Noel Lyons Biography

Australian Museum of Design Noel Lyons
“Australians decorate for a perpetual summer, and do not favour sombre colours”
Noel Lyons
Australian Museum of Design Noel Lyons Hydrangea

Noel Lyons (1936-1995) was an Australian textile and wall coverings designer.

At school Noel sketched – his art teacher suggested he become an artist, thereby laying the early foundations for his future career path.

Noel’s interest in the world began with a trip to Canada in 1956. Upon his return he accepted a design / sales position with Bebarfields – at that time a strong retailer in furnishing and apparel. Moving next to a position with AE Hoad, Noel continually furthered his interests in design and began to lean toward designing for the furnishings market.

Away, overseas again, Noel resided in London for 18 months – first accepting a position with designer John Siddeley and then on to Harrods. These experiences certainly increased his interest in the world of design, and he decided that his next move needed to be to design his own range of furnishing textiles.

Upon returning to Australia in the late 60’s he immediately enrolled in a silk-screen printing course at East Sydney Tech. His desire to learn and perfect the art was such that he even set up a printing table in his home where he could further explore and experiment.

By 1970 he had joined the Society of Interior Designers of Australia and had set up his own print studio in an old dance hall in Ashfield. From here he produced pattern books of his hand screen-printed designs for both wallpapers and fabrics that were sent to interior designers and decorators across the country.

Noel did not create a design studio and employ students and artists – he drew each and every design himself. Whilst he was involved in the whole process from design through to printing, his love and passion stayed very much in the creation of new designs.

He produced patterns that he would want for himself – taking direct inspiration from the flora found in many Aussie backyards, including his own. One of his earliest designs, created c.1970, was the iconic Strelitzia – with its stylised yet instantly recognisable floral motifs and distinctive double trellis, it quickly become one of his most popular designs for both wallpapers and furnishing textiles.

In the late 70’s he moved his studio to Waterloo and contracted out his printing – Signature Handprints, then based in Hornsby Heights was his chosen print company. There, Noel worked with owner and fellow designer Donald Bruce Clark to take his designs from a raw state and on to wooden silk screens in readiness for printing on both wallpaper and textiles. Over time these quite separate skills flourished and the offerings became both prolific and diverse, including the introduction of more multi-coloured designs into Noel’s repertoire.

Noel believed that “Australians decorate for a perpetual summer, and do not favour sombre colours”, so his colour palettes were fresh and bright, giving life to the local flora that featured so prevalently in his work. He avoided newly developing polyester textiles in favour of cottons and natural fibres, which would carry his designs in a more ‘natural’ way – many metres of natural calico were printed at Signature Handprints over the years and sold throughout Australia.

Unfortunately the majority of Noel’s design archive was destroyed in a fire in his Waterloo studio in the 1980’s. Approximately 35 of these designs survived, having been stored off-site by Signature Handprints (now Signature Prints) – today these are all that remain of this designer’s iconic work.

Noel Lyons leaves behind a legacy of quite unique Australian designs. The Australian Museum of Design is proud to now be able to help bring past, hand drawn perfection to a new and vigorous international marketplace.