Archive for May, 2008
Back in the office, for the first time since getting home from NYC, and now I’m trying to get caught up. I have quite a few patterns to finish and post today. The shows, the city, the museums–all gave me plenty of fodder for new ideas. I was offline for a couple of days, which was kind of nice–I took notes, gathered ideas and made sketches, and now I’m organizing and expanding my sketches into post-able patterns.
These funny little shapes were loosely inspired by a Japanese stencil I saw at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum.
Here’s a picture of the Japanese stencil, plus a little info about it:
In use since the eighth century, kata-gami, or Japanese printing stencils, are laminated sheets of paper pasted together with a sticky resin made from persimmon juice. As the intricate designs are cut, the patterns are held in place with thin silk threads or even human hair. The stencil is then placed on a length of silk or fine cotton, and the color is pressed through onto the fabric. Many of the designs derive from nature, including water and wind currents, plant forms, animals, and birds.
Did you get that? These intricate little designs were cut into paper glued with persimmon juice, and they held the patterns in place with silk thread and human hair. THEN they printed on fabric by pressing the color through the stencil. Imagine showing today’s automated fabric printing techniques to the artist who made this stencil….
I drew my little swirly designs from what I remembered so maybe now that I’ve found the actual stencil reference I’ll try a design using more straight lines. The kata-gami was done in about 1780, but it looks modern.
We got back late late last night…the plane was delayed, so it was about 2 am Denver time before we got home, meaning it felt like 4 am to us. It was nice to be home even though I was exhausted. I peeked at the sleeping boys, who had all made us “welcome home” cards, and petted the cats. We saw precious few creatures while we were in NY–some birds, one black squirrel, a few dogs. Lots of babies, though.
This pattern was inspired by some of the tiny calico prints that were featured in the Cooper’s sample exhibit. There were beautiful little Japanese prints done for kimono fabric. I believe they were produced using indigo dye and a rice paste resist. The actual prints were much smaller than what I’ve done here, but if they get too small on the computer screen they disappear.
Another thing I learned from the sample show is that calico fabric originated in India. The informational blurb at the museum said the fabric was from Calcutta, but I’ve since discovered that it’s from the city of Calicut. (Oops, Cooper-Hewitt). Indian pattern designers typically used motifs from nature, of trees, flowers, birds, etc. Then the Europeans started making calico fabric with motifs based on the traditional Indian motifs. I’ve always associated calico fabric with Little House on the Prairie, so I did a little research to find out how it got to America. Here’s a brief synopsis:
In 1700, England banned import (and the use and wear) of cotton cloth from India, in an effort to prop up the English textile industry (known as the ‘Calico Act’, it was repealed in 1774). Printed calicos were especially popular among women who were termed the ‘Calico Madams’. The ban almost destroyed the Indian textile industry, and India was forced to buy from the British textiles. (thanks Wikipedia)
A fellow named John Hewson, the son of a London woolen draper, came to America in 1774 with Benjamin Franklin to escape King George’s rule. Hewson was trained as a printer of calico fabrics and had worked for Talwin & Foster, a leading London textile printworks. He opened a calico printing factory in 1774 in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Historical Society website,
Not only was Hewson the first calico fabric printer in the colonies, his work was also of the highest quality. According to scholars of textile history, Hewson’s textiles were unmatched in America at that time, and rivaled those of Europe. His chintz fabrics made him famous and were printed with wood blocks; a different one was used for each of the seven colors in his palette; pink, red, blue, yellow, black and brown. Green colors were added by “pencilling” in blue and yellow dyes. Hewson’s textiles were expensive and highly sought after for dresses, furnishing fabrics and handkerchiefs. He is most known for his realistic and finely detailed classical urns of flowers, which were printed as medallion panels for bedcovers, it is believed.
There you have it…the history of calico, in a nutshell.
Today was our free day in NYC. We started out with bagels (and that puffy roll I had been obsessing about) at Palca’s, then took the train into the city. We decided to go up the west side of the park because I was remembering that the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum was up there, and of course had forgotten to check the address while I still had internet access. We accidentally got onto an A express train and ended up at 125th Street, got immediately back on a C Local going south, and eventually made it to 96th Street, only to find out that the Cooper-Hewitt was on the east side of the park with all the other museums.
