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The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design: author’s copy

Advance copy

A couple of weeks ahead of the official publication date, Bloomsbiry have kindly sent me the The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design author’s copy. It is so, so exciting to finally see it in print. The process began nearly three and a half years ago, when the publishers got in touch to ask if I would be interested in doing a second edition.
The short answer was yes. You can read the long answer here. There’s more about my writing here.

The completely re-written and nearly-completely re-illustrated book is published on 21 October 2021. You can get you hands on a copy via the Bloomsbury website or via your local bookshop. The ISBN number is 978-1-350-11628-3. It’s also available from all the online booksellers and chainstores.

The print version of the second edition of "The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design" by Alex Russell
A copy of the Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design
A spread from the print version of the second edition of "The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design" by Alex Russell
A spread from the Fundamentals… outlining printing technology

Back-cover blurb

“In this essential introduction to contemporary printed textile design, designer and educator Alex Russell explores creative and commercial studio practice, including:
– developing sophisticated skills with image and colour.
– how to make effective use of context in your work.
– strategies for a career in design.
You’ll learn how history and technology shape print design, plus how to balance innovation with industry requirements, including fashion, home interiors, giftware and stationery. There’s practical advice on developing a professional portfolio, and how good communication skills can get your work noticed.
This completely updated edition includes expanded sections on digital design and social media, and their impact on portfolio development, manufacturing, and promotion, as well as advice on establishing an ethical, sustainable practice for the future.”
(The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design: author’s copy back cover text.)

Thank you, thank you

I owe a very big thank-you to all the amazing designers who let me feature their work in the book. I feel very privileged to be able to showcase such a brilliant range of talent. I’m profoundly grateful to them all.
These’s a mix of emerging and established designers in the book. Many of the emerging practitioners’ work was part of their degree show collections. One of the central themes of the book is to encourage students to engage with the world beyond college/university. The student work in the book more than holds its own. I hope this gives readers confidence to start promoting their work and developing the contacts they need to establish a successful career.

A spread from the print version of the second edition of "The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design" by Alex Russell
A spread from the Fundamentals… outlining repeat terms and structures

Posted by Alex Russell on 11 October 2021

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The story of A Scheme Not Of This World: part 2

Part 2 of the story of A Scheme Not Of This World starts with the code development and prototyping. It then looks at the test printing and the production of the first batch of one-of prints. (Part 1 is here.)

Hello, colour

Today’s post about the development of “A Scheme Not Of This World” starts with one of the very first runs of the code that combined the large and small scale blocks of code. (As the former was called “Scheme of Things” and the latter “A World Not Of This World”, you can see the remarkable leap of imagination to reach the final title.)
At the same time, I was experimenting with adding different numbers of layers within each cell. The darker the tone of the yellow and magenta cells, the more layers of content that will eventually be added. I’m also tinkering with transparency. Hand-made content will start to feature very soon…

Image 8 of part 2 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Combining large- and small-scale blocks of code
Image 9 of part 2 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Replacing plain colour blocks with library content

Hello, library

The next part of the “A Scheme Not Of This World” story involves starting to replace the squares of plain colour (above) with content from the library. This is a folder of a few hundred images that I made by hand at the start of the process.
There’s a few other things going on here too, not least some code that “tears” the edges of the library images. The thin lines are to help experiment with the degree of overlap of all the separate parts.

Prototyping starts

One of the very first prototypes of “A Scheme Not Of This World” where all the content came from the hand-made image library. To keep things simple at this stage, the code only worked with a few images (the final version uses hundreds).
I was also playing with scale at this stage, varying the width of the stripes. Lots still to come, including rotation and a big chunk of code that works on the colour of everything.

Image 10 of part 2 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Very early “A Scheme Not Of This World” prototype
Image 11 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Final “A Scheme Not Of This World” prototype

Prototyping ends

This image, from Part 2 of the story of A Scheme Not Of This World”, marks the final prototyping stage. It was one of the first ones where I felt that the code was autonomous enough to hit a sweet spot somewhere in the middle of all the different possible variations. Put another way, it was starting to make stuff I was vaguely chuffed with.
By the end of the process, there will be nearly 3000 lines of code, working with four different libraries of images.

Test printing

One of the last parts of developing “A Scheme Not Of This World” was the test printing. I spent a lot of time tinkering to get the colour to really sing out and I’m so pleased with the results.
This is one of the later test prints; there were a few further tweaks before I was happy with the settings. Each unique artwork is professionally gilceé printed on archival paper.

Image 12 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
“A Scheme Not Of This World” test print
Image 13 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Framed proof

Test framing

As part of the test printing process for “A Scheme Not Of This World”, I framed some of the proofs to check how the artwork would look once on the wall. This is one of them, in a simple white mount.

