of concrete.
A few days ago, I went to Paris to attend the Maison&Objet trade fair, which was exhibiting every thing regarding interior design, furnitures and accessories; totally a must place to be. It had eight different themed halls, from furniture to lighting, bedding to bathrooms, table covers to scented candles, childrens bedrooms and toys, art and fashion; so if you ever have the idea to visit only for one day, it is not enough. I met several buyers thinking they could see it all in one day, and at the end of the day they looked out of it!
I must say as as first timer I didn’t know what to expect? I am staying in central Paris, How do I get there? Can I take a train or is a taxi a must? It felt like I was going to the Emerald City, without speaking the language, and even though all the details were online in english, I still had that fear of being lost. So I decided to take the train, and found at the main train station many people dressed the same, going in one direction, and all I needed to do was follow the yellow brick road, (aka the other buyers). I joined the crowds on the same train and sat next to them. Everyone seemed to be looking at each other, as if they were scanning to determine whether you are an interior designer, buyer or exhibitor, but no one speaks. We finally arrived at the emerald city, aka Maison&Objet, and how it feels at home, every one was very obliging, plenty of information available and super organised. They say first impression is everything, and it did for me. No more of my journey, my next blog will be the products I found, my precious followers. These short words do not do justice in describing the fair, you should go yourself next time and see it, not only as a buyer or designer but as someone who loves beauty.
Ever come across one of those ideas that is so brilliant and crazy – it makes you wonder why no one has done it before? Artist and interactive designer, JooYoun Paek takes the cake on that front with her recently revealed Self-Sustainable Chair, a wearable piece of furniture which is a dress where the butt inflates into a chair through pumps in the shoes. Paek hopes the provocative art piece will “transform the humdrum experiences produced by routine walking commutes into an amusing interactive performance.” Featured at this weekend’s Conflux Festival, her quirky and intriguing project suggests that rest and walk can be balanced by re-thinking the function of what we wear.
Clearly, Dejana Kabiljo’s, er, hair chairs are not for those who are shy about home decor. The Croatian furniture designer lives in Vienna, where she runs Kabiljo Inc., and her PRETTYPRETTY collection features this very hirsute seat, as well as hairy stools and furry ottomans. Says their creator: “Pretty heads to sit on explore the nicely regulated erotic allure that surrounds us, tracing out the customary grammar of desire.” What? Who knows. But you know what would be totally awesome? A hair salon outfitted with these crazy hair furniture pieces. Check out more of the wackiness after the jump!