I am really excited about this next Studio Conversation. Raymond Honeyman was a year or two behind me at Duncan of Jordanstone but I remember him being in the printed textile department – all year groups worked together, mingled over dye pots and socialised in the studios – however since leaving art college I had only heard about his career through other people or heard about his professional success through media. The current exhibition celebrating our embroidery lecturer Marion Stewart SEW: Together has put me in touch with many former DoJCAD textile students, one of the many bonuses of the event, and Raymond is one former student, so when I approached him about doing a Conversation he immediately agreed. Raymond has worked as a professional designer since Liberty bought a design, the first of many, shortly after he graduated and the rest, as is maybe said too often, is history. Raymond’s love of pattern and design is a lifelong passion, he wrote about the process in his book A Passion for Painting Pattern, and he has been a main designer at Ehrman, renowned producer of needlepoint kits, for many years. All his work is based on observational drawing and he has said that each design can have 144 stitches to the square inch “and I paint out each and every one of them”. That’s around 50,000 stitches per design! In the age of computer-aided design Raymond still produces his work by hand, with a paintbrush, controlling the colour and design. So I was really interested to hear about his creative practice and inspirations and I started our Conversation by saying Raymond, our time at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art overlapped, and as you know some of us have organised an exhibition to celebrate the inspiring teaching of embroidery tutor Marion Stewart. What are your memories of your time at art college and how has the time you were there influenced your practice?
- I have very fond memories of my time as a student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. I loved being a student there. We were given wonderful studio space in which we had a personal desk to work and had access throughout the day. I remember that we all seemed to work long hours. I was always fascinated by creating pattern hence why I chose to do printed textiles. However I was mainly interested in creating pattern as artwork……producing drawn and painted designs on paper…. the excitement for me was creating the design ideas and exploring the possibilities of repeat. After I had completed the artwork I was not so interested in the actual printing process with dyes etc. which was very time consuming. My designs were usually very intricate. I did some research contacting studios/companies and at that time they were mainly interested to see original artwork. Most of my college work therefore was drawn and painted artwork. The external examiner (Pat Albeck) of my Post Diploma put me forward to be interviewed for Texprint at the Design Centre in London. On the interviewing panel was the Print Producer of Liberty at the time Susan Collier (later of Collier Campbell). She bought one of my designs for Liberty at the interview and invited me to her house the following day to discuss offering me a job either with her as she worked in her own studio at home, or with Liberty. She told me that I was to be given a place at Texprint in the September. I exhibited at Texprint selling most of my designs. I decided to freelance which I did for the following three years selling through an agent.
You worked for Viyella after you graduated but you also did designs for Liberty of London. What was it like working in these design studios?
- After three years freelancing from home I wanted to have more direct contact and experience in a professional studio. I contacted those who bought my designs when I exhibited at Texprint in London and the head designer of the Viyella Design Studio replied and said that he would like to see me again and interview me. I was given a job as a print designer in the studio. I moved to Nottingham and working for Viyella was a wonderful experience as I worked directly with the engravers and printers seeing the processes from artwork to printed fabric. I also travelled to meet customers from fashion houses who bought the Viyella fabric. I met Mary Quant in her London studios and Gianni Versace in Milan and others. Although Liberty bought my designs over the years I have never worked in the Liberty Studios. Liberty do not usually credit the names of the fabric designers and I never knew if and when they were put into production. However there was an exhibition of my artwork for Ehrman and Viyella which toured several galleries from 2008 until 2011. When it was In London the archivist from Liberty came to the private view and she researched and was able to let me know when some of my designs had been in production and sent me samples of some of which had been reprinted. The Head of the Design Studio at Liberty contacted me around this time and commissioned me to do a design which was printed on wool and also on cotton. This time I was mentioned in their promotions and they sent me lengths of the printed fabric. My artwork of this design and printed fabric are featured in their book LIBERTY: BRITISH COLOUR PATTERN. The American textile historian and author Mary Schoeser knew of my design work and asked to come to meet and visit me. On seeing my hand drawn and painted artwork/ designs she felt that they had to be seen as in this digital age it was becoming rare to see hand produced artwork for textiles. She curated the touring exhibition and wrote the foreword to my book ‘A Passion for Painting Pattern’: The textile designs of Raymond Honeyman.