First batch

This a photo of a few of the first batch of “A Scheme Not Of This World” prints, on sale in the shop. They’re packaged in acid-free cellophane bags for safe-keeping; orders will be sent out in environmentally-responsible cardboard packaging. The electricity powering the computer that runs the code is from 100% renewable sources.

Read more about A Scheme Not Of This World here, or browse prints from the collection in the shop.

Part 1 is here.

Image 14 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
The first batch of “A Scheme Not Of This World” prints

Posted by Alex Russell on 01 June 2021

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The story of A Scheme Not Of This World: part 1

Part 1 of the story of A Scheme Not Of This World covers the concept development and early coding. (Part 2 is here.)

A sketch

“A Scheme Not Of This World” began life as a little coding sketch. The code combined scans of some paintings I’d done in a sketchbook, creating a digital collage. At this stage, the code was very simple, essentially picking scans at random to fill the image. (For reasons that completely escape me, I named the code “Partial Lightning”.)

Image 1 of Part 1 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
“Partial Lightning” coding sketch
Image 2 of Part 1 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Four hand-made collages

Collage

The next part of the story of creating “A Scheme Not Of This World” was producing a load of hand-made content for the code to work with. The bulk of these (over 500) are striped collages, four of which are shown here.

Drawing

Whilst making all the collages that featured in yesterday’s post, I was playing with ideas about how code might arrange them in a sketchbook. This little drawing turned out to be crucial. (Gaussian blurring, less so…)

Image 3 the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Key idea drawing in sketchbook
Image 4 of Part 1 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
“Scheme of Things” test output

Starting to code

The code for “A Scheme Not Of This World” has two main parts: arranging stuff on a big scale and arranging stuff on a small scale (these are technical terms). The coding development began with the big scale stuff, experimenting with methods of laying out different types of content over any size of area.
I have a strange compulsion to name my code: this part is called “Scheme of Things”. It’s a line from David Bowie’s “Word On A Wing”; the code creates, er, a scheme of things (too much sharing?).

Workings-out

The second part of the “A Scheme Not Of This World” code arranges content within cells of the main grid. This bit of code is called “A World Not Of This World”, the final words of Wisława Szymborska’s poem “Map” (translated by Clare Cavanagh). (I love a map.)
The sketchbook page here shows some of my workings-out, setting up a system that models armatures. (Always show your workings-out, unless it involves a treadmill.) This was definitely the hardest part of the process.

Image 5 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
“A World Not Of This World” drawings and workings-out
Image 6 of Part 1 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Early small-scale coding development

Armatures

To conclude part 1 of the story of A Scheme Not Of This World, here’s an output from the very early coding development for the small-scale part. The black squares will eventually become the scans of hand-made content in the collage section above. The red lines are there to help work out how the code was progressing. There’s some stuff with armatures going on; this is sort-of coding the sketchbook page I posted yesterday. I’m working in ExtentScript for this project, the Javascript extension that works inside Photoshop.

Two layers

The next step in the coding development for the small-scale part of “A Scheme Not Of This World”. There are two layers now, extending the code that featured yesterday. The grey squares eventually become images from the library of pre-prepared content. The red lines and numbers are there to test that the code is working (I like counting things almost as much as I like lists). The largest red square will become one of the little squares in the second image. If that explanation seems confusing, it’s a lot less confusing than coding the blimin’ thing was… It’ll get a bit more colourful in the next post.

Read more about A Scheme Not Of This World here, or browse prints from the collection in the shop.

Part 2 is here.

Part 7 of the development of ApeiroPattern generative art collection A Scheme Not Of This World by Alex Russell
Two-layered small-scale development

Posted by Alex Russell on 01 May 2021

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The Fundamentals of Printed Textile Design: proofing

Production update

I’ve been working on The Fundamentals of Printed Textile Design proofing. Until now, the text and the images had been two separate things, so it’s been really good to see the layouts for the first time. In particular, I’m bowled over by how great the work of all the contributors looks.

The process started way back in May 2018, when Bloomsbury asked me if I’d do a second edition of the book, which was first published in 2011. The new version is out on 7 October 2021.

Colourway of pattern and print design Poppies from "The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design" by Alex Russell
Poppies (colourway) from Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design
Pattern and print design from the Lambic Chapeau collection for "The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design" by Alex Russell
Lambic Chapeau design from Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design

Rewrite

A lot has altered in the world of printed textiles and surface pattern since 2011. The digital landscape has changed a lot, with technologies like print-on-demand offering all sorts of exciting new possibilities for designers.

At the same time, social media has become central to how designers communicate and promote their work. Furthermore, there is an increasing interest in craft-based practice. In order to reflect these changes, the new edition is a complete rewrite. In addition, almost all the images are new.

