Letter from Robin Day

‘An early design showing a clearly articulated structure. The slim steel rod frame cradles a shaped upholstered unit and timber arms which can also serve as shelves for glasses etc’ (Robin Day,2007)

Back in 1951 Gerd Hay-Edie received a letter from the highly acclaimed designer, Robin Day. In it he said, “Of all the rugs which I have seen, only yours have got the character enough as a background for my new designs of furniture to be exhibited at ‘La Triennale de Milano 1951’. Please can you weave for this Exhibition a rug of the approximate size: nine feet by seven feet…” The three rugs exhibited went on to win a silver award and were the start of a long and satisfying working relationship between Hay-Edie and The Days.

With such an interesting story behind the previous collaboration between Hay-Edie and Day dating back to the 50’s we were very excited to hear that Mourne Textiles has been chosen by Margaret Howell CBE, to produce one of Hay-Edie’s own designs from the 1950’s after one of our favourite British shops twentytwentyone commissioned ten of the country’s foremost designers (see our list below) to pick ten textiles to cover special editions of Robin Day’s Reclining chair (1952). “The challenge for the designers was to specify upholstery which appealed to their personal design criteria and resonated with the chair’s original spirit and character. To choose a textile that could draw a smile from Robin. It has proved to be no easy task, but the results are an enlightening union of classic and contemporary” says Simon Alderson from twentytwentyone.

Mourne textiles

Gerd Hay-Edie, a Norwegian born textile designer, settled in Ireland with her English husband in 1947. Having already travelled extensively with her craft, she studied design and hand weaving at the Home Industries School for Women in Oslo and spent time in England and Europe, by which time she was becoming well-known for her pioneering methods within the textile industry. She learnt to weave on hand looms with hand twisted yarns in China and completed a commission of 22 hand-woven rugs for the Palace of the Maharajah of Gwalior in Calcutta. These experiences helped to shape the direction she took with her weaving and made her famous around the world.

Her exquisite, bespoke range of fabrics for rugs, upholstery and later on tweeds were commissioned by both designers and fashion designers alike. She worked with Robin Day, Terence Conran, Sybil Connolly and Sheila Mullally whipping up bespoke, iconic textiles from her tiny workshop at the foot of the Mourne mountains in Ireland.

Robin Day Margaret Howell 4

Daughter, Karen Hay-Edie, brought up on the loom and influenced by her mother’s knowledge and technical abilities was happy to follow in her mother’s footsteps, becoming a master weaver herself. Years later Gerd’s grandson, Mario Sierra, is also carrying on the tradition, having developed a passion and fascination for weaving and design at a young age, guided by these two inspirational women in his life. His daughters although too young at the moment, are already showing a keen aptitude to keep the family tradition growing having made their own rugs in the workshop in Ireland where it all began. See our previous feature showing photos of the whole family weaving here. Head to their studio via our very own Modern Marketplace and check out their sumptuous midcentury-influenced  fabrics, still as collectable as ever.

“The Reclining chair from 1952 is a significant Robin Day design that reflects key attributes seen in much of his work. The chair offers high comfort levels, through his understanding for ergonomics. The structure is clearly defined through an exposed frame and composition of elements. The design has a defined personality through its economy of form and the wide sculptural wood armrests. The Reclining chair is an enduring design with classic status.” Simon Alderson from twentytwentyone.

The Reclining Chair Centenary Edition will be launched on 1st July. All ten design options will be on show at the twentytwentyone showrooms for one week and will be available to order to the designer’s specification. Produced by twentytwentyone in the UK, The Reclining Chair Centenary Edition is licensed and endorsed by the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation.

Paula Day says of the centenary edition, “The Margaret Howell version covered in a black-and-white Mourne Textiles tweed had special resonance for me – then I realised that this is actually a revival of the very same 1950s fabric which the original manufacturer Hille had used to cover the Robin Day High Wide and Handsome armchair we had in the Cheyne Walk living room when I was a child!”

“Robin Day was formative in the British adoption of modern design. His extensive work in the postwar era embraced domestic and commercial environments, and thus influenced the interiors people both lived and worked within. He created landmarks in furniture design that remain relevant over fifty years later.  He was an incredibly talented, prolific and committed designer, and one of a handful of international greats from the twentieth century. We can be proud to say he was British.” Simon Alderson at twentytwentyone.


Robin Day Margaret Howell 2


Thoughts by contributing designers

Martino Gamper;
White Noise, 100% British Wool.
The fabric is hand woven in London by self-taught Weaver Daniel Harris of the London Cloth Company. The London Cloth Company was established in 2011 as the first micro-mill to open in London. They specialise in quality woven cloths using traditional techniques on their restored 1870 shuttle loom. White Noise was originally commissioned by Martino for Crafting Narrative, and exhibition he designed for the Crafts Council. “A British wool, a British weaver for a great British designer’s chair, with alittle bit of Italian thrown into the mix.”

Jasper Morrison
“Steel Cut Trio No. 915 will be prefect for the Reclining chair. It’s a nice green with a slight hint of brown and interesting depth and technical look, far away from the woolly textiles of the chairs’ time. I think it could look really fresh with this.”

Matthew Hilton
“I first met Robin at his very elegant house in Cheyne walk. One of the first things he did when we got there, at about 5pm was offer us a very large whisky, he then told us he was feeling sad about not being able to take part in his annual trek across ice and snow in mid winter in Norway because his hip was giving him jip, he was just past his 78th birthday. He was a bon vivuer and had great energy.
I have been with him since that, in Bar Basso at midnight, being held up, like us all, by the crush of people. The Reclining chair is lovely and the Eleanor Pritchard fabric very suitable I think.”

Terence Woodgate
“I had the great pleasure of meeting Robin when I became a RDI in 2003. We both admired each other’s work and talked much about travels & mountains. I chose this particular fabric because I used a similar Bouclé on a sofa, which I know Robin liked. The fact that the fabric used here is called Outback seemed appropriate for a man that enjoyed the wilderness.”

Kenneth Grange
Lucienne and Robin were close friends for decades. We never worked together, but holidayed regularly. On a skiing holiday I had agreed to go with Robin and his friend Alan Blackshaw – on the strict condition that there would be none of his loony climbing; ropes and axes…… A few hours later we were on a ridge at the top of the world and Robin said, “maybe we should rope up; do you know what to do if one of us should fall over the edge?”
“No”, I answered.
His reply “it’s important that you jump off the other side…..”
“For the chair, I felt some pattern would work. My interest in Ageless Design advocates design that young enjoy for their reasons and olders for theirs. Neither may realise. A patterned fabric appeals to both.”

For more on Gerd Hay-Edie and Mourne Textiles

Find Twenty Twenty One and Mourne Textiles in BUY MODERN on The Modern Marketplace

Other designers who chose textiles for this project are: Barber Osgerby, Ilse Crawford, Tom Dixon, Martino Gamper, Kenneth Grange, Matthew Hilton, Michael Marriott, Jasper Morrison, Terence Woodgate

Written by: Tanya Pateman, Modern Shows®/11 June 2015. Please Note: This feature and all the written content within it belongs to Modern Shows®. If you would like to reproduce any part of the piece or syndicate the feature in full, please contact lucy@modernshows.com and for images, see below.

Images: © Mourne textiles © twentytwentyone

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