Orla Kiely is an internationally renowned surface pattern designer from Ireland. Even if the name is not familiar, the prints definitely will be! Orla's designs are stocked across the world in large department stores, such as John Lewis, down to small independent gift shops in local towns as well as her own stores.
Pattern is Orla's first book that gives an overview of her design work to date. I've been a big fan of her work since my days at artschool. I have always admired the bold, rich colour palette and use of strong symbols/imagery in repeat patterns. Despite having a range of very popular prints, the design team still manage to offer a new take on an older print without losing the identity of the original design that was so popular in the first place- any designer will tell you this is not easy to do!
I have offered an overview of each chapter within the book along with my thoughts below.
The book is split into six chapters:
What I enjoyed about this format in comparison to other design books is that it allows the reader to dip in and out of each chapter and makes it easy to refer back to at a later date.
As well as discussions about the prints and design work there is also an insight into Orla's creative process and her views on running a business in such a cut throat industry.
"With my own label, I have always followed my instincts. I firmly believe that being true to yourself is a guarantee that quality and integrity will shine through"
The Life chapter offers childhood anecdotes along with the designer's pathway from artschool through to running her own label- great for aspiring designers and business owners in the creative industries.
The Inspiration chapter offers exactly what you would expect. Orla discusses surface pattern designers she was inspired by when starting out as well as film & TV programmes that have fed into the ethos of the brand.
"When you make your living in design as I do, you never stop absorbing ideas
from the world around you, even if you aren't consciously aware of it at the time.
It can be the smallest thing- products on a supermarket shelf, wild flowers in a
park, a knife and fork. It's all about taking mental snapshots of everyday things, mundane or random, old or new"The examples of favourite designers and artists show a clear link to Orla Kiely's designs and offer a further insight into the creative process of the designer moving from research through to development stages of designs.
The Colour chapter is an interesting mix of research into colour palettes for collections and the discussion of people's fear when it comes to using bold colour in their homes especially during the nineties. As a designer-maker I found this particular chapter of great interest because it offers a glimpse into development of mood boards and colour charts which are the starting point of any print collection.
"Colour is vital to me. I can't work or live without colour around me and it is central to what I do. For me, it is where the process of design begins"
The Print chapter follows a similar format to the previous Colour chapter. Use of a range scale and colour within a pattern is discussed in detail. There is a good section of the chapter dedicated to Orla Kiely's famous stem print and how this has been developed since the first collection.
"To see pattern as simply an ornament, however, is to misunderstand it in a fundamental sense. Pattern exists in the world, it is part of the underlying mathematical structure or design of life"The Collections chapter, for me personally, was of the least interest. Orla discusses the cycle of fashion and process of a design going from paper to the factory and finally the shelf. Budding fashion designers may find it useful but for me it was information that I already know and felt more generic to fashion companies overall than specific to this brand.
The final chapter Home allows the book to end on a similar personal note in the same way as it began. We are given an insight into Orla's personal style in her own home and the influence of vintage/retro styles mixed with modern interior design brands to create a quirky, stylish home. A few tips are given for those who are looking to replicate this style in their own homes.
"Mixing old and new is also a good strategy for furnishing. You do have to
exercise a degree of control, however- a jumble of pieces from wildly different
periods will simply look as if someone has cleared out their attic and dumped it all in your front room"Overall I have to say I enjoyed this book immensely and found it easy to get absorbed in the text along with the beautiful colour images. I purchased the hard-back, clothbound edition which will look great on your book shelf and is a reflection of the quality of the brand as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!