Author Archives: *

Undersea

Undersea, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 24"

Undersea, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″

I’ve been ambivalent about this painting but thought I’d post. It’s a beginning of something. I was going for an undersea feeling and experimenting with texture.

I miss my studio. I now have to move out of my home soon as well, so I’m hoping that wherever I land I can work on being more prolific.

My Collection of Books on Pattern and Textile Design

Writing this post is giving me a blog identity crisis. I miss having an active place to write about textiles (in addition to my Facebook Slow Cloth page) and I’m realizing I’m not satisfied with any of my blogs. Is the answer to have one blog that covers all my interests, and post often? I’m going to have to ponder some kind of reorganization, because I’m not writing enough.

But here we are. This seems to be the best place for now for this post — I’ve wanted to begin cataloguing my textile and art books for a while. I have a pretty great collection; my love for how-to books and art books goes back a long way. There can also a shadow side to this collecting: I had years when I wasn’t making much of anything at all, and somehow buying the books, and then becoming an editor for them, became my substitute. Let me be your Horrible Warning: don’t fall prey to that.

When I first became interested in pattern and surface design, there weren’t many places to study, so I bought every book I came across, used or new. Today online design-and-print sites including Spoonflower and excellent online teaching sites such as Pattern Observer have completely democratized textile design and the line between professional and amateur has been dissolved. So these days there are many beautiful fabrics available from creative and original designers, professional and student alike, and there are also many that are so similar and derivative and elementary that you can easily get a bad case of cute-print fatigue.

To broaden your design resources, exploring traditional gouache painting or some of the great hand-printing techniques in old and new design books can inspire expressive and individual design. Here are some of the books I’ve collected.  While quite a few of my books are downright vintage, you can also find many new textile print design books that cater to digital design. But if there’s a rich and beautiful tradition to be found, it’s in the centuries of textile design and pattern decoration that humans have devised, so check out some of these older books too.

 

  • Design for Artists and Craftsmen, Louis Wolchonok, 1953.

Design for Artists and Craftsmen by Louis Wolchonok, 1953, Dover Publications

Design for Artists and Craftsmen by Louis Wolchonok, 1953, Dover Publications. Page Detail.

Design for Artists and Craftsmen by Louis Wolchonok, 1953, Dover Publications. Page Detail.

This is a crazy book! The inside cover calls it “Most thorough book ever written on the creation of art motifs and design.” One of the many books that Dover published in hardcover before it turned to paperback clip-art books, it’s full of quirky, strange drawings that evolve with many variations into highly stylized forms. Many exercises to get you going with plant, animal, bird, flower, geometric, and man-made forms.

 

  • A World of Pattern, Gwen White, 1958.

A World of Pattern by Gwen White, 1958, Charles T. Branford Company

A World of Pattern by Gwen White, 1958, Charles T. Branford Company

 

A World of Pattern by Gwen White, Page Detail

A World of Pattern by Gwen White, Page Detail 1

A World of Pattern by Gwen White, Page Detail

A World of Pattern by Gwen White, Page Detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a beautiful book that I found in a used bookstore for $4.50. The color plates are fantastic, and each is backed with a black-and-white plate that, when held up to the light, shows the color plate behind it as a decorative pattern within the line drawing. From the introduction: “How curious it is that so many man-made patterns look alike, when all around us everywhere are new patterns waiting to be discovered.”

 

  • Design on Fabrics, Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Title page.

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Title page.

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Page Detail 3.

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Page Detail 3.

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Page Detail 1.

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Page Detail 1.

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Page Detail 2.

Design on Fabrics by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman, 1967, Reinhold Publishing. Page Detail 2.

Johnston and Kaufman were textile art professors who taught at various times at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Cranbrook Academy, and other schools. This book is well worth seeking out and having in your library, and I believe is available digitally through Google Books. Like many other textile design and surface design books of the era, it was intended as a teaching tool/textbook and is full of both history and technique. There’s a good tie-dye/shibori section. Most of the illustrations are black and white but you’ll find no shortage of design inspiration here.

 

  • Principles of Pattern Design, Richard M. Proctor, first published 1970, re-published 1990.

Principles of Pattern Design by Richard M. Proctor, 1990 republication of 1970 edition, Dover

Principles of Pattern Design by Richard M. Proctor, 1990 republication of 1970 edition, Dover

Principle of Pattern Design by Richard M. Proctor, 1990 republication of 1970 edition, page detail.

Principle of Pattern Design by Richard M. Proctor, 1990 republication of 1970 edition, page detail.

This book simply and intelligently explores units of pattern design in detail, from the square network to the ogee network. Full of hand-drawn examples and inspiration.

