Watkins Glen Frieze

Posted on | January 12, 2009 | No Comments

One of our earliest attempts at the reproduction of an elaborate Victorian frieze was a pattern we named “Watkins Glen”. The dynamic design and coloring of this frieze was the work of Dr. Christopher Dresser and came directly from the chromolithographed frontispiece of his 1873 book “Principles of Decorative Design”. The book was originally a bound compilation of articles Dresser had written for Cassell’s The Technical Educator, a periodical that covered a wide range of practical matters related to science, industry and design.

Dresser’s relevance to 19th and even 20th century industrial design is still being measured, but certainly he was one of the most innovative and unique designers the Victorian age had produced.

Originally untitled, the name “Watkins Glen” was actually an appreciative tribute to John & Judy Freeman, (who resided in that small New York village at the time). They had generously gifted a rare and fragile 19th century copy of “Principles of Decorative Design” to a young Bruce Bradbury when he was just getting our company established in the late 1970′s. 

I remember assisting in the first test printing of this pattern in 1982, and even under the old factory lights, (being late at night) it was incredible to watch. It started with the “midnight blue” background and then came the additions of the salmon colored “wings” followed by the turquoise and metallics. And then, the final framing of its dark outline went down… and I recall Bruce interrupting his printing for a minute, being taken aback at how spectacular a design it was! Maybe it was the caffeine from the Mountain Dew, but for me it was one of those thrilling moments in an artist’s life when you see something synthesize so poetically in front of you.

It’s still exciting for me to see it printed today…


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