Curwen Patterned papers

Ever since I was a child I have had a fascination for pattern, pattern as being defined by the repetition of similar forms. I suppose that is what I try to achieve when I paint, I look for pattern and decoration in feathers, leaves, bark. Maybe that is why I have admired designer’s rather more than fine artists, being naturally drawn to those artists and craftsmen who can both draw beautifully and design. One such artist is Eric Ravilious, so when I saw this Curwen patterned paper (see top left) I seized upon it with glee. The gorgeous collection of Curwen papers was for sale at the Oxford Fine Press Fair (mentioned in my last post), on the John Purcell stand.

There is some dispute over who actually designed this paper. The folks at John Purcell papers said that the man to ask was on the Incline Press stand so I decided to enquire further. Having a head like a sieve I got him to write down what he knew of the pattern, the story he told me was fascinating. It seems that an artist and textile designer called Enid Marx, who had worked with the Incline Press, identified the pattern as a 1928 Curwen pattern by Eric Ravilious. Apparently Enid had desperately wanted to learn wood engraving as a student but her tutor thought her drawing skills too poor. The young Ravilious took it upon himself to pass on the skills he learnt in his lessons and Enid would go around after class and Eric would go through the day’s lesson with her. There is another school of thought that believes the pattern to belong to the era of the Festival of Britain but I am going with Enid on this. What do you think?

The black, white and red paper is by Edward Bawden, I am not sure whom the lovely deep red pattern is by, maybe someone can help here? Anyway, needless to say I came away with samples of all three papers and have enjoyed covering diaries for Christmas presents. The tiny diaries are covered in a Japanese paper, again I knew the name once but my brain has long since shredded that bit of information, I should really write these things down!

footnote; since I posted this The Incline Press have been in touch to say that the lovely deep red Curwen paper is by Sarah Nechamkin, a wonderfully prolific paper pattern designer in the late 1940s. Thank you Graham for that information.

Oh yes, before I forget, I finally finished the owl painting. The two tawny owls are standing either side of a very old oak tree, which put me in mind of the rhyme about an owl standing sentinel, I think from Mother Goose? The tree appears to be keeping watch also, maybe they are looking out for each other.


  1. What a stunning picture - I just love those owls.

  2. Your owls and oak tree are so beautiful. This looks magical- gorgeous!

  3. What a beautiful painting. Is it an illustration for an existing story or is it waiting for the story to be written?

  4. Valerie, once again, you've taught me and enlightened me and inspired me with a post.

    I love the your detective work regarding those wonderful patterned papers and so admire the books you've applied them to.

    Your owls guarding the oak painting is fabulous. It's got resonance with its historic theme, color choices and your great talent.


  5. Quite a beautiful completion, really stunning. I love the meticulous detail of shape and form in both the design elements and the landscape and owls.

  6. The Japanese paper looks a bit like chiyogami... but I'm not sure if that's the word you're looking for. Either way, lovely covered diaries!

  7. Love the owls and really admire the wallpapers though William Morris patterns are my thing.

  8. A total passion for paper! I hope your Enid story is true.
    Glorious indeed.
    Your owl painting is exquisite.
    All best wishes

  9. Like Hermes, I am a William Morris fan.. but then, aren't we all> I had never heard of Curwen till now.

    The owls are EXQUISITE.. and with the addition of the acorns, well, you know how I feel about acorns!

  10. The papers are so beautiful, lovely to see how you used them.
    The owls are another work of art, wonderful detail and love the interesting composition and border. We have seen a white barn owl visiting our garden, perhaps after the mice!

  11. hello,

    your owls and tree are gorgeously wonderful!

    lovely to read of the book faire in this post and the previous. your diaries are gorgeous!

  12. Alan Powers is your best source of info about Curwen in general and papers in particular - he's written a book about Curwen which I'm sure you can find...

  13. Lovely papers Valerie, shown to such good advantage in your arrangement, they're really pleasing.

    And the owls and oak reflect your talent, as always. Have a good week. Lesley x

  14. The owls are beautiful valerie, gorgeous work as always : )
    The patterned papers are wonderful, i completely agree about being drawn to pattern and design. Thank you for sharing : )