Ted had been wanting to walk through the park anyway, and it was a gorgeous day, so we walked through to the east side and ended up right at 91st and literally in the backyard of the Cooper. We went in the back entrance to the museum into the courtyard, where artsy people were sitting at cafe tables in the sun and kids were playing on the wide green lawn. It was quite idyllic, and a nice contrast to our late afternoon experience at the MOMA, which was much more of what I expected of a NYC museum experience.
The Cooper-Hewitt had a few exhibitions: Rococo: The Continuing Curve, Campana Brothers Select, a selection of pieces from the permanent collection by Brazilian designers Fernando and Humberto Campana, and Multiple Choice: From Sample to Product, which showed sample books from various industries and countries. Each of the exhibits gave me design and pattern ideas, especially the Campana brothers’ choices. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that humans have always made art, even in the most impossible circumstances, and with the most unlikely materials. There were incredible examples of jewelry created from dyed horsehair and human hair (ca. 1830), incredible prints, and beautiful intricate wallpapers made from hand-cut paper.
I love the insect prints in particular, done in 1927 by a French etymologist named Emile-Alain Séguy. They were so beautifully designed…and the guy was trained as a scientist, not an artist! I’ve wanted to do an insect pattern for years, so maybe this will motivate me to try one. I saw some other wonderful insect illustrations in a Dwell magazine years ago, and have been trying to find that issue ever since. I can’t remember the illustrator’s name, but the drawings were abstract and lovely.
The rococo exhibit was interesting…rococo is not really my favorite style, but the discussion of how it influenced various design aesthetics was instructive. I most liked the modern pieces that were inspired by the rococo style, and there was one quote from the show that stuck with me. Here it is:
William Hogarth’s 1753 work Analysis of Beauty codified twenty years of rococo design by espousing the S-curve as the “line of beauty.”
I’ve had curves on the mind lately, as I’ve been using rounded-edge boxes for my VF materials, including the Surtex booth. There is a certain gentle beauty to a curve that a hard edge can’t convey. Curves are sometimes described as feminine, although I feel like they are more organic than specifically feminine.
Day one of Surtex. I have to say, the show was not what I was expecting. The vast majority of artists/illustrators were very traditional in their styles and imagery. There was LOTS of Holiday stuff. And lots of stuff geared directly toward each consumer holiday: Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s, etc etc–plus “Everyday” and “Occasional.” But mostly Holiday with a capital H. And less patterns and more paintings.
Ted started bugging me after the show set-up day to do a snowflake design, but I did the bagels and rain instead. So here’s my Holiday snowflake design.
Day two in Brooklyn has been rainy and dreary. We had an unfortunate surprise when we discovered that our Manhattan lodging (which we had arranged through Craigslist months ago and paid a $400 deposit) was apparently a scam. We called and emailed the guy to set up a time for him to give us the key to his place, but he never returned our messages. Turns out there’s a guy in the UK who also pre-paid for this particular apartment, and he was also scammed out of the deposit. So, live and learn….that’s our first truly negative Craigslist transaction. Hopefully we will be able to track down “Lucas Bailey” and at least put an end to his good Paypal standing. So we spent about half the day trying to find new lodging in Manhattan, where we would be close to the Javits Center, but to no avail. The only places available were way out of our price range, and there were precious few places even available. Fortunately, Frances, our B & B proprietress, had a cancellation and was able to give us a room for the rest of our trip. It’s not close to Javits, but it’s affordable, comfortable and now we know the neighborhood.
For dinner we went to a little place called Sam’s. I’ll post some pics if I can figure out how to do it. It was a stereotypical family Italian restaurant, with Louie the owner taking our order (a large pie, as he wrote on our ticket before we even ordered anything) and the brother-in-law bringing out the pizza. It was a throwback to another time, and delicious.
Our first day in Brooklyn it was beautiful weather. We walked from our little B & B room up Henry Street, across Atlantic Ave. and down Court. We stopped for coffee and a bagel at Margaret Palca’s Bakes, then walked over to 5th Ave. in Park Slope. Lots of fun and interesting shops, including one called something about Chocolate. We found a nice coffee shop near our place that has free wireless internet, so the Tea Lounge has become our home away from home. We went to a couple of thrift stores and had dinner at a little Middle Eastern place called the Olive Vine, which was deserted but pleasant.