Acquired from the estate of costume designer Shirley Russell
The John Bright Collection owns a number of garments produced by the Footprints Studio. The studio was founded in 1925 in West London to produce and sell block printed textiles in a fresh and modern idiom. One of their female designers, Joyce Clissold, took over the business in 1929, becoming its guiding light, and continuing to work on a smaller scale until her death in the early 1980s. Unlike some textile design studios that employed women working in their own homes in a freelance capacity and were paid less than men, the female orientated Footprints took on young women and not only trained them in all the steps of production, but also provided a sense of community and companionship. From 1933 until 1940 the company’s ready-made garments, soft furnishings and fabrics were sold in their London shops, and a bespoke service of design and fabric choice was also available to their customers.
This jacket is one of several Footprints garments acquired by Shirley Russell from Joyce Clissold’s studio, some of which have the names of their designs written on small attached labels; this is labelled ‘Tropical Snow’. The jacket is unlined and made of loosely woven linen printed with lino blocks, not as a length of fabric but to the shape of the garment; the spotted black borders are not joined on but continuous with the body of the garment, and it can be seen that the vertical darts and the side seams were stitched before the printing. The design is a chequerboard of bright red, yellow, blue and green blocks, patterned with spots in various sizes and colours, that are arranged mainly, but not completely, symmetrically on the front and back. The lack of technical perfection is part of its charm, signifying the creativity of the human hand as opposed to the impersonal perfection of the machine made object – a concept that harked back to the influential art critic John Ruskin’s work The Stones of Venice of 1851-3.