Design Crush: Marthe Armitage
Let’s talk linocut and Marthe Armitage shall we? This octogenarian is a print powerhouse and masterful wallpaper designer who everyone should know, if they don’t already. I am obsessed with her fairytale-like designs and she feels like the perfect designer to kick-off a new series I’m calling Design Crush. It acts as a companion piece to my Interior Crush series where I explore inspirational interior design. Design Crush will focus on the work of designers and artists who have had a huge impact on interior design, but focuses less on a singular project and more on their entire body of work.
I first discovered Marthe Armitage on Pinterest (how I love a good Pinterest rabbit hole) and I devoured post after post about her life and work. Like so many of the women designers I love her work stems first from her love of family and home. A graduate of the Chelsea School of Art, now the University of Arts – London, Marthe put aside her artistic ambitions to raise her family and support her architect husband in the 1950s. It was during this era that they lived in India and she was first exposed to the art of block printing.
This experience left an indelible mark on Marthe, and that early inspiration can be seen in her work to this day. Taking block printing a step further, Marthe uses the technique of linocut to create all of her wallpaper designs. Linocut is a printmaking technique where the design is cut into a linoleum surface with a sharp knife. The raised areas create a reverse image of the design when printed by hand or with a printing press. The use of linocuts vs. block prints allows for a greater level of complexity and nuance to her designs.
Initially Marthe Armitage created hand-pressed wallpapers as an artistic experiment for her own family home. It wasn’t until she acquired a lithographic press, well into her adulthood, that she was able to make her designs commercially available.
Inspired by the natural world, books and art, Marthe’s designs have a mystical, fairy-like quality that transcends genre. Each design starts as a four-section sketch that masterfully evolves into a repeatable print. These sketches are then transferred to a linocut and hand-printed on the lithographic press. This handmade process creates a finished product that is incredibly durable while simultaneously keeping the delicacy and ethereal quality of Marthe’s work.
Her imagination is unparalleled with (perhaps) one exception - Marthe’s daughter Jo Broadhurst has become an integral partner in Marthe’s studio and elegant designer in her own right. They work continue to work side-by-side, hand printing Marthe’s extensive body of work and developing new designs for their ever expanding client list. I can’t get enough of their use of color and the whimsical stories they tell through their wallpapers and prints. Read more about Marthe Armitage on her website here. -b.