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Friday 25 November 2011

Book review: Celia Birtwell

Mirrors, mugs and clocks, Celia Birtwell is the talent behind some of the very prettiest things that we feature on Domestic Sluttery. So when I learnt she also had designs on our coffee tables with the launch of her very own book, I knew that I had to take a peek. And the look of the book doesn't disappoint either. With over 200 pages of pretty to get lost in, it's a must for all fans of her distinctive style.

The book charts Celia's life and work, moving up from Salford to study at the RCA in London, her relationship with Ossie Clark, and the textile designs she produced for his dresses in the 60s and 70s, her period as a model for David Hockney and her more recent move into home furnishing design, going up to the sensational Topshop collection which brought her designs to a new generation. With text by Dominic Lutyens, it's presented more like a scrapbook than a straight story, with tons of visual material to divert and enchant a reader.

Each page is a work of art in itself, with decorated borders and background patterns that pick up on elements from Celia's textile designs. While perhaps not so good on technical details, the book is great at explaining the varied inspiration behind her patterns, from medieval tapestries to 1930s films, which is very inspiring in itself. If you are at all creative, I'm sure this book will have you picking up your pen and paint pot.

Even if you don't know too much about Birtwell herself, the book is also very good at capturing the atmosphere of a period. There's images of people like Jane Birkin, Bianca Jagger and Pattie Boyd looking glamorous in Ossie Clark clothes, alongside photos showing Ossie and Celia's infamous fashion shows, and pages from her original sketchbooks. Celia is also a very beautiful woman and I spent a long time gazing at the snapshots of her, trying to glean some style tips.

In the book Celia says her move into home furnishing fabrics is partly because she liked their gradual evolution in contrast to the rapidly changing nature of fashion. As Chanel famously noted, while fashion may fade, style is eternal. And, in this book, Celia Birtwell shows herself to be one stylish lady.

Celia Birtwell by Celia Birtwell with text by Dominic Lutyens is published by Quadrille. It's £30 full price but is currently available for the bargain price of £15.19 on Amazon.

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