For Autumn Winter 17, the Jigsaw design team created pieces inspired by the original artworks of British snow artist Simon Beck. From printed blue silk to snow flocked tulle, bold statement designs to cashmere jacquard snowflakes. We talked to him about porridge breakfasts, the beauty of geometry and the burgeoning effects of Brexit.
“I call it geometry more than art, really. I loved geometrical designs as a kid. I used to make polyhedrons out of cardboard,” says Beck, currently holed up in his parents’ house in Somerset, where he’s recently branched out into sand drawings on the beach. “Really I’d like to be living in my ski apartment in the Alps. This country is so miserable. You can’t get anything done,” he adds dryly.
It’s a charming trait of his—a bitter realism that spills honestly and suddenly, whether he’s talking about his hobby, bell ringing—“You’re always restricted by what the members of your team can do”—or the inevitability of mistakes when working with snow as your medium—“It’s not a perfect world: they’re not perfect drawings.”
I’d beg to differ. Crafted by pacing in snow shoes, Beck’s intricate mathematical snow drawings take over 11 hours to create, cover around 25 miles of ground and result in breathtakingly perfect patterns which inspired the capsule ‘Snow Patterns’ collection for Autumn Winter 17. Our design team created an unexpectedly fresh colour palette with soft tulles, rich velvets and sharp satin. Textured cashmere and graphic silks. Ideal for party and gifting season.
Creating the drawings is incredibly physical work. Waking early to a big porridge breakfast before spending 2 hours carefully measuring the design; 4 hours drawing; 6 hours shading and embellishing; working well past nightfall with just a head torch as a guide.
“What one does is one becomes obsessed with weather forecasts,” he notes, “The most important thing is getting images of the finished result, so the day you make the drawing doesn’t have to be perfect. You just hope for a clear day after.”
And the French Alps provide the ideal conditions. “I love the mountains there,” Beck beams, “You almost always have a good day in France. Rain only really falls in the evenings. And there’s so much space. In Britain, you’re crammed into national parks and it’s boggy and it’s muggy and it’s going to start raining and there are kids and people everywhere.”
He’s got a point. I certainly can’t imagine creating much more than a vaguely brown snow angel in Britain’s February hills. Crisp, open, clean; living in France must be perfect for him. “Oh no. They’ve got a terrible bureaucratic system,” he laughs. “In fact, you can see why people wanted to get out of the EU. I was so shocked when I woke up to that news. I was so angry. But the grass is always greener on the other side, and that’s partly why people voted the way they did.”
We both get distracted by the topic, launching into a rant about Brexit and Europe and the state of Britain that has nothing—and everything—to do with art and fashion. After all, Beck’s creativity hinges on living and working between Britain and France where he can comfortably continue creating designs. Designs so stunning the Jigsaw design team made clothing to celebrate them. Clothing cut in beautiful fabrics sourced from Europe and beyond.
There’s the 12 pointed star—drawn on Lac Marlou on a particularly misty day when Beck couldn’t make out his distance points and grid of lines. A Mandelbrot set, not quite mathematically accurate owing to the space he had available, but done by pacing with his compass to create circles then filled with Sierpinski triangles and frilled edges.
They may only last a few hours—depending on the weather— yet Jigsaw’s renderings have a timeless allure. A minimal cashmere take on a Christmas snowflake jumper. A statement silk shirt. The perfect snow flocked tulle party dress. All somehow managing to capture the delicate femininity and elemental aesthetic of mountain snow.
“Each autumn, I sit watching the weather and as soon as the conditions seem good, I migrate back to France,” he tells me. And as he heads back for more drawing, porridge and avalanche dodging, we take our cue and launch ‘Snow Patterns’ for a little Alpine cool in muggy England. Consider it Beck’s parting Christmas gift.
Shop the pieces now.
By Josie Johnson