When Catherine Counsell, design and development manager at Camira Fabrics, first saw the work of designer Emma Shipley at her graduate exhibition at the Royal College of Art in London, she knew a collaboration was in order.
Shipley’s drawing style, which merges detailed animal and botanical studies with references to irregularly patterned mathematical concepts such as logarithmic spirals and the Fibbonaci series, perfectly reflects Camira’s own dedication to using technology to enhance its natural fabrics—an approach Counsell calls “the harmonious fusion of science and nature.”
The opportunity to create a bespoke line of textiles proved to be an easy sell to Shipley, who had just received her MFA in textile design from the Royal College of Art. Empowered to create a statement fabric for Camira with very few parameters, she found herself gravitating to the topic of evolution in nature. “In particular, I wanted to study gorillas and apes, as there is such a close genetic link with us as a species,” Shipley recalls.
Her first design, Titus, depicts the iconic
silverback gorilla made famous in zoologist Dian Fossey’s book and film, “Gorillas in the Mist,” and echoes the classic anatomical drawings of artist John James Audubon. Its coordinate pattern, Tangled, features sprawling
masses of thorny vines and mathematical
instruments, taking inspiration from the graphic work of M.C. Escher and a previous trip Shipley took to the Amazon. Other details border on the surreal, including the exposure of Titus’s ribcage, the presence of animalistic foliage and the sight of branches turning into snakes. “Creating my own half-imagined evolution, I explored the inextricable link between all living things,” she says.
The precise and inventive patterns were an immediate hit at Camira, and Shipley’s meticulousness meant the drawings required only sizing changes before they could be printed onto fabric. “Her attention to detail is phenomenal, even to the extent of perfecting the signature strip that runs down each selvedge of the fabric,” Counsell says.
The company decided to pair Shipley’s drawings with its top-selling felted wool fabric, Blazer—itself a remarkable blend of nature and science. Spun from Laneve™ wool from Wools of New Zealand, Blazer is renewable, biodegradable and fully traceable to its source farm. Their decision to use such an established line of upholstery also fit in with Shipley’s original interest in evolution—and saved Camira precious resources in the process. “Why would we waste energy and resources designing a brand new product when we can evolve a fabric as beautiful, natural and sustainable as Blazer with an iconic print?” Counsell asks.
WATCH: The design process for Titus and Tangled, as told by Emma Shipley.
Refining the printing process turned out to the be the most difficult part of the development process, as it required both contract-grade processes and a delicate touch. “Printing on a pure wool like Blazer is challenging,” Shipley says. “The intricacy of the design meant this was even more difficult than usual.” The design team eventually decided to pre-treat the fabric, and then print it using dyestuff rather than pigments. According to Counsell, that process provided excellent wear fastness, as the print is absorbed into the core of the fabric, “rather than sitting on the surface, where it would be susceptible to being rubbed off.”
“People are fascinated by the level of detail which we’ve been able to capture from Emma’s fine pencil line drawings,” Counsell adds. “Titus always causes a reaction—mostly extremely
positive, although there have been one or two people say they find him a bit scary! Tangled is a much more versatile fabric that is very forgiving and extremely beautiful.”
The end result is pair of iconic fabrics that effortlessly straddle the worlds of art and design. Durable, sustainable and inspirational—Camira
has announced its support of the UK-based
charity, the Gorilla Organization, an NGO
dedicated to protecting the world’s last remaining gorillas—Titus and Tangled give designers the
ability to make a powerful interior statement
that won’t be missed.
For more information about Titus and Tangled, visit camirafabrics.com.
Kylie Wroblaski is a former editor for BUILDINGS magazine and has written previously about architecture, interior design and facilities management.