This is me attempting to subtly tell you it’s worth buying the second edition even if you’ve already got the first… which is still available.

Audience focus

The book is aimed at degree-level students, although it will be of interest to anyone who wants to learn about printed textiles and surface pattern design.

My experience as a lecturer taught me that students can sometimes be slightly daunted by the work of experienced designers. With this in mind, I wanted to include plenty of work from students, alongside the well-established practitioners. It’s a testament to the work of these graduating students that their designs sit so well alongside their more experienced peers. This is something I’ve noticed repeatedly during The Fundamentals of Printed Textile Design proofing process.

In general, the new edition is a guide to contemporary practice, with a particular emphasis on the contexts of practice, encouraging the designers of the world to talk to the world are them in order to be able to best design for it.

If you want to find out more about my writing, bob over here.

Update: I’ve written a longer article about the writing process on LinkedIn.

Colourway of pattern and print design GenCollage from "The Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design" by Alex Russell
GenCollage (colourway) from Fundamentals Of Printed Textile Design

Posted by Alex Russell on 01 April 2021

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A Scheme Not Of This World: the first batch of prints

Unique giclée prints

The very first set of A Scheme Not Of This World prints are back from the printers. Following a very careful colour-proofing process, twelve giclée prints are now available in the shop. Each print is a one-off, created with a unique run of code. References from the code form part of the title, printed subtly on the bottom left side. Once I get the prints, I sign each one by hand (only slightly nervously) on the bottom right side.

All the prints are archive quality. In the first place, they are professionally gicleé printed in the UK using Canon imagePROGRAF printers and archival 12 colour LUCIA ink. In addition, the paper is acid-free Hahnemühle 310gsm Photo Rag. Finally, they are packed in an acid-free cellophane bag (within further environmentally-responsible cardboard packaging).

ApeiroPattern generative art print A Scheme Not Of This World 201130 002 by Alex Russell (section of giclée print)
A Scheme Not Of This World 201130 002 Print
ApeiroPattern generative art print A Scheme Not Of This World 201130 003 by Alex Russell (section of giclée print)
A Scheme Not Of This World 201130 003 Print

Print sizes

To begin with, A Scheme Not Of This World prints are available in three different sizes. Firstly, as roughly 36 cm square prints on A2 paper (42 x 59.4 cm). Secondly, at about 25 cm square prints of A3 paper (29.7 x 42 cm). Thirdly, as approximately 16 cm square prints on A4 paper (21 x 29.7 cm). The exact dimensions of the prints vary with each unique run of code.

If you would like a different size, please get in touch. I can adjust the code to create images of any size. Similarly, if you’d like to commission a print on a surfaces or substrates other than paper, do contact me.

One-off generative art

Every time I run the code, a unique artwork is created. The code assembles the output from a library of hand-made images. It does this using pattern-making and compositional rules from a range of different art and design practices. There are an almost-infinite number of possible outcomes.

You can read more about A Scheme Not Of This World here, and the ApeiroPattern system as a whole here.

ApeiroPattern generative art print A Scheme Not Of This World 201129 006 by Alex Russell (section of giclée print)
A Scheme Not Of This World 201129 006 Print

Posted by Alex Russell on 01 March 2021

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Genuary 2021 part 3: days 23 to 31

Days 23 to 27

The last few days of Genuary 2021… Following a day building on earlier and the another trying trying something new, I began work on an idea that I’d been sitting on for a while. Overall, I wanted to create generative art that explored ideas about the relationship between the future and the past. In particular, I’m interested in blurring this boundary. The music of Boards of Canada and the writings of Mark Fisher are big inspirations here.

For the most part, the image library is much more photographic now. I’ve played with the colours of the photos to make them look like memories. (Or rather, how photos can look like memories.)

Prompts:
#264653 #2a9d8f #e9c46a #f4a261 #e76f51, no gradients. 500 lines. Make a grid of all the permutations of something. 2D perspective. Gradients without lines.

ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 27 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 27 Run 02
ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 30 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 30 Run 02

Days 28 to 30

Having made photos look old, I subsequently wanted to make them look like something from the future. To do this, I used data-bending. Audacity (a fantastic, free sound editor) allows any sort of data to be edited as if it was sound. For instance, elements of the images in the output shown here (from day 30) have had reverb and echo effects applied to them.

Prompts:
Use sound. Any shape, none can touch. Replicate a natural concept (for example: gravity, flocking, path following).

