The blog Design Milk recently featured a piece on Dutch textile company Vlisco that is worth checking out. The 160+ year old company creates big bold prints using a specialized wax technique based on batik. Vlisco was originally started to sell fabric to wealthy African clients, but recently it has been spreading its wings in order to reach a more global market by producing consumer goods like bags and scarves.
Vlisco's designs feature work from artists who hail from around the world—it definitely shows in the diversity of pattern that's on display in Design Milk's photo gallery and on the Vlisco website. The company has also amassed an incredible archive of textiles since the 1850s, from which they continually draw inspiration.
For a little inspiration of your own, have a look at the Vlisco feature on Design Milk's blog as well as visit Vlisco's website.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Amy Karyn of Amy Karyn Home give a presentation on the labor-intensive (labor-of-love!) art of hand-screening fabrics. Amy and her team create gorgeous fabrics, taking extra steps to ensure that they have that little extra something, whether it’s using her special “tint-glaze” technique or her softening process. Amy gets much of her inspiration for designs and colorways from antique fabrics, and the longevity of her designs (she has been printing some for over 20 years!) attests to their classicism. Amy is incredibly passionate about her craft. I encourage you to watch her fascinating video about the hand-screening process.
"What we use every day can be beautiful, creative and friendly to the world." –Waste Not Paper
We've talked a lot about fabric in the Designing Green blog series, so I would like to turn our attention to another huge market for surface pattern designers: paper. Much like the textile industry, the paper trade is one of the most damaging to the environment. From the ruinous effects of deforestation, such as habitat loss and the massive reduction of carbon dioxide-absorbing trees, to the air and water pollution that is caused by manufacturing, the pretty paper items we designers want to bring to the world have a side to them that's not so much…well, pretty.
So, what's a surface pattern designer who wants a gig in the paper industry to do? For one, you could work with a company like Waste Not Paper in Chicago, Illinois. Waste Not Paper is the wholesale division of the popular paper and gift retail chain Paper Source in the US and its mission is to supply beautiful, environmentally friendly paper products at a reasonable price.
A green ethos permeates just about every aspect of Waste Not Paper's business. Their products are sourced from within the US, keeping it local for American retailers. They work with paper mills that meet sustainable forestry and energy-use standards as well as with artists making paper items by hand. Many of their paper lines contain recycled content and are manufactured without the use of elemental chlorine (PCF), and if printed, are done so using printers with reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
Waste Not Paper even strives to maintain a green work environment. Their office promotes recycling and creative reuse of scraps and packaging materials, participates in Chicago's Bike-to-Work-Week, and is situated near public transportation.
Waste Not Paper: Thank you for proving that gorgeous, creative design and protecting the earth do not have to be mutually exclusive!
P.S. I am available for hire as your next designer.