 

  • Printed Textiles: A Guide to Creative Design Fundamentals, Terry A. Gentille, 1982.

Printed Textiles by Terry A. Gentille, 1982, Prentice-Hall

Printed Textiles by Terry A. Gentille, 1982, Prentice-Hall

Printed Textiles by Terry A. Gentille, 1982, Prentice-Hall, page detail

Printed Textiles by Terry A. Gentille, 1982, Prentice-Hall, page detail.

This is indeed a book of fundamentals for textile design. In 1982, rubber cement and compasses were still absolutely necessary graphic design tools, and this book instructs you thoroughly in building repeats and drawing and painting croquis as it was done then. This book was intended as a working guide for students who intended to become professional textile designers.

 

  • Surface Design for Fabric, Richard M. Proctor and Jennifer F. Lew, 1984.

    Surface Design for Fabric by Richard M. Proctor and Jennifer F. Lew, 1984, University of Washington Press

    Surface Design for Fabric by Richard M. Proctor and Jennifer F. Lew, 1984, University of Washington Press

    Surface Design for Fabric by Richard M. Proctor and Jennifer F. Lew, 1984, University of Washington Press. Page detail.

    Surface Design for Fabric by Richard M. Proctor and Jennifer F. Lew, 1984, University of Washington Press. Page detail.

    I think this book launched and fueled the passion of many a contemporary surface designer and art-cloth maker. Proctor and Lew both taught at the University of Washington, whose press published this softbound guide. Among other things, it’s rich with detailed lessons for using fiber-reactive and other dyes in inventive ways. There are sections on resist techniques, printing with inks and dyes, batik, and developing imagery. Together with the gorgeous catalogs/instructional booklets that the now-closed Seattle fiber arts store Cerulean Blue used to send in the mail, this book positioned the Pacific Northwest as a hotbed of surface design.

  • Textiles: A Handbook for Designers (rev. edition), Marypaul Yates, 1986, 1996.

    Textiles: A Handbook for Designers by Marypaul Yates. Rev. edition, 1996, 1986, W.W. Norton & Co.

    Textiles: A Handbook for Designers by Marypaul Yates. Rev. edition, 1996, 1986, W.W. Norton & Co.

    Textiles: A Handbook for Designers by Marypaul Yates. Rev. edition, 1996, 1986, W.W. Norton & Co., page detail

Marypaul Yates is the principal and founder of Yates Design Inc. and has a long and accomplished career in textile design. This book is a reference and textbook written, Yates says in the foreword, to teach the techniques that for so long had been passed down by word of mouth. Although many of the images in the book are black and white, it’s full of beautiful hand-drawn and hand-painted designs and detailed descriptions of analog rendering techniques and printing methods.

 

  • Textile Print Design: A how-to-do-it book of surface design, Richard Fisher and Dorothy Wolfthal, 1987.

Textile Print Design by Richard Fisher and Dorothy Wolfthal, 1987, Fairchild Publications.

Textile Print Design by Richard Fisher and Dorothy Wolfthal, 1987, Fairchild Publications
Textile Print Design by Richard FIsher and Dorothy Wolfthal, 1987, Fairchild Publications. Page detail.

Textile Print Design by Richard FIsher and Dorothy Wolfthal, 1987, Fairchild Publications. Page detail.

Fisher and Wolfthal were professors in the Textile & Surface Design Department of Fashion Institute of Technology when this book was published, and intended it as a beginner’s guide to a career in surface design. The book is a bit dated and most of the photos are black and white, but it’s full of information on tools, supplies, techniques, research methods, and professional career guidance for young designers.

 

  • The Textile Design Book: Understanding and creating patterns using texture, shape, and color, Karin Jerstorp and Eva Kohlmark, 1986 (English translation 1988).

    The Textile Design Book by Karin Jerstorp and Eva Köhlmark, 1986, English translation 1988, Lark Books.

    The Textile Design Book by Karin Jerstorp and Eva Köhlmark, 1986, English translation 1988, Lark Books.

The Textile Design Book by Karin Jerstorp and Eva Kohlmark, page detail

The Textile Design Book by Karin Jerstorp and Eva Kohlmark, page detail

This book is fresh and full of ideas for contemporary, colorful pattern and textile design. Working with simple geometric shapes and repeats, a handmade aesthetic, and fun historical references, this book is full of inspiration and charm on every page.

 

  • Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s (And Other Terrific Textiles of the 20s, 30s, and 40s), Gideon Bosker, Michele Mancini, and John Gramstad, 1992.

Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s by Gideon Bosker, Michele Mancini, John Gramstad, 1992, Chronicle Books

Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s by Gideon Bosker, Michele Mancini, John Gramstad, 1992, Chronicle Books

Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s by Gideon Bosker, Michele Mancini, John Gramstad, 1992, Chronicle Books, page detail 2

Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s by Gideon Bosker, Michele Mancini, John Gramstad, 1992, Chronicle Books, page detail 2

Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s by Gideon Bosker, Michele Mancini, John Gramstad, 1992, Chronicle Books, page detail

Fabulous Fabrics of the 50s by Gideon Bosker, Michele Mancini, John Gramstad, 1992, Chronicle Books, page detail

This is one of those gorgeous gift books that Chronicle Books publishes, more reference and inspiration than instruction, but it’s so much fun for anyone who loves mid-century design that I had to include it. From cowboy prints to Hawaiian barkcloth to the organic shapes we immediately identify with the era, it’s full of treasures in nice glossy full-color photos accompanied by excellent text.

 

  • Designing with Pattern and Design Sources for Pattern, Jan Messent, 1992

Designing with Pattern + Design Sources for Pattern by Jan Messent, 1992, Crochet Design

Designing with Pattern + Design Sources for Pattern by Jan Messent, 1992, Crochet Design

Designing with Pattern + Design Sources for Pattern by Jan Messent, 1992, Crochet Design, page detail.

Designing with Pattern + Design Sources for Pattern by Jan Messent, 1992, Crochet Design, page detail.

These two notebook-like books, just 40 pages each, by prolific textile artist and embroiderer Jan Messent are really good. Hand-drawn illustrations show you how Messent sees pattern everywhere in the world around her and translates it to designs that can be the basis of repeat patterns, stitching, or other uses. I don’t know if Messent is still with us but she wrote quite a few books, with titles like Knitted Historic Figures and Designing for Embroidery from Ancient and Primitive Sources. If you stumble across any of them, I’d grab them.

 

  •  Textile Design: The Complete Guide to Printed Textiles for Apparel and Home Furnishing, Carol Joyce, 1993.

    Textile Design: The Complete Guide to Printed Textiles for Apparel and Home Furnishing by Carol Joyce, 1993, Watson-Guptill

    Textile Design: The Complete Guide to Printed Textiles for Apparel and Home Furnishing by Carol Joyce, 1993, Watson-Guptill

    Textile Design: The Complete Guide to Printed Textiles for Apparel and Home Furnishing by Carol Joyce, 1993, Watson-Guptill, page detail 2

    Textile Design: The Complete Guide to Printed Textiles for Apparel and Home Furnishing by Carol Joyce, 1993, Watson-Guptill, page detail 2

    Textile Design: The Complete Guide to Printed Textiles for Apparel and Home Furnishing by Carol Joyce, 1993, Watson-Guptill, page detail

     

Carol Joyce, a textile designer and instructor at The School of Visual Arts, contributed this reference book/practicum in 1993 to the textile design field; most of the images are oriented toward home decor fabrics rather than apparel fabrics. Many instructions, techniques, ideas, and fabric samples make an excellent resource book for designers.

 

  •  The Victoria & Albert Museum’s Textile Collection: British Textile Design from 1940 to the Present, 1999; and V&A Pattern: Indian Florals, 2009 (with CD).

The Victoria & Albert Museum's Textile Collection: British Textile Design from 1940 to the Present, 1999, V&A Publications

The Victoria & Albert Museum’s Textile Collection: British Textile Design from 1940 to the Present, 1999, V&A Publications

V&A Pattern: Indian Florals, 2009, V&A Publishing. WIth CD.

V&A Pattern: Indian Florals, 2009, V&A Publishing. WIth CD.

These are two examples of beautiful reference books, of which there are many, that you can go a little nuts collecting. London’s V&A Museum has an especially wonderful collection of these books, and you’re limited only by your budget in amassing them.

 

  • Twentieth-Century Pattern Design: Textile and Wallpaper Pioneers, Lesley Jackson, 2002.

Twentieth-Century Pattern Design: Textile and Wallpaper Pioneers by Lesley Jackson, 2002, Princeton Architectural Press

Twentieth-Century Pattern Design: Textile and Wallpaper Pioneers by Lesley Jackson, 2002, Princeton Architectural Press

I’m sad to say that this book does not belong to me. A friend loaned it to me and I’m loathe to return it — it’s just gorgeous. More than 200 pages of full-color images of the best pattern and textile design from all over the globe, this is just a beautiful reference book. See if your library has it or put it on your wish list.

 

  • Print, Pattern and Colour for Paper and Fabric, Ruth Issett, 2007.