Day 31

I’m a big fan of Oblique Strategies, which meant today’s prompt was a real bonus for the last day. In addition, the code developed the Droste effect that I’d started with on Day 30. This, coupled with “towards the insignificant” (the card I got from the Oblique Strategies), gives Day 31’s outcome (shown here)

A side effect of code is that the colour veers towards just blue and cream. Furthermore (and equally unintentionally), this gives a chrome effect that looks vaguely like a vision of the future from the past.

Prompt:
One of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s “Oblique Strategies”.

For more examples of my Genuary outputs, as well as a day-by-day account of what I did, head over to the Genuary 2021 portfolio. I’ve also written a longer piece on LinkedIn about the positive effect Genuary had on my practice.

ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 31 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 31 Run 02

Posted by Alex Russell on 01 February 2021

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Genuary 2021 part 2: days 12 to 22

Days 12 to 16

Another set of runs where each day’s code was added to the previous days programme. During this chunk of Genuary 2021, I added a few new ideas.

Firstly, I’d wanted to experiment with using colour palettes created generatively. The system began by using musical data to define the colours. It then evolved into a method of using the colour theory of triads.

Secondly, I made repeatable patterns. Generally, my generative art actively avoids getting designs to repeat, but I wanted to try making some ones that were tile-able. The design here (from Day 16) is a block repeat.

Finally, I wanted to play with the illusion of depth by blurring different layers. The goal here was to attempt to recreate a photographic depth-of-field effect.

Prompts:
Use an API. Do not repeat. Subdivision. Let someone else decide the general rules of your piece. Circles only.

ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 16 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 16 Run 02
ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 19 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 19 Run 02

Days 17 to 19

The next few days coding tested out a couple of things I’d wanted to try for a while. To begin with, three dimensional cellular automata. I’ve used a lot of 2D CAs before, but was looking for an excuse to take them a bit further.

Secondly, I wanted to work with imagery that had a definite retro feel. In this case, I was after a mid-century modern feel. In particular, inspiration came from the wonderful design work of Lucienne Day.

Prompts:
Draw a line, pick a new colour, move a bit. One process grows, another process prunes. Increase the randomness along the y-axis.

Days 20 to 22

Further development of the MidMod (mid-century modern) idea. In addition, the generative systems over these three days starts to use recursive functions. This was probably the hardest patch of the month for me, coding-wise. I’m still not completely sure how one bit of it works…

The outputs also show further refinement of the colour palette development from days 12 to 16 above.

Prompts:
No loops. A recursive function involving 1/4, 2/4 and 3/4 of x. Draw a line; wrong answers only.

For more examples of my Genuary outputs, as well as a day-by-day account of what I did, head over to the Genuary 2021 portfolio.

ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 22 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 22 Run 02

Posted by Alex Russell on 22 January 2021

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Genuary 2021 part 1: days 1 to 11

Days 1 to 6

Genuary 2021 is an online challenge, where coders “build code that makes beautiful things“. To start, I worked on some ideas for a new ApeiroPattern collection, currently called AfterZahn. I drew almost everything with pencil, although there are some painted and collaged sections as well.

Generally, colour features prominently in my work. This is a fairly unusual foray into greyscale. I’m keen for the outputs to look hand-drawn, so keeping everything black and white helps the artwork retain the qualities of the pencil. By and large, making generative art that doesn’t look generative is an ongoing interest.

For the first six days of Genuary 2021, I added each day’s code to the previous days. Consequently, Day 6 (shown here) combines Days 1 to 6.

Prompts:
Triple Nested Loop. Steven Wolfram’s Rule 30 elementary cellular automata. Make something human. Small areas of symmetry. Do some code golf. Triangle subdivision.

ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 06 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 06 Run 02
ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 10 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 10 Run 02

Days 7 to 10

Day 7 began a new combination of code than ran until day 10 (shown here). This time, I began with some drawn and collaged work, made in a sketchbook. This brings a bit of colour in for the first time. Then, I made some dragon curves out of paper and photographed them. Code overlays these elements over the collages. Following this, pencil-drawn lines are arranged over the top. Finally, I applied shaded pencil trees to the last layer.

Prompts:
Generate some rules, then follow them by hand on paper. Curve only. Interference patterns. Tree.

Day 11

I recreated the very first generative artwork I made (I think). First, I randomly dropped a black circle, square and triangle onto white paper. Then I dropped right-angle of white paper, before placing a second right-angle to create frame. Finally, the photograph is digitally edited to just black and white.

Prompt:
Use something other than a computer as an autonomous process (or use a non-computer random source).

For more examples of my Genuary outputs, as well as a day-by-day account of what I did, head over to the Genuary 2021 portfolio.

ApeiroPattern generative art Genuary 2021 Day 11 Run 02 by Alex Russell (full image)
Genuary 2021 Day 11 Run 02

Posted by Alex Russell on 13 January 2021