What are the main inspirations for your designs?
- I am mainly inspired by plant forms and flowers but also love the lavishness and richness of pattern in Paisley and Kashmir Shawls. When I worked at Viyella Paisley designs were always part of their collections and that was when I first began designing with Paisley forms. I love creating detailed designs so working with the Paisley form suits me very well as I can draw and create Paisley forms in endless ways as if drawing a plant. In creating a repeating pattern I can layer and twist the motifs so that they interweave throughout and I can decorate them with lots of detail. Ehrman have been producing needlepoint kits for over 30 years and for many years you have been one of their main designers. Can you describe the process of designing and creating your textile designs? I always admired the design collections of Ehrman and felt that I could design for them although I am not a stitcher or embroiderer. I contacted Ehrman and was asked to send them some photographs of my designs for printed textiles. I was then invited to go to London to meet Hugh Ehrman. He liked my designs and said that he would commission me to do one to see what I did. I told him that I would like to produce painted artwork of my idea and he explained that each design had approximately 50,000 stitches and that my artwork would have to show the colour of each and every stitch very clearly. I loved the process of creating designs with such detail. My first designs for Ehrman were for their 1997 collection and I have been designing for them ever since.
Can you describe your studio space? Do you like to listen to music or the radio or do you prefer to work in silence?
- My studio space is in my attic. It is quite small. I have a working table and all of my art materials….paints, pencils papers etc. I also like to have lots of colourful things around….old decorative boxes, parasols, fans, pottery, coloured baskets, old pieces of textiles, etc. etc. etc. I listen to the radio a lot when I am working…..I like plays.
What are your preferred materials when you design?
- For my textile design work I use pencils and gouache paint. I also like watercolour but not for my textile designs as the colour has to be flat to show exact colours.
Do you have time to produce commissioned pieces or work for exhibitions?
- I haven’t produced work specifically for exhibitions though the idea is always in my head. I would like to do some very decorative paintings in watercolour. I had a commission recently to produce artwork/design for a printed fabric for a company who produce ranges of beautiful hand dyed yarn in exquisite colours. My printed design is to be used for bags.
- Mary Schoeser, textile historian and author knew of my work as a designer and contacted me requesting a visit to view my artwork. She said that in this digital age the art of hand drawn and painted designs for textiles was fast becoming a dying art and that my artwork needed to be seen. She arranged and curated an exhibition of my artwork which toured various galleries over three years and she was instrumental in the publication of my book ‘A Passion for Painting Pattern’. She also featured some of my printed textiles for Liberty in her book ‘Textiles: The Art of Mankind’.
What plans do you have for the coming months?
- I am currently working on my next design for Ehrman. There is always considerable time between me completing my artwork before they appear in a collection. From my artwork Ehrman produce the canvases, arrange the yarns (which I have selected) have the designs stitched and photographed before the designs are introduced to the collection. They sometimes re-introduce some of my older designs into their collections.
- Collier Campbell – I was invited to work for Collier Campbell as Print Producer which I did for a few years. I was not designing for them as they were the designers but my responsibility was to work directly with printers to ensure that the beautiful colours of their artwork were accurate when printed. This was not as straight forward as it seems and therefore I had to attend the bulk printing of fabric in printers in the UK, Italy and America. Collier Campbell produced glorious designs and were superb colourists. It was a huge privilege to work for them. Susan Collier sadly died but I am still in touch with Sarah Campbell who designs under her own name. The Collier Campbell name was bought and is now a different company.
Below are links to two short films taken by Ehrman.
My studio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVsqZ9AdAd0
My exhibition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVHDNyU09wI
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me Raymond. It’s been lovely to catch up with you and fascinating to hear about your career since leaving Duncan of Jordanstone. I hope you will be able to visit the exhibition while it is on and I”m sure you will see work by some of your fellow students that you will recognise. If you are intersted to see more of Raymond’s work and hear about his creative process please have a look at these two videos, at the links above.