The last interviews were conducted less than two weeks ago, but the film’s still ready for public consumption: tomorrow evening the National Geographic Museum hosts the premiere of Contemporary Days: Robin and Lucienne Day Design the UK. The film documents power couple Robin and Lucienne Day, the foremost Mid-Century modern designers in Britain. The screening also coincides with the Textile Museum’s new exhibit Art by the Yard: Women Design Mid-Century Britain.
Along with his wife Jill A. Wiltse, H. Kirk Brown III served as executive producer on Contemporary Days. The Denver-based couple are the founders of Design Onscreen, an organization devoted to creating documentaries on architecture and design. The exhibit at the Textile Museum is also drawn from the couple’s personal collection.
Brown described the beginnings of their British Mid-Century modern textile collection as “haphazzard. There wasn’t a conscious effort to build a collection. At first we started collecting textiles we liked, irrespective of who they were by. Then we realized we were drawn to certain designers.”
Brown said that it made sense to focus their attentions on the Days’ work, given the continuing influence they’ve had on British design. “They were a catalyst for other designers,” he said. “In hindsight we were fortunate to have started our collection. I don’t think the Victoria & Albert Museum in London has nearly the scope of Lucienne’s textiles that we do.”
Considering their knowledge of Lucienne’s and Robin’s work, the textile and furniture designers were a natural fit when Brown and Wiltse were considering subjects for the Design Onscreen series. Another important factor in that decision was timing: When Brown and Wiltse decided to document the Days, in 2008, Lucienne was 92 and Robin was 94. “I don’t want to discount architects and designers who have died, but they’ll always be there to document,” said Brown. “We wanted to capture architects and designers that are still living, while we had the chance.”
Lucienne died January 30, after the bulk of the film had been produced. Due to her age and frailty, she declined to appear on screen, as did Robin, initially. However, after his wife’s death, Robin submitted to an interview for the film, as did the Days’ only daughter, Paula. This footage was shot less than two weeks ago. “The director [Murray Grigor] and cinematographer [Hamid Shams] have been working day and night for the last 10 days getting this film ready for tomorrow evening,” Brown said.
Contemporary Days: Robin and Lucienne Day Design the UK screens tomorrow, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. for one night only at the National Geographic Museum’s Grosvenor Auditorium, 1145 17th St. NW. $15.