Back in September last year, a friend of mine tagged me on instagram in the Liberty Open Call post - Liberty London were looking for fabric design entries to win being printed on their luxurious Tana Lawn Cotton, stocked in the world famous store and ultimately be immortalised in the Liberty Fabric archives. Although I knew I HAD to enter, I never dreamed I'd be chosen as one of 12 finalists from 5k entries, let alone be 1 of 4 winners! Here's a little bit about my journey with the competition, process and outcomes...

Palace Gardens - Catherine Rowe

I created a design exclusively for the competition, which I named 'Palace Gardens'. My initial idea was to create something exotic, as I knew a huge part of Liberty's beginnings was Arthur Liberty himself bringing back luxurious items from all around the world. However I decided to produce something that focused more on the British heritage of the store - an ode to the arts & crafts movement which has remained popular on fabrics and products throughout Liberty to this day, and has been a huge part of my personal development as an artist.

The idea behind the design is to be looking through the window of a gorgeous palace in England, Staffordshire pottery figurines on the sill. The window looks out onto the glorious palace gardens on a hazy Summer's day, abundant with florals, foliage and fruit. Birds & butterflies also feature, as well as the golden key to the Palace Garden gates. 

I submitted the design via my Instagram mid October, using the #libertyopencall hash tag which was required to be counted as an entry.

At the beginning of November, I received this comment from Liberty on my entry - there are little words that can describe the surge of excitement that went through me!! I had been sent a message to clarify a few details about my design. The message was in no way in an indication of whether I was a finalist or not yet, so I was still on my toes...

It wasn't until about 2 weeks later that I learnt I was one of 12 finalists. Such a great feeling! I could see who I was up against on the public vote page - 12 other amazing artist's designs. 

Some of the other incredible entries to the Liberty Open Call

It wasn't until the middle of December when I received a phone call letting me know I was 1 of 4 winners. It was the most elating feeling - I truly couldn't believe it. I entered the competition with the attitude that winning would be like winning the lottery! 

And so the journey of being a WINNER had just begun... 

All of us 4 winners were invited to the Liberty headquarters to meet and discuss the next stages in creating our designs into iconic Liberty fabrics. We then went on to start developing our designs to be fit for print with the amazing Liberty Design Studio!

In the Design Studio at Liberty

During our time 'backstage' at Liberty we had access to some of the amazing archives - we saw beautiful fabrics dating back decades, as well as the part of the archive our designs would be stored - alongside Grayson Perry's designs!

The archive has over 50,000 designs dating back to early 18th century. Many of Liberty's fabrics were traditionally printed using wood blocks.

Grayson Perry's designs for Liberty Fabric in the past.

The next step for us was visiting Liberty's fabric mill in Italy, which was an incredible opportunity and experience. A bit of a whirlwind going in a day and back...! But fantastic to see samples of our fabric in the flesh! We inspected each of the designs with members of the design team and print technicians on the site. 

In the Olonia Fabric Mill inspecting strike-offs of my fabric 

We also had an incredible tour of the factory - the care and attention to detail that goes into printing the fabrics was something to behold.

Soon after our visit, Liberty's head buyer selected the final colour ways to be put into print, ready for the in-store launch on 8th May (the day before my birthday, best present ever!).

It was wonderful to see the fabric being launched to the world as the store opened - highlights were meeting the CEO of Liberty and chatting to customers who were shopping our fabric. 

My Design in Tana Lawn Cotton on the Shelves and me with the other Liberty Open Call Winners on the Launch Day


All 3 colour ways of the winning design and a 'complimentary' design in silk featuring just the florals, fruit and foliage ('Berry Garden')

Proud with my winning design!

Being a part of the Open Call has been the most incredible experience - it didn't really sink in until I saw the fabric on the shelves! 

I'm having a kimono made from the blue colour way of my design - this will be something fairly timeless I can keep forever!

I'm keeping an eye out for projects made with those purchasing my fabric - I can't wait to see what people will make. 

There has been a wonderful reaction to my work being announced as a winner for Liberty's Open Call. Exciting projects are currently underway with interior design companies, Men's formal wear and more... Watch this space!

You can shop my fabric and the other winning designs here!