In a July 2012 blog post Kiera brought our attention to Vera Neumann and her seemingly unstoppable design brand. Since then I have wanted to read the book Vera: The Art and Life of an Icon, and I am so glad I did. This book is a feast for the eyes and a true inspiration for all designers.
Vera Neumann is now an icon and household name, but what you may not know is that she was a true revolutionary in the field of textile design. She is perhaps the first designer to brand her textiles and herself. When someone purchased one of her scarves or tablecloths they were also buying a life style.
Vera hand painted all of her work, covering the gamut in motifs; from loose floral to geometric to conversational. As a child she found her inspiration in nature, a theme she returned to throughout her career. As an adult Vera loved to travel, and folk art was a never ending source of inspiration. Never afraid to buck the system she chose bold colors for her modern patterns, at a time when the market was glutted with dusty florals. She did what she liked when she liked it, and customers loved her for it.
I really loved this book from cover to cover. Susan Seid and Jen Renzi really delve into the life and work of Vera and I think you should too.
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.