GP & J BAKER

With an in­cred­i­ble ar­chive and a fas­ci­nat­ing fam­ily his­tory, Bri­tish fab­ric brand GP & J Baker makes her­itage de­signs to love for­ever

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‘The GP & J Baker ar­chive is a great com­men­tary on in­te­rior de­sign through the late 1800s to the 1900s’

The GP & J Baker story is one that spans con­ti­nents and cen­turies, and cen­tres around an ex­tra­or­di­nary fam­ily. George Baker, a pas­sion­ate hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist, trav­elled to Is­tan­bul (then Con­stantino­ple) from Lon­don to de­sign the gar­dens for the Bri­tish Em­bassy in 1847. A nat­u­ral en­tre­pre­neur, Baker be­gan im­port­ing Bel­gian linen – a favourite among the ladies at the em­bassy – and at the same time, started to ex­port the hand­made tex­tiles pro­duced in the nearby Turk­ish vil­lages. Baker mar­ried and fa­thered nine chil­dren – two of whom were George Per­ci­val and James, who de­vel­oped their own love of flow­ers, na­ture and ex­otic fab­rics.

In 1874, aged 18, George Per­ci­val (right) was sent to Lon­don to man­age the Bri­tish side of his fa­ther’s busi­ness, and James fol­lowed him shortly af­ter­wards. The broth­ers bought a print works in Kent, which came with the added bonus of a col­lec­tion of English printed tex­tiles dat­ing back to 1750 – a key ad­di­tion to the fam­ily’s ever-grow­ing ar­chive. In 1893, the brand be­gan de­sign­ing its own prints. ‘GP Baker was a lead­ing light in the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety in the 1920s and 30s, and so our ar­chive has a lot of flora, fauna and beau­ti­ful bird de­signs,’ says Ann Grafton, cre­ative and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the brand to­day.

The ar­chive cur­rently con­tains around 3,000 pieces from 1560 and on­wards – as well as two Peru­vian tex­tiles that date back to around 100BC! An eclec­tic mix, it in­cludes Chi­nese wall­pa­pers, Ital­ian vel­vets, In­done­sian batiks and very early English toiles, re­flect­ing in­dus­trial print­ing from its ori­gins to the present day. ‘ We have a record of ev­ery­thing we’ve printed through the years, so the ar­chive is a great com­men­tary on in­te­rior de­sign through the late 1800s to the 1900s,’ ex­plains Grafton.

The col­lec­tion makes for as­tound­ing view­ing. It’s so alive with vi­brant colour that it’s a strug­gle to be­lieve the de­signs are of­ten hun­dreds of years old – up­date the aged pages and it could be a new pat­tern book from this sea­son. Care­fully pre­served in hun­dreds of enor­mous bound vol­umes, most of the fam­ily’s col­lec­tion is presided over by two ar­chiv­ists at the brand’s head­quar­ters in ➤

Back­ground pat­terns, from left ‘Hy­drangea Bird’ fab­ric from 1967 ( left) and 1931 (right). Be­low The orig­i­nal, hand-painted ver­sions of ‘Ex­otic Pheas­ant’ ( left) and ‘Hy­drangea Bird’ (right). See next page for the evo­lu­tion of ‘Hy­drangea Bird’

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