Timeline of development for GP & J Baker:
Initially interested in the carpet industry, brothers George Percival and James Baker, were working to import Persian, Turkish and Turkoman carpets. These were then re-exported to Paris and the US. As the company gradually progressed to textile production, George Percival’s respect for Oriental Art influenced many of GP & J Baker’s early printed designs – many of which were copied from their imported embroideries and carpet patterns.
9 years after their establishment, GP & J Baker were employing some of the leading Arts and Crafts designers of that time, meanwhile they also had an in-house studio led by W.J. Thomas where the development of designs from their extensive archive began.
Having many of GP & J Baker designs been in production for 50-100 years, each design re-issue adds another layer of history to their considerable charm. More recently, some designs have been translated into woven fabrics, embroideries and even wallpapers. One such design is ‘Pumpkins’ – originally created as ‘Aspidistra’ for a block printed tablecover by C.F.A Voysey, around 1895. Later in 1898 the design was woven as a muslin by Alexander Morton & Co, already been printed as a cotton velveteen. Primitively printed in 8 blocks, 1902 saw an extra block added when it was re-christened ‘Pumpkins’.
Keen to build the business, George Percival constantly added to the archive, even making a sizeable purchase of over 400 antique block prints from Holzach studio in Paris. The company saw many of its most popular designs printed in the early 1900’s with naturalistic drawn English garden flowers becoming a part of GP & J Baker’s eternal style. George Percival Baker’s passion for horticulture not only prevailed in the company’s designs, his enthusiasm led the Baker brother to become a well known figure within the Royal Horticulture Society.
First produced in 1915, this pattern – ‘Imperial Pheasant’ – is a design from Sidney G Mawson for a GP & J Baker hand-block print, originally requiring 72 blocks to print. Known for his dense compositions of naturalistic flowers in bright colours, Mason was an important Arts & Crafts designer at the time. For this pattern, the Arts & Crafts designer selected birds and flowers in order o portray contrasting aspects of love and nature. High demand for ‘Imperial Pheasant’ eventually led to a total eight different colourways being developed.
By this time, George Percival had collected approximately an impressive 250 rare Indian printed cottons.
GP & J Baker’s iconic ‘Ferns Design’ was purchased from Joseph M Doran for 12 Guineas in the January of 1935. Based on published botanical drawings recording plants growing within a ten mile radius of London, the famous ‘Ferns’ pattern started as a simple drawing itself. Following this, GP & J Baker first produced the design as a chintz, since it has been in production in many other forms.
The design ‘Alsace’, which was adapted from a block printed delaine in the 1840’s archive, reached production in 1959. This beautiful pattern was then printed in 13 colours using 54 blocks – this was the next to last design produced using hand-block printing due to the high expense of the technique.
Screen printed version of the ‘Alsace’ design was introduced to make the design more accessible. The 1960’s and 70’s saw many designs being recreated as screen prints as this became the more popular technique.
GP & J Baker was honoured to become the proud holder of Her Majesty The Queen’s Royal Warrant in recognition of the supply of GP & J Baker fabrics and wallcoverings to the Royal household.
GP & J Baker continue to work with artisans to produce hand block prints. It also holds the largest and most comprehensive showroom in the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre. The company also has an impressive second showroom in ” Design Street ” of Paris, Rue de Mail. Continuing to grow it’s reputation as one of the world’s innovators of fabric design and colour, GP & J Baker are developing their own traditional style and unique ‘handwriting’. Due to the status as holder of the Royal Warrant, GP & J Baker fabrics maintain their place in Royal residences throughout the UK.
See GP & J Baker’s facebook page for more history, or keep an eye out for our next blog post!