Print Pattern & Colour by Ruth Issett, 2007, Batsford

Print Pattern & Colour by Ruth Issett, 2007, Batsford

I love textile artist Ruth Issett‘s work. She goes all in with color and pattern in a very experimental, free-form way. This guide to one-off art fabric, printing, and surface design will send you off in creative, loose mark-making, printing, dyeing, and idea development.

 

  • Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens, Lena Corwin, 2008.

Printing by Hand by Lena Corwin, 2008, Stewart Tabori & Chang STC Craft

Printing by Hand by Lena Corwin, 2008, Stewart Tabori & Chang STC Craft

This book has been very popular, and deservedly so, with textile artists and designers. Instructions and projects will get you started making and using simple hand-printed designs in Lena Corwin‘s lovely modern and spare aesthetic.

 

  • A Field Guide to Fabric Design: Design, Print & Sell Your Own Fabric • Traditional & Digital Techniques for Quilting, Home Dec & Apparel, Kimberly Kight, 2011.

A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight, 2011, C&T Publishing

A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight, 2011, C&T Publishing

This is the most recent book that I have, though by no means the most recent book published on textile and fabric design (and I believe that Spoonflower has a book coming out soon too). As the subtitle(s) indicate, it’s a full-service guide to modern fabric design methods, both analog and digital, aimed at young independent designers who want to dive in. There is information on copyright, instructions for Photoshop and other software methods for fabric design, and building collections, and more.

 

  • More

Beyond books, there are a couple of online resources I want to mention. Michelle Fifis’s PatternObserver is a fantastic resource with online classes, a great blog, and just a lot of good and generous advice. Pattern Pulp is good online inspiration for contemporary pattern across the board. Spoonflower is a great place for both beginners and more experienced designers to explore digital printing and see what others are doing, and they’re adding more base fabrics all the time (I’m not a fan of all the contests but if you like that sort of thing, it’s available to you). Pattern People has good resources for sale and a good blog.

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The Greatest Works of Art?

In The Guardian, art critic Jonathan Jones names his Top Ten greatest works of art from all time (that we know of). Many of the commenters note that his choices seem narrowly male and Western, so keep that in mind as you explore his mostly classical choices. You won’t find the usual crowd-pleasers; there’s no Mona Lisa, no Van Gogh sunflowers, no Monet waterlilies. Nor are there any of the great Japanese or Indian or Islamic creations, or anything from a South American culture (I’m not sure how you could even approach a list from that breadth). But certainly it’s a list that’s true to an informed Western perspective.

I’ve looked at this list several times and asked what connects these works. Each is extremely refined and skilled, clearly. But I think Jones is focused on works that are illuminating something about being deeply human, whether it’s cruelty, discovery, or the awakening of conscience or consciousness, as in Picasso’s Guernica or the historic cave paintings. His choices are not about self-expression or reveling in the pure joy of paint; these are constructed works by masters and each one has a soul that is unmistakably moving and timeless.

It’s not my list and probably not yours, but it’s fascinating to see how one critic chooses from thousands of years of art to find these ten.

Picasso, GuernicaGuernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. 349 cm × 776 cm. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.

IMG_4234Spring has arrived. I feel like a weary soldier who made it out of the fray but still not sure when I’ll get home, or even where that might be. We’ll still get several inches of snow this weekend but the light is very welcome.

I’m in transition on the art front. I’ve gone to my studio several times this week and have not been able to work much, or very well, because the impending move back to working out of my apartment feels very unsettled and not quite right. It is what it is. I’m trying not to see it as a setback, although six months ago I thought things would be much more expansive instead of this new contraction.

So I’ve just been doing the most straightforward and immediate thing, which is to keep making abstract landscapes that are about materials and action and the connection of eye, hand, paint, paper and horizon line. These, below, are each about 9.5″ x 12.5″.

In Like a Lion

March rolled in cold and snowy and not too friendly; we usually have real signs of spring by now but it’s slow in coming this year. I have zero interest in winter sports or cold weather, so I sort of survive the winters waiting for the light to return and some warmth and color to appear.

Sadly, I have to give up my outside painting studio after this month. It’ll be all right; the light is actually better in my home, and I can rearrange the space to work. It’s just nice to have a dedicated place (and a real utility sink). I hope the outcome will be more work, since it’ll be right there waiting for me on insomniac nights.

A couple of odds and ends:

Pure color

IMG_4138 resizedLast summer I saw a wonderful exhibition of Japanese kites, some quite old. There was one with a sort of turnip pattern that I loved. I’ve been trying that pattern in some small watercolors:

 

Turnip Kite

 

 

Lotus Sent, Blues Installed

I’m just sending off a small lotus painting that I made for my cousin-in-law Laura. It’s 6″ x 6″ on a cradled Ampersand panel.

