The Archivist's Edit
The fascinating story behind The Archivist’s Edit – a special collection created in homage to our in-house archivist, Anna Buruma
The Archivist’s Edit is curated by our legendary archivist Anna Buruma, the protector and custodian of Liberty’s design history for over 20 years. Encompassing 20 beautiful prints, the capsule collection shines a light into the more unusual and lesser-known corners of Liberty’s archive.
Fragile fragments and half-forgotten artworks are regenerated into new designs by the in-house artists, drawing inspiration from Buruma’s favourite periods within the brand’s 145-year timeline as well as from across her own life and history. The result is a personal and proudly eccentric curation of prints, a love letter to the spirit of individuality that has always made Liberty such a unique creative force within the design landscape.
I like to challenge the design team, by showing them interesting but unresolved designs in the archive pattern books. There is so much potential in the pattern books, but the team usually doesn’t have the time needed to take the fragment of a pattern and turn that into a finished design.
Sea Garden is loosely inspired by two 1950s prints, one under the sea and the other on the surface of the waves. The Liberty design studio extracted elements to create a fresh, modern design which was still in keeping with the quirky character of the originals.
“Combining two archive designs to create a new marine world was an exciting but complex challenge – with strong ‘50s-inspired sections of block colour, working on a composition which seamlessly combined both under and above water was key to achieve a feeling of energy and movement.” – Ffion Griffith, Senior Designer
To create Ikat Neats, the Liberty studio designers looked into the archive and drew various elements from pages in different 19th century pattern books, combined to create a vibrant modern check design.
“Spending time with Anna to select her favourite neats from within this archive book was a real joy. As our collection grew, so did the final patchwork – which holds the richness of Liberty pattern history and inspiration.” – Ffion Griffith, Senior Designer
Camberwell Peacock is based on a beautiful but badly damaged watercolour Liberty design originally created for furnishing fabrics. Found in the archive torn and crumpled, it was rescued and conserved by students on the Camberwell School of Art paper conservation course – the design has been redrawn and adapted to work as a dress fabric.
“The students did a wonderful job of saving this piece so that it could again be an inspiring piece for our designers. We have now embarked on a major project of protecting our collection of pattern books, to keep them safe for future generations.” – Anna Buruma, Head Archivist
Opera Carousel is based on a print from 1951, created by a French design company for Liberty. We have many swatches in our archive that do not show the complete print – instead requiring a little bit of imagination to create the full picture.
“This rather eccentric conversational design of tumbling ships, spaceships and creatures among flowers is typical of the joyful side of 1950s design. It has been adapted and brought up to date by the Liberty design studio with quirky additions such as an octopus – one of my favourite creatures.” – Anna Buruma, Head Archivist
Chintz refers to the hand-painted cotton fabrics imported from India in the 17th and 18th centuries, which were hugely influential on design in Europe – Floral Chintz is inspired by an early example of Liberty’s chintz furnishing fabrics, reworked to contemporary effect in the London design studio.
“Liberty’s early days as an importer of goods from Asia means that we have a long history of selling the beautiful Indian chintzes that had been coming to Europe from the late 17th century onwards.” – Anna Buruma, Head Archivist
This Liberty archive design of doodled lines and painted splashes was first printed at Liberty’s Merton Print Works in 1953, and is greatly influenced by the abstract expressionist painting style of the period.
“I was drawn to this print as it reminded me of the patterned curtains in my childhood home in The Hague, chosen by my mother.” – Anna Buruma, Head Archivist
Archive Allsorts celebrates Liberty’s large archival collection of books with fabric swatches. The design takes a small leaf design from one book as its ground, as well as hand-written labels from many others – all combined into a beautiful new pattern.
“As a designer I have always been intrigued by the labels and fascinated by the variation in their style, as well as their exquisite handwriting. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to celebrate these often-overlooked items within our archive.” – Ffion Griffith, Senior Designer