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Friday’s Library Snapshot … Margaret Calkin James

July 20, 2012

I came across this book one day last week while helping a colleague who was weeding a few art books.  Amongst the some rather dull and badly bound books, this caught my eye.

At the sign of a rainbow: Margaret Calkin James 1895-1985 by Betty Miles.

Margaret Calkin James was a calligrapher, graphic designer, textile printer, watercolour painter and printmaker, and is best known for her posters designed for the London Underground and London Transport between 1928 and 1935. Untold numbers of commuters admired her posters while oblivious of her identity.

The cover is a detail from the sign for her Rainbow Workshops, Great Russell Street, London 1920.

By 1935 the GPO had established a standard range of coloured telephones: Chinese red, ivory, jade green and black. Calkin James designed a poster to urge the public to ‘consider your colour scheme’

A London Underground poster for Chelsea Flower Show 1935.

Calkin James designed the first pattern paper the Curwen Press in 1922. It was a tiny overall geometric pattern in clear bright colours and reprinted many times.  Vague technical notes on the colours used to print these decorative colours.  So when ‘humans’ mixed the ink the results may have varied.  But this it seemed added to the attraction and  many more commissions in abstract and floral followed.

This example is the actual size.

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