Julie Paterson is one of Australia’s best known contemporary textile designers. She was Designer in Residence at the State Library of NSW in 2015 when she drew inspiration from the Library’s collection and created a new waratah textile.
Winter 2017 saw Julie once again transform the Macquarie Room into an art studio. Inspired by the Library’s archives and building on her 2016 residency work, Julie created 12 artworks in 12 days.
This is the story of Julie’s design journey: one of the hundreds of stories of inspiration, interpretation and creation represented in the Library’s collection.
Julie lives and works in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, where she finds inspiration for her life’s work.
Australian Inspiration: Chapter 1: Design for Life Caption on bottom Meet Julie Paterson Painter and printmaker imperfect-manifesto-col.jpg Caption on bottom
Ultimately what I’m always trying to do is to slow down, and be mindful. And to appreciate what there is in the world around me. To stop and look at what’s there. And that is the basis of my contemporary practice.
"I am a painter, printmaker and designer of textiles. I own a small fabric company called Cloth that I set up more than 20 years ago, because it made sense at the time and still does now.
I work with a small team of people who love what they do, making textiles by hand, the old fashioned way. I collaborate with others for the joy of making something together that we couldn’t make alone. In Blackheath I run imperfect workshops for the creatively curious. I take commissions and I exhibit, and my favourite place to be is working in my studio.
I’ve written a book and a manifesto to live by. I live a simple life. It feels good."
Julie’s design journey begins with a tour of waratah-inspired items in the Library’s collection, selected by curator Sarah Morley in the lead up to the Australian Inspiration exhibition in 2015.
Artists in the 1920s such as Margaret Preston and Adrian Feint used the bold shape of the waratah, contributing to the recognition of native flowers and plants as part of Australia’s cultural identity. The waratah continues to offer infinite possibilities for design inspiration.Inspiration from the Library's collections From early botanical drawings dating back to the foundation of the colony through to tea towels of the present day, the waratah has become a national form of decoration and the floral emblem and logo of New South Wales. The waratah’s beauty and striking c
"I'm a curator at the Library working in our Research and Discovery Branch. I work closely with our Manuscript and Rare Book collections drawing on my experience in collection acquisition and arrangement & description. In 2015 I curated the Australian Inspiration exhibition, a companion to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Inspiration by Design. I was also the liaison curator for our Planting Dreams exhibition curated by Richard Aitken in 2016.
When I'm not working on exhibitions I acquire items for the collection and provide support and content for programs, events and the Library's social media channels.
I am passionate about libraries, the history of the book, and interpretations of Australia from the earliest records to the present day."
The waratahs are in bloom! Julie examines the detail of the flower.
Australian Inspiration 4: Back to the Bush Caption on bottom
"It’s something I’m intrigued by because it’s so complicated… I’m looking for the pattern, and the rhythm, and the shapes to see if I can come up with an original take."
Julie tests her ideas using her tried and true paper-cut stenciling method.
More waratah inspired design tests
"The paper cut stencils just give the opportunity to explore it in real time… to literally get your hands dirty… Will it, or will it not work?"
Julie has several waratah-inspired designs in development. In these sketches and test prints you can see how she keeps returning to the flower and finding new approaches to its interpretation. A single design can take as long as two years for Julie to develop. It’s an important part of her process to find out if a design can stand the test of time as she intends for them to remain on sale in her collection up to ten years.
The new design comes to life with the first run of Julie’s ‘Waratah Paisley’.
Australian Inspiration 6: Coming to Life Caption on bottom Production Gallery
“The exciting thing is the drama of the length of it. And I feel good. We know what we’re doing, we’ve made the decisions about the colour. All is well… I’m opening the door now – letting it go.”
“Colour and composition is my thing, it’s what I do. I say this often. Being a textile designer means really understanding colour and its main intricacies. I’m prepared to spend a long time working on the colouration of a new design because the tweaking and adjustments rarely work straight away. Samples and strike-offs go back and forth to the printer for weeks. There are countless options that all have the potential to work. The fine tuning, the subtle shifts in tone, tint, shade and hue, will turn a good design into a very good design that will stand the test of time.
When I choose a new colour it stays with me for a long, long time. It has to be right. Both the designs and the colours have to last for at least ten years in the collection. They are timeless, bold, contemporary classics.”
Julie Paterson (2015) ClothBound: Iconic fabric designs. Stories of a Handmade Process Murdoch Books
waratah_paisley_screen1.jpg Colour 1 design positive ready for transfer to silk screen Caption on bottom waratah_paisley_screen_2.jpg Colour 2 design positive ready for transfer to silk screen Caption on bottom production_colours_02.jpg Colour instructions for colour-way prototypes Caption on bottom production_swatches_01.jpg Colour test swatches Caption on bottom waratahpasley_red.jpg Waratah Paisley strike off Caption on bottom @clothjulie
A range of products developed during Julie's residencies will be available in the Library Shop from late 2017.
Find out about Julie's LookDrawPrint workshops on her website.
Julie talks about her life in design, detailing the evolution of her business Cloth and how she applies her Creative Manifesto in her daily life.
"I wanted people to be involved in the process. I wanted people to get as much enjoyment as I do out of making things."
Julie Paterson Talk - Clothbound - 23rd July 2015 Caption on bottom