Philip has been designing fabric since he left art college and he has worked on designs that have been used on fabric for dressmaking, bedding, soft furnishings and wallpaper.
He has designed collections for most of the world’s major fabric houses and is very well known for his florals chintzes – even finding one of his designs in the Clinton’s White House!
Philip works with Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably for the Kaffe Fassett Collective and he also has his own line “Snow Leopard Designs”
He lives part of the year in Dorset, where he is inspired by nature, shells and feathers, back in his London home he and his Partner Helen are part of a Whirling Dervish group!!!
Want to know more? …. then read on….
Who/what inspired you to take up design and how old were you?
Painting was the subject that I was best at at school, so it had to be a career in art. I had thought of being a fine artist as I loved painting landscapes. But a tutor at art college suggested that I did printed textiles as my degree course. I had no interest in textiles at all prior to this.
What was your first successful design?
Although I had already been designing for six years and had a huge output through an agent mainly for the American dress market. My first design to be in all the English magazines was “Parrot Tulips” that I sold to Osborne and Little.
What inspires your designs?
I am inspired mainly by nature, But I also have a huge archive of antique fabrics and wallpaper that also inspires my designs. I have also collected antique Tibetan, Japanese, Chinese and Indian art since I was 11 years old which also inspires my designs.
Do you have a favourite designer current or past?
You create fabulous fabric – do you sew?
No I can barely sew on a button!
What do you consider your best piece of work?
It’s hard to answer this question as I must have designed thousands of textiles in the last 43 years. But I would say that my design Brassicca is very popular and very original. It is based on ornamental kale plants.
What is your favourite tool or gadget?
After my pencil and paint brushes, my favourite gadget is my photocopier. I couldn’t do what I do without it. I work out all of my designs layouts with it. Enlarging or reducing the different motifs and then placing them on sheets of paper until the design sings. I must be one of the only designers who designs by photocopier, before drawing and painting the designs. I taught myself this method while I was design director of the old English furnishing fabric company through the 80s and 90s.
Do you have a favourite colour to work in?
My favourite colours are blue and green. Because that is the colour of the sky and the fields and trees.
What type of fabric would you choose to work with?
I don’t work with fabric
My advice to a new designer would be …?
Follow your bliss. Work hard to develop your drawing and painting skills. Computer generated design all looks the same in my view, learn how to paint everything initially. Then work away really hard and just go on and persist and don`t be put off by failures. If you have the desire and the talent and you work hard, eventually you will get there.
What is the piece of work that has driven you mad/been a disaster?
I haven’t had that experience.
Who (famous person alive or historical) would you love to create something for?
The 19th century Japanese woodblock print artist Hiroshige. His work speaks to me.
What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?
Digging up dinosaur bones and other fossils and ancient artifacts. Collecting Tibetan, Japanese, Chinese and Indian antiques. Writing books on non dual philosphy. Playing improvised jazz rock with a group of friends.
I was also made Sheikh for a Whirling Dervish group in London (we were asked to safeguard the ceremony by the Mevlevi Dervish Sheikh from Turkey back in 1963 to avoid the distortion it has undergone in it’s country of origin). I try to look after the group with my partner Helen.
What’s your best creative background music or what do you listen to when designing?
I like Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention best.
Are you an early riser or a night bird?
I’m a night bird. I used to rise early till I got ME back in 1992. The illness virtually destroyed sleep. So now I stay in bed until I’ve managed to get the sleep to function. That normally gives me enough energy to work through the afternoon and evening. But I no longer do mornings.
Who in the sewing or crafting world do you most admire?
I think Kaffe Fassett is the best colourist. Apart from him I don’t really know anyone in the crafting and quilting world.
Do you have a favourite made item from one of your designs?
Also my favourite item made from my fabric is a huge quilt that quilters all around the world made for me last year.
What was your proudest moment in your career?
I liked it when the Clintons used one of my fabrics to decorate their private quarters in The White House in the early 90s
Has Kaffe Fassett inspired you to knit or quilt?
No not at all. I only see him for an hour once a year these days. Though I used to see him more often in the 70s and 80s.
You live in Dorset during the summer – where do you go in the Winter?
As my summer studio closes for four and a half months I spend the winter in London with Helen. I have a cosy studio there as well and most of my oriental antiques and my antique textile archive is there. So its a great chance to plan new designs to paint up in the summer and to look after the whirling dervish group, as they don’t like it when I disappear to the sea for seven and a half months…
You can buy Philip’s new fabric collection – Neddy’s Meadow, Snow Leopard Designs for FreeSpirit Fabrics at Eclectic Maker now.
See more of Philips work here: