Textiles Inspiration: Florence Broadhurst

My favourite fabrics by Florence Broadhurst

Florence Broadhurst was an Australian textiles and wallpaper designer that focused on print and patterns. You will probably recognise her work, but perhaps you would not think it all to be done by one designer. The prints she created show both a delicate hand and a boldness in style and colour which has afforded her much admiration in later years.

Florence at her printing table and posing with a fan

Florence was born in Queensland Australia on the 28th July 1899. She was originally a singer and performer at the local eisteddfods which eventually afforded her a tour of South East Asia, India and China. in 1927, whilst in Shanghai Florence set up an academy for singers, dancers and musicians called the ‘Broadhurst Academy’. Around 1930 Florence traveled to the UK and married a stockbroker, and became a dress shop owner. The marriage lasted over 10 years. Florence then met and married a diesel engineer, they returned to Oz in 1949 with their son. By 1954 Florence had traveled Australia extensively and had produced over 100 landscape paintings which were exhibited in galleries in Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. At this time Florence also taught printmaking and sculpture at the National Art School. By 1959 Florence had established ‘Australian (Hand Printed) Wallpapers Pty Ltd.’, which later became ‘Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd’, which she advertised as “the only studio of its kind in the world”.

Bold patterns by Florence Broadhurst

It cannot be denied that Florence’s life was very interesting and varied, it is also impressive for a woman to have built such strong businesses in those times, she seemed to have been a real go-getter. I was pretty amazed when I understood the progression she and her print technicians had made in her printing business; they designed a drying rack which resulted in quicker and larger quantity production, developed a washable vinyl coating finish and worked out how to print onto metallic finishes. The reason I love Florence’s work so much is the variety and the boldness of her patterns. You can see elements of her life’s travels in her designs; the Asian influence, florals inspired by British design and bold, bright colours and themes taken form her Australian roots. Perhaps the many different paths she led inspired her vibrant and various works of art?

Unfolding Florence: The many Lives of Florence Broadhurst, a movie by Gillian Armstrong

In writing this post I have discovered that there is a movie about her life that was made back in 2006 called ‘Unfolding Florence: The many Lives of Florence Broadhurst‘. It also looks into her horrible murder at the age of 78.

You can visit a collection of Florence’s work at Signature Prints in Australia. They own her entire collection and are releasing new prints every year which is so exciting, especially as she is recorded to have designed between 600-800 patterns!