25 Feb

The Digital Artisan: digital printing now

Peter Pilotto, Spring/Summer 2014, Image courtesy of Liberty Peter Pilotto, Spring/Summer 2014, Image courtesy of Liberty

By Justine Fox, Clarity InColour

Digital printing is now allowing designers to really stretch their creative metal with effects and pattern that simply aren't possible within traditional methods. Back in college I remember visiting the great European printing houses like Ratti Spa who were at the forefront of print development and at the time producing something like 24 colour prints. They were in the early stages of their digital development then. Now this number runs into the millions. 

What I find most interesting is the apparent transference in the sense of value attached to this process. Once thought inferior to silk screening, its almost mass-market appeal conjured up images of awful colour reproduction on the disposable products. But looking back at Patricia Urquiola's 2012 Azulej collection for Mutina and with the world's catwalk's showing their best in ready-to-wear womenswear at the moment, it's obvious that this is no longer the case.


According to Jessica Bumpus from, the Spring Summer show from fashion designer Peter Pilotto and design partner Christopher De Vos was inspired by a combination of drawings by the artist Ken Price and all things volcanic. The result was a collection of explosive colour combinations created by a mix of materials, digital print and cutting (see image above). Find this collection now at Liberty, London (


N and N silk scarf

N and N silk scarf


Recently a new London exhibition launched, Craft with the tag 'Redefining Handmade'. Here I spoke with textile designer Emma Jeffs from N and N who has worked in the industry of developing surface and materials for over 12 years. Emma produces luxury silk scarfs and explained how she uses digital printing practically to help reduce the waste, energy and water usage associated with the textile industry. Her range forms digi-dots and geometrics within the pattern that create complex structures in harmony with ephemeral colour gradients. What I love about her colour work is the exquisite balance of convention and mirth in the interplay of blue, coral, chartreuse and peach.


Digital has really become a modern tool for artistic express expression and rather than taking away from the practice it acts as the perfect conduit or platform. Atelier Olschinsky recently launched the digital illustration series Mega Structure. In this work the pair explore imagined architectural dynamics in a powerful colour rendition. Neolithic blue black supports an intricate palette of turquoise, ferro red and flat brass.


Ealish Wilson

 Ealish Wilson

Sculptural textile artist Ealish Wilson has been working with digital for about 15 years and uses the medium to capture ideas of colour and form that shape the folds and smocking within her work. In her latest series she mixes really interesting textures in materials like Tyvek┬«, and vellum together as well as presenting simple cloths like cotton. Her yellow butterfly smocked with red thread continues the flat brass /ferro red combination that I've already looked at but this time explored on cool contemplative backdrop.

 Bamboo stools with digitally printed patterns

Bamboo Stools Ikea

Bamboo Stools production


So it's really about the quality of the colour now and how that affects our perception I find so fascinating. That shift from the brash to considered tones seems to have lent a sense of worth to the product irrespective of the 'tradition' of the process. I've even been dabbling in the fine art myself recently with a few bamboo stools (above) from Ikea and some help from Colour Marketing Services. What I love personally are the colour changes that develop through the build up of inks and even better for me is, that it still allows the integrity of the material to show through. I'll be colour 'crafting' some more materials over the next few weeks and will post my progress to the Clarity InColour company blog.


Justine Fox is Creative director of Clarity InColour, a London Based colour consulting service. More by Justine Fox.

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