Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard from a few people who’ve spotted a textile design that’s near-identical to my Herds design in concept, layout and colourway. I’ve been in touch with the designer – also South African – who refuses to acknowledge the uncanny similarity in concept, layout and choice of colour, and claims utter originality, so I’m leaving it at that.
This post is not to fling accusations about, nor will I name names, because bleating is just not my style (not in public, anyway!), but I would like to tell you the story of how my Herds design came about.
About 10 years ago, I worked on a series of reading books, co-writing and illustrating them with Maggie Slingsby and Barbara Coombe in an intense and timeconsuming development process that saw us going away for long weekends together. Maggie’s husband Pete Slingsby is most famous for his maps of the Drakensberg and the Table Mountain range (and others), but he is also a respected amateur rock art expert. Our writing team would drive up to Travellers Rest in the Cedarberg, where we’d punctuate our long writing sessions with walks along the Sevilla Rock Art Trail, guided by Pete, who opened my eyes to the astonishing beauty and delicacy of the generations-old rock art heritage in South Africa.
I was just starting to get interested in screenprinting fabric at the time, and was trying to learn how to create a textile design. Pete very kindly lent me the flat-colour jpgs that he had made of the cave paintings, which I turned into vectors and used the motifs to make my first ever patterns.
I made up screens and printed a couple of one-off bags and pillows that I gave to friends and sold in my Etsy shop…
… and then I started producing the designs as a collection of screenprinted tea towels, then as upholstery fabrics too. I called the collection Sevilla Rock.
Colts and Colt Circles (now discontinued) both use a motif that Pete says may be a depiction of a young zebra foal, stumbling to its feet for the first time.
I got Pete to name all the designs, and also covered one of his lounge chairs in his choice of print, as a thank you for allowing me to use his records. He named this print Mongoose, which I am not sure was perfectly accurate, but heck, these drawings are thousands of years old! Who knows the real answers?
Duikers (above) and Herds (below) are the only two prints from the Sevilla Rock collection still in production. They started out as cushions and tea towels, but these days, we only have them as running metres, not as tea towels.
Sevilla Rock got me selected as an Emerging Creative with Design Indaba (in 2011?), and these designs were reproduced on flags that were flying all over the city in the weeks leading up to Design Indaba. I cannot find a picture of it, but that was quite a thrill. I also used the Colts in a fun collaboration with Satsuma Press and Pigeon Toe Ceramics in 2011 that we called Cloth Paper Clay, and exhibited at West Elm in Portland, Oregan. Read more about that here.
So there it is! The history of Sevilla Rock is lengthier and more rich than I’d even remembered before I’d started telling this story.
I love it that I started writing this blog post to try to put a lid on my frustration with recent events, but I’ve ended up with the realisation that the story, relationships and connections that these designs contain are SO rich and SO important to my sense of who I am, and that’s the true value of an original design! No copycat version is every going to share that part.