Monday, December 7, 2015

Designer/Artist I Love: Carolyn Quartermaine — Style and Inspiration

This week we are escaping to London and the South of France to meet the fantastically talented artist and prolific designer Carolyn Quartermaine. You’ll discover all of her superb hand-created fabrics inspired by her paintings.

I’ve admired Carolyn’s gorgeous artistic fabrics for ages—and now she has luscious new textiles, new colors, and thrilling fresh ideas for interior design.

You’ll love her vibrant new abstract paintings and textiles. And you’ll see her dreamy and chic Riviera studio and her London digs.

Carolyn is also an inspired and passionate photographer.

Join me for a vivid encounter with Carolyn to see her luscious textiles, her exciting art, as well as a very special and exclusive photo essay she created in homage to the great French photographer, Jacques-Henri Lartigue.

You’ll definitely want to read all of this post. I propose that you splash out and pour a celebratory flute of Champagne or a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a mysterious Pinot Noir. This is a detailed illustrated post, one to be savored.

Carolyn Quartermaine’s first foray into textile design, with French calligraphy and gilding and bravado had a neo-baroque flair. 

In 1986, the Anglo-Swiss Quartermaine had her big break at Liberty in London when she was given the entire fourth floor and Regent Street windows to exhibit in for a month. Soon Terence Conran, Manolo Blahnik and Nicky Haslam were snapping up her designs.

Her fabrics continue to evolve and she’s constantly creating collections —with new designs of cascading petals, lyrical Matisse-inspired flowers, romantic swirls in gold, sexy sheer cotton with illusions of lace, and her ever-popular script designs, a tracery of gold across eau de Nil silk, and bursts of fluorescent paint on natural cotton canvas. 

“I am a painter. The fabrics and designs are all distillations of the paintings and marks and explorations I make as an artist.” – Carolyn Quartermaine

Quartermaine has since created window displays for Louis Vuitton, packaging for Fortnum & Mason and interiors for the restaurant and bar Sketch in the West End of London. She was named designer of the year at the Paris design fair Maison & Objet, created the interiors of Joseph Ettedgui's residence in France, and revamped London fashion and homeware boutique The Shop at Bluebird, kitting it out in a richly eclectic spectrum of furniture including decorated cotton canvas -upholstered Louis XVI sofas. She has been involved in the renovation of the interiors of Belgium's medieval Château de Beloeil.

Among her great fans is Gert Voorhans who designs all the Dries van Noten boutiques and wrote the superb new design book ‘Interior Life’. Also a fan is Boris Vervoordt, and many top US and French designers.

Since she left the Royal college of art in the eighties (she was made a visiting professor there a few years ago and occasionally teaches there) she has been painting in London and Nice, styling photography and interiors, and creating ravishingly beautiful textiles for interiors. She created a series of paperweights for Baccarat, and has projects lined up for 2016. 

What’s new — Carolyn reports:

“New are the paintings and collages and a modern Orientale fabrics collection coming soon. It's far more painterly. I am fitting The Glade at Sketch with hand-painted French chairs and velvet banquettes and a painted plate collection to be made in Picasso's place in Vallauris. I am continuing to work with Fragonard museum projects in Grasse in the South of France. Recently made my design Persian Rose in Matisse blue on linen for cushions for all the bedrooms in the Colombe d'Or, in St.-Paul-de- Vence. 

Carolyn told me:

“My training is in fine art. I studied at art school for six years and everything I do and make comes from my painter/ sculptor/ photographer/ ceramics background. The first ten years were mainly art galleries and then the script on fabric exploded and in turn I was designing interiors and styling, and consulting on design and style and retail. I wrote a book that is called ‘Carolyn Quartermaine Revealed’ in the US. It came out in 1997 and that in turn brought in so much work in Japan.”

“I love the powerful and vivid modernity of fluoro colors.”— Carolyn Quartermaine

“I am very hands-on with my fabrics. I press and paint and splatter colors and patterns into fabrics—and use my hands and body to print and brush and stencil and wash and draw and create ethereal or dramatic or poetic effects.” — Carolyn Quartermaine

Riviera Inspiration

Carolyn’s homage to Jacques-Henri Lartigue, the great life-loving French photographer whose seductive images of his wife and girlfriends in the South of France continue to inspire. It’s the dream Riviera of the twenties and thirties and Carolyn uses her iPhone and other devices, plus filters, to create this exclusive tribute.

How to Find Carolyn

Carolyn Quartermaine’s superb, timeless and classical textile collections are all very limited-edition, and hand-painted, hand-blocked, hand-stenciled, and totally individual. To order, contact her directly, information below.

Says Carolyn, “I like to work with clients everywhere whether they are designers or trade or private the best service. So we keep all fabrics in London, and everything is hand printed here and stocked here. 

“We ship anywhere in the world.

“I hold always a selection of antiques and modern pieces, and the chairs in the style of French chairs. We have a large selection available to order in any finish and any fabrics, also a large stock of vintage fabrics and French linens.”
Instagram: #carolyn.quartermaine

Agent for styling: 
Karen Howes 
Tel: 0044 2073 734 492
Mobile: 0044 7543 20346

Studio visits by appointment only for France or London.

