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Fabulous Florence - Signature Prints & Florence Broadhurst

13th September, 2010
Jenny Butler
Monday 13th September 2010

After reading ‘Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret And Extraordinary Lives’ a few years ago, I fell in love with Florence Broadhurst and the amazing work that Signature Prints have done to honour Florence's life and work in such a genuine way.  A huge THANK YOU to Helen Lennie for the amazing effort she has put into this weeks guest blog, it's going to be a fabulous week! - Jenny x

Left: Florence photographed in a painstakingly embroidered Manilla Shawl (Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney).  Right: Helen and David Lennie photographed by our friend Gary Heery.

Firstly a big ‘hello’ and thank you to Lucy and Jenny for the amazing opportunity to showcase the fabulous follies of Florence Broadhurst and Signature Prints!!  Over the past decade I have been asked a thousand questions about the extraordinary life of Florence Broadhurst and Signature Prints' role in re-releasing these iconic designs to an international audience. An underlying theme that is so often raised in many people’s minds is “how did someone so dynamic and ahead of her time, a design celebrity in her own day, come to be lost and almost forgotten? How did a design library of nearly 530 designs fall off the face of the earth?” During this week I will tell you the story of how these designs have come to life once again as part of one of Australia's biggest export success stories. Signature Prints is a born global brand, here’s to an over night success story, 12 years in the making!

Our company Signature Prints is a hand-printing company based in Sydney. We specialise in the design and printing of premium textiles, wallpaper and limited edition art. Here we pride ourselves on using traditional screen-printing techniques and contemporary colour in a market where we are so often used to seeing a mass produced sameness. We have created a range of products that excel in the current design market. Most notably, we are the proud custodians of the extraordinary Florence Broadhurst design library and we own the exclusive world-wide rights to print the unique artwork of this Australian icon.

Florence Broadhurst was a bright and eccentric character who we believe to be one of Australia’s national treasures. Broadhurst’s adult life began at the age of 19, the flamboyant and brave Broadhurst reincarnated herself as Bobby Broadhurst and left her home town in rural Queensland. Here she joined an eight strong cast of musicians, transvestites, singers and comedians on a 15 months tour of Asia.

Theatrical Florence pictured offstage in Bobby Broadhurst mode - 1920 India. (Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney)

Left: Florence with Globe Trotter pianist Wallingford Tate - 1925. (Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney) Right: A rare signed photograph of Bobby Broadhurst taken in Hong Kong.

In 1927, after sustaining a head injury in a car accident Broadhurst moved to England, here she married Percy Kann and reinvented herself once again. This time, as her French alter ego, Madame Pellier. By the 1930’s she had became an individual, feminine couturier creating an up market dress salon, a playground for the rich and flirtatious on London’s Bond Street.

Left: Florence Broadhurst on her wedding day to Percy Kann, on Friday 7th June 1929. Right: In 1933 Florence set up shop as Madame Pellier at 65 new Bond street, London.

Florence delighted in making a scene, her history and accent changed for each of the fictional characters she played. Her final incarnation before her death saw the very creative Florence run the world’s boldest and most exciting wallpaper studios of the 1960s and 70s. Her designs were works of art, hand-drawn, hand-screen printed with Warholian parallel in terms of repetition, colour sense and inclination to take advantage of mistakes in the registration of screens. The imagery she created was lush and ranged from exotic birds and florals to psychedelic and oriental patterns.

Left: The Paper Makers Australian Home Journal, 1968. Featuring Broadhurst’s chief assistant Cathy Asimus. Right: Broadhurst stands behind her desk in her wallpaper showroom at 12 - 24 Roylston Street, Paddington.

Florence revolutionised wallpaper, she abandoned the conventions of mass production and rapidly left behind traditional, conservative wallpapers. She herself called her prints ‘Vigorous designs for modern Living’. Here at Signature Prints we are reviving these fabulous designs once more, expanding Florence’s horizons, giving our fantastic collection of prints the recognition they deserve once again. We pride ourselves on promoting lovingly made, luxury Australian design and delivering it to the world!

Florence Broadhurst in her later years appearing for the press. On the left working from her easel and on the right working at light box. Even at this age Florence had amazing charisma, fantastic energy and a love of the lime light.

Unfortunately Florence’s life came to a tragic end when she was murdered in 1977.  As production stopped, Florence’s prints became a thing of the past. Time went on, tastes changed and her work was almost forgotten. This is where Signature Prints stepped in, we have reincarnated Florence Broadhurst for the last time, we believe that her work will continue to thrive in this unexpected revival.

We have been very lucky to have had the help of Helen O’Neill, who is the author of the lavishly illustrated, ‘Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret And Extraordinary Lives’. Without her, much of the information we know today would still be undiscovered. This book contains designs which have been unseen for decades. Helen O’Neill documents the world wide rediscovery of Florence Broadhurst as well as exciting tales and insights into the life of such a flamboyant and unique woman. This book is available for $59.99 online on our Signature Prints website.

Looking forward to sharing more tomorrow!

- Helen

Special thanks to the Powerhouse Museum for their continual involvement and support in preserving and promoting the legacy of Florence Broadhurst and other significant Australian designers.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email