This month’s cover is the work of Cressida Bell, a self-described “designer of anything with a pattern on it”. Granddaughter of artist and former Charleston resident Vanessa Bell, Cressida primarily trained as a textile designer, but her work in decorative art now ranges from rugs to walls, tiles to mugs, cakes (pictured p.9, bottom left) to cushions, and much more. “It’s about getting a pattern that really sings to you”, Cressida says.
“It’s an interesting job, there are patterns out there such as the Chintamani which has got three spots. I’ve tried doing it and if you get it wrong it looks rubbish. You might think that three spots all over something would be fine, but it’s a very specific skill getting a pattern to be harmonious. That’s my challenge on a daily basis.”
Having grown up in Leeds, Bell spent her summer holidays in Charleston: “So I’d go from gloomy old Leeds to lovely Sussex. It’s funny, Charleston, it’s not colourful in the traditional sense of very bright colours. Rather, it’s got a particular vibe of colours: they’re not reds and greens, it could be black and yellow ochre. But somehow it makes for a lively colour scheme that maybe red and green would not.”
Bell is curating In Colour next month, Charleston’s second exhibition in their new Wolfson Gallery, which will feature works reflecting both Bell’s personal aesthetic and her artistic heritage. “I’ve never curated a show before, so it’s all new to me. I’m trying to look for works of art where you can tell that the artist has superimposed colours on the painting, rather than actually seeing them.”
Bell wishes that people would try wearing more colour, “because it’s so life enhancing. I have a very bright-coloured kitchen made up of turquoise, cream, blue and red. It’s incredibly cosy and friendly: people love it. But it’s unusual, it’s not the sort of colour most people paint their kitchens. Colour is very instinctual. When I have a room to paint, it immediately comes to me, I don’t spend ages agonising.”
The cover Cressida designed for us has an intriguing artistic provenance, of a satisfyingly physical and inky nature. When making her textiles, she uses a bit of paper to protect the table from being printed on at the end of the fabric. “What happens is, you get this build up of different designs being printed on each other, which ends up being nicer than the fabrics. I’ve used one of those, so it’s a slightly random thing.”
The cover is an amalgamation of two prints: Tropical Spot and Beach, resulting in a somewhat hypnotic palimpsest of patterns. Bell has recoloured some elements, and also added some colour to create a bespoke image for Viva Lewes: we’re thrilled with how her combination of happenstance layers and adroit editing has turned out. “I’ve always longed to use one of these things because they’re fun. I can’t throw them away, I’ve got drawers full of them.”
In Colour is at Charleston from 6th March-26th August