All images from mfa.org.
| |For those surface pattern designers who did not make it to NYC for the Punk to Couture exhibition this summer there is still a chance for you to take in some anti-establishment inspired fashion. From July through November 11, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is featuring Hippie Chic, a collection of far out fashion from the late 1960s and early 70s.
The clothes from that era are bright and loud and everything the mainstream world was not at the time. Hippie fashion was a bold statement from the counterculture raging against the uptight social mores and limiting traditions of previous generations. And, unlike earlier trends in high fashion, it started at street level via popular youth culture rather than coming down from the exclusive houses of couture.
As hippiedom wore on and was overtaken by succeeding cultural waves, its funky tie-dyes, bell bottoms, and psychedelic prints began to seem tacky and overdone. The generations to follow were not exactly kind when looking back on that wild era. (How many of you have ever dressed as a "hippie" for Halloween?) Luckily for us, MFA Boston's Hippie Chic exhibit has brought out some of the best clothing samples from that time, reminding us of how truly innovative, daring, and fun its fashion was.
| |Amidst a backdrop of shag carpets and mind bending wallpaper, 54 garments are displayed to represent varying looks of the movement. There is an abundance of surface pattern design to take in, from vibrant florals, paisleys, and geometrics to intricate ethnic prints. My favorite piece by far is the men’s suit jacket a la William Morris (see image at right). Also included in the exhibit are some of the few remaining pieces from celebrated fashion designers Thea Porter, Ossie Clark & wife Celia Birtwell and Giorgio Sant’Angelo.
I think this show is another must see! If you are able to attend, please let us know what you thought! We'd love a field report.
Ottavio Missoni, star athelete, 1940s. Image from thefrontrowview.com.
Image from businessinsider.com. Photo originally by Giuseppe Pino, 1990.
The man who made the chevron a status symbol has died. Ottavio Missoni, known as Tai to friends and family, founded the fashion house of Missoni in the 1950’s. He built an empire that helped put Italy on the map of haute couture where it has remained ever since.
Missoni was a most unlikely fashion icon. Hardly from humble beginnings, he was born in Dubrovnik, now Croatia, the son of an Italian sea captain and an Austrian countess. Missoni first rose to