Designers Guild (212-967-4540, designersguild.com) reaches back more than a century for design inspiration, with several elements in its latest collections influenced by the travels, writing and photography of the remarkable Isabella Bird. Born in Yorkshire, U.K., on Oct. 15, 1831, Bird became an avid reader and published a pamphlet on “Free Trade Versus Protectionism” at age 16.
To alleviate health issues, as an adult Bird was urged by doctors to take a sea voyage. Thus began her life of travel, sailing to the U.S. in 1854 to stay with relatives, which led to her first book, An Englishwoman In America, published in 1856. More trips followed: Australia, Hawaii, a trek through the Rocky Mountains that yielded her most famous book, A Lady’s Life In The Rocky Mountains, then Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.
She married Dr. John Bishop in 1881, who died five years later, leaving her a significant inheritance. Bird opted to study medicine and resolved to travel as a missionary. She set off for India in 1889, then Tibet, Persia, Kurdistan and Turkey. She co-founded the John Bishop Memorial Hospital in Srinagar, then explored Baghdad and Tehran.
Authoring more than ten works of travel literature and numerous articles, Bird became the first female Honorary Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, the first woman allowed to join the
Royal Geographical Society and an elected member of the Royal Photography Society. Bird’s full life came to an end in October 1904.
Designers Guild’s color-saturated designs echo motifs and nature elements found in some of the exotic places Isabella Bird visited. Shown are Indian Sunflower (top) digitally printed bedding in 100 percent linen, and Manchu Alchemilla (above left) and Jaipur Rose (above right) decorative pillows.