Where to buy:

See Carolyn Quartermaine’s recent art works in San Francisco:

SEPTEMBER 18, 2015 – MARCH 18, 2016 

Martha Angus, Johnna Arnold, Elvira Dayel, Miriam Dym, Linda Horning, Katherine Jacobus, Gina Jacupke, Sharon Kyle Kuhn, Kate Mitchell, Carrie Ann Plank, Carolyn Quartermaine, Lucky Rapp, Kaveri Singh, Jessie Thatcher and Victoria Welling 

DZINE Gallery
128 Utah Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 

DZINE Gallery’s second exhibition, curated by Philip Bewley, features the work of 15 women artists from the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and London employing a variety of media including paper-cut process drawings, aquatints, hand blocked textiles, mixed media, painting, letterpress monotype, gilded glass, collage, wool relief sculpture, photography, art couture and video art.

The title of the exhibition, “Pattern Language,” is a term that has multiple definitions found in both design practice and in theoretical computer science. The artists in this exhibition incorporate and expand on these ideas in work that encompasses patterns found in nature and human behavior, with shape, media, text and even individual letters deconstructed to create new patterns and meanings.


All images are courtesy of Carolyn Quartermaine, used with express permission.

Additional images by Martin Morrell and Luke White.


Caroline W said...

A wonderful piece on an inspiring artist! The pictures are beautiful.

peggy braswell said...

love her drawings + sooooo talented xx

Philip Bewley said...

Dear Diane,

What a brilliant feature on an artist and designer I admire and adore, Carolyn Quartermaine. Your impeccable presentation completely captures Quartermaine's spirit with splashes of color, insider reveals of scintillating rooms, all filled with light and air and artistry. Quartermaine is a true multidisciplinary artist as a designer at the highest level, an accomplished painter and photographer. There are so many things here that inspire: for those who say they do not like antiques look how fresh and modern that Neoclassic gilded settee is in that setting, or how contemporary a Genovese Neoclassic chandelier is shown like a work of sculpture. There seems to me no slavish copying of the past, but a distillation of the joie, caprice and the very idea of timeless beauty. It references the best of the past in a very contemporary way that is at once romantic and also modern, rigorous, edited.
I was delighted and honored to feature Carolyn in our recent exhibition at Dzine. Quartermaine is a tastemaker with a complete vision that pushes 21st design, and in that I am reminded of the Style Saloniste. What a glorious presentation. I loved it.

Warm regards,


Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

peggy and caroline-

Thank you so much. I'm very happy you enjoyed this post. It is quite intense…and I love her work and the intensity of color and craftsmanship. I hope you meet her in London one of these days!

stay in touch--very best--DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

dear philip-

Thank you so much.
Yes, Carolyn is incredible.
I was very happy to learn of her recent work through your curatorial eye…for the DZINE show in San Francisco…which is listed and detailed on the blog post.
Carolyn is endlessly creative and surprising and daring--and you can see why companies like Baccarat and Vuitton and Liberty and Conran would all want to tap into her ideas and craftsmanship.
How there is the south of France link…wow!
Philip--thank you so much--looking forward to see ing you soon--best--DIANE

Karena Albert said...

Dear Diane, thank you for this feature on such an incredibly talented artist, Carolyn. I have followed her forever. Her works are more and more exquisite, yet I still adore her very first designs!

The Arts by Karena

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Thank you so much.
Yes Carolyn made a big splash in the eighties…and every magazine cover had her fabrics and furniture.
Then she was focusing on her art and product and commercial work.
She has recently gone back to the textiles (and so many great projects).
I love seeing her new work--and you are right that none of her ideas or designs date at all..and I love her new photography which has not been seen…
happy to hear from you--DIANE

Anonymous said...

Dear Diane,
What a fabulous, fascinating, and terrifically chic posting this is! Thank you for sharing such talent with us, and giving us such a tempting diversion from our daily routine. Well dome!
Matthew MacCaul Turner

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Diane! Loved this post on Carolyn! Her work is incredibly inspiring for a painter... so soulful ..and and she is so gifted with color and mood... thank YOU!
Katherine J.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Diane for the wonderful post! Carolyn's work is so inspiring. She has such a soulful understanding of color. Every piece moody and poetic....

Kate Mitchell said...

Dear Diane:

It's so wonderful to discover your blog! I loved your post on Carolyn Quartermaine. Her color palette makes me swoon!
I'm honored to be represented alongside her work in DZINE's "Pattern Language" show, and hope to meet her sometime soon.
I look forward to your next story!

Kate Mitchell

La Contessa said...

She was my INSPIRATION for color usage in my HOME when we moved back to the STATES!I have her first book.........gave it away and then years later asked for IT BACK!!!!!!!!
There is NO ONE OUT there in the design world like HER!
Looks like RAIN HERE.........FINALLY!

Gerald Burt said...

What a discovery! Her dream like interiors are an inspiration. I'd love to see more.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Kate-

Yes…it is lovely that we were able to mention your DZine show and the artists…so happy for you.

Yes…stay subscribed to the blog. Next week it is something entirely different--and delicious.

stay tuned…and be sure to stay in touch--DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Lovely to hear from you…it has been a little while and I missed you.

I hope you did get lots of rain over in the East Bay…we had some drops and I sent the clouds your way…I hope they were effective. happy holidays, DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Wonderful to hear from you. Yes, Carolyn's work is superb…and the new work is very exciting.
She is always exploring new ideas--and will be sure to let you know…and write about her…when her new collections are ready.
stay tuned…and be sure to SUBSCRIBE so that you get a new story each week…next week will be a surprise.
best DIANE

Jessie Thatcher said...

Dear Diane,

I took pleasure in seeing Carolyn Quartermaine's expressionistic painterly style merged with antiqued furniture. I'm always delighted when I see modern art mixed with a more renaissance-style furniture. And above all, I am thrilled that she was inspired by Lartigue, a photographer! Phenomenal work, Carolyn!