Ray Stitch: Focus on Charley Harper

Birch Fabrics have recently released the fourth collection of Charley Harper prints, entitled 'Western Birds', and we are really excited to be stocking the full collection of these gorgeous fabrics. The range includes woven canvas and quilting cotton so is ideal for soft furnishings as well as garments - we love the bold prints for a simple short sleeved top.


Ray Stitch Western Birds


We know how popular Charley Harper's designs are with our customers, and this range has been highly anticipated. But how are these original mid-century designs being turned into new collections today?

Charley Harper, born in 1922, was a Cincinnati-based Modernist artist, specialising in wildlife and plants; something he attributed to growing up on a farm. His distinctive style is described as Minimal Realism, and he strove to capture the essence of his subject in the most simple way possible. He is quoted as saying "I don't see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, colour combinations, patterns, textures..."


Biology Book


During his career, Harper illustrated many publications, including the Ford Times magazines, posters for zoological societies and many biology books which were used in schools - even the text books were super stylish in the 1950s! A young Todd Oldham grew up with these illustrations but it wasn't until he rediscovered a vintage magazine in 2001 that he came to know the artist behind his childhood memories. Oldham contacted Harper and a great friendship and working partnership developed, which lasted until Charley died in 2007.




Todd Oldham worked with Charley Harper to produce two books of his collected works, 'An Illustrated Life' and 'Animal Kingdom', and in doing so digitised his entire back catalogue. This endeavour was to become a key factor in the production of the fabric ranges. After Charley Harper passed away in 2007, Todd Oldham Studios held the licenses and copyrights, but Oldham said he felt very protective over the work and wanted to ensure the quality of the designs was upheld.

Illustrated Life

Other companies had been keen to produce a fabric line, but it wasn't until Birch Organic Fabrics approached Todd Oldham Studios to inquire about working together, that they agreed to collaborate. Oldham felt the organic brand was a natural fit for the ecological ethos of Harper. The designers at Birch work closely with Todd Oldham to respectfully turn the now digital art of Harper into repeated patterns using PhotoShop, with quilters and garment makers in mind. The first range 'Debut' was released in 2013 featuring the now iconic ladybirds, and 'Nurture' and 'Maritime' followed in 2015 and 2016. Birch Fabrics has produced the collections in a range of fabrics including poplins, double gauze, knits, cotton and canvas so there will be the right fabric for your project.


charley harper collections


The popularity of Harper's mid-century Modernist style seems to be ever-growing in popularity, and the desire of Todd Oldham Studios to make them into 'heirloom' items fits in perfectly with the Ray Stitch belief of making with meaning and make it last. Luckily, Charley Harper was such a prolific artist we can expect many more collections from Birch Organic Fabrics to come.

You can find the new Western Birds range at Ray Stitch online, or pop in to see us and the fabric in real life!


charley_westernbirds_spottedtowhee copy