One of the great freedoms of personal projects is that you can set the brief. These projects can often start with a purpose and once you get underway the idea takes a new direction through tangents and random opportunities. And if you’re lucky, you can be happy abut the unexpected turn that occurs. That’s what happened here.
I’ve been pretty interested in Camouflage for sometime, in all its forms. From the natural world of animals like the Cheetah to man made textiles designs for the purposes of war and concealment. Nature began using this mechanic almost as soon as one species could prey on another. The dynamic ability to hide at a moments notice in your surroundings for the purpose of defense or attack is universally impressive. There are few better examples than a Cephalopod:
Then when man got a hold of this idea we twisted it to become not only a way to disguise ourselves but also to identify ourselves to each other quite effectively because obviously friendly fire isn’t a ideal result. There are huge range of camouflage ideas, let alone patterns. From the 1960s British DPM to the Dazzle techniques used in WW2 to the US Marpat and many more. During WW2 troops researched and experimented with so many pattern versions that afterwards no one was actually able to determine which ones were successful!
Modern military camouflage attempts to not only disrupt human vision but also absorb near infrared and radar waves. And then in more recent times, this textile created for war became a streetwear and fashion textile (perhaps initiated by the New York rappers of the early 1990s). It remains one of the few ‘manly’ textiles acceptable for men to wear, perhaps alongside Scottish Tartan and Cowboy plaid. It’s a shame men’s fashion is so slow to adopt more varied textiles.
It should be pointed out that camouflage was originally designed by zoologists and artists and these days it’s a very precise science. I wanted to try and create a camouflage pattern that was for modern living, life in the city and not for war. I have none of the original camouflage creation skill sets or access to them, so rightly or wrongly I’m blundering around in the dark. Man has stolen or perhaps twisted the idea of camouflage and turned it into a tool of war and while this is shifting with examples like this Dazzle yacht by Jeff Koons I wanted to see if I could try something different.
Much of City life is visually simply tones of grey. Being somewhat permanently drunk on bright colors I thought I might have a stab at constructing a camouflage for somewhere that uses color more effectively and I got hooked on the idea of creating a Miami camouflage pattern.
What would it mean to be camouflaged in Miami?
Well, I thought about the things you would – Crockett & Tubbs, Art Deco, beach girls, golf and well dressed old people.
Then as I thought more about Miami and golf, I of course thought about Caddyshack because Caddyshack was in fact, filmed in Florida. So I got stuck on this and went down a rabbit hole of investigating golf courses. Golf Courses it turns out are quite beautiful. They are created to be great experiences at ground level but then at 5000 ft they become a whole other thing entirely. The physical space on the ground is designed to be as efficient as possible, as land simply isn’t cheap. But partially because of that, they visually seem to create a great sense of balance, which of course is great for textile patterns (and camouflage patterns).
The golf club in Caddyshack was called Bushwood and was actually Grand Oaks in Florida. This is the course below (left), as you can see I traced it loosely (in illustrator) and altered the color palate.
So now I had a pattern I could duplicate easily. It worked better when I stripped out the numbers (perhaps obviously) and the bushes. Also removing the outlines was easier on the eye for a textile design.
So by this point I had something ready to test as a fabric. I was pleased with the result but it wasn’t a proper camouflage, obviously. So I had failed entirely to create a camouflage but succeeded in creating a textile that I could experiment with.
And then I created some different colorways and this little gif to complete my version of homage to square, homage to Bushwood.
Here’s one of the colorways on a heavy cotton.
I’ll add more images in here as I get things developed using any of these patterns.
A designer from London has been in touch to work collaboratively on developing this project further, so this first stage will end here. More soon.
For more information on the history of camouflage or anything to do with the subject, this is easily the best book I have ever seen.
UPDATE: one year on...
It's been a year or so. It has always nagged at me that I didn't really create a camouflage pattern, which was always my intent. So i've revisited this project, for a second session.
Essentially I tweaked the colors slightly and then changed the repeat entirely disregarding the golf course itself and but maintaining the core shapes. This pattern is a much better repeat and a better camouflage style pattern.
Then I did a night version as well. And then threw this onto Print all over me.
So here is a sample that came back of the pure golf course pattern on my couch. I had one piece and crudely threw it all together. Very unsure about this. I'm going to sleep on it, to see what's wrong with it.
And then I knocked this up because it's stupid and I like stupid.
I had originally imagined a bigger print, larger shapes and numbers but it simply didn't come back like that. I might try and print again.
I'm pretty sure the reason I'm not liking it is the colors are simply too weak. Comparing the T shirt and the couch. They are worlds apart.