Lipson, Laura's Lotus, 2014, acrylic on board, 6" x 6"

Laura’s Lotus, 2014, acrylic on board, 6″ x 6″

And here’s a photograph of an installation of panels custom-made for an unusual alcove in a very modern living room:

Lipson, Blue Flags, 2013, each 6" x 6", acrylic on board

Blue Flags, 2013, each 6″ x 6″, acrylic on board

And here’s a little tribute to the Boulder wind. There are many ways to explore color…

Wind

Slow Cloth and Red Thread Studio Archives

I blogged for quite a few years at Red Thread Studio, where I began to develop and write about my concept of Slow Cloth in 2007.  I’m not adding new posts there right now but the archive remains and I invite you to browse. I gave a talk to the Textile Society of America at their 2012 symposium on Slow Cloth – downloadable in PDF form here. I also maintain a Slow Cloth community page on Facebook where I share many links on global textile art, craft, and culture. I’ve also written extensively on sustainable and organic apparel and textiles.

Slow Cloth

Slow Cloth

My experience with the concept of Slow Cloth in the textile community has been and continues to be an interesting one. My aim in 2007 was to outline a set of characteristics that I hoped would inspire and foster a way of thinking and a rich, inclusive, and sustainable textile culture. I gave it a name that seemed appropriate at the time to both honor and acknowledge what had been done in the food community and to distinguish it from what I saw as the trendy but unsustainable commercial craft world. And in the seven years since then, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more misunderstood about a well-intentioned project. People either didn’t get it or thought it was so obvious that I had no right to it. So I put some of my larger vision for Slow Cloth (organization, membership, magazine) on hold.

For the record, I have nothing to do with any “Slow Cloth” boards on Pinterest, or any blogs or articles — other than those written by me — that talk about Slow Cloth. I developed my original concept of Slow Cloth long before many of the other “slow” brands, and was careful to give it a context and substance that would make it more than a buzzword. Unfortunately, the slow concept has lost most of its more nuanced meaning and it may not be very useful any longer as a defining adjective.

Many good things have happened in textile art and craft in this technology-driven century. More people than ever before are learning or re-learning how to make things for themselves with fiber and fabric. Sewing, knitting, quilting, weaving, embroidery, dyeing – especially working with natural dyes – it’s just an incredible renaissance, and there is a wealth of talent, creativity, skill, and resourcefulness in the textile community. More people are seeking textiles and garments made in their own countries, and more people are creating businesses to revive the textile industry. A new consciousness around the idea of “fibersheds” – local systems to grow, process, design, dye, finish, and produce textiles – is deservedly generating a lot of interest and excitement. It’s all very exciting, and with 50 years of making things with fabric and fiber under my belt, there’s a lot to celebrate. I have my own list of concerns, too, but will save those for another time.

I still own a Slow Cloth URL and still ponder whether there’s something more to be done with it. In the meantime, please do enjoy the Red Thread Studio blog archives and like the Facebook page.

In the Shape of a Heart

The winter blues keep catching up with me this week, with a long stretch of cold, icy, grey days and a barren landscape and a lot of insomnia and anxiety about work and income. Color to the rescue.

Valentines:

Lipson, Copper Heart, 2014, acrylic on paper, 5" x 5"

Copper Heart

Lipson, 2014, Postcard hearts

Postcard Hearts

The finished lotus:

Lipson, 2014, Lotus 1, 24" x 24", acrylic on canvas

Lotus 1

Some stitching picked up after a long dormancy (I beaded the center medallion years ago, added the shisha mirrors, and will add more embroidery and silk panels for a finished wall hanging):

IMG_4119

The Painting Trail

My small but serviceable studio is about 4.5 miles from where I live, and there’s a lovely trail that goes most of the way; on nice days, if I don’t have a lot to carry, I walk. There’s a large flock of Canadian geese that gathers on a pond along the trail. I’m very fond of them.

IMG_4105 IMG_4107

In the studio I worked on a painting that’s been sitting dormant for a while. I guess I can’t deny that it’s a decorative painting, but I don’t really mind that at all. I love the iconic graphic lotus patterns that have been around for centuries in Indian textiles and they’re very fun to paint. It still needs a day or two of work but here’s the current state of it:

IMG_1017

I was at a good stopping point but had too much paint on the palette to throw away, so I pulled out a sheet of watercolor paper and made this, which I like very much: IMG_1018

And here’s one more “imaginary landscape” that echoes that wintery pond where my geese like to do their networking.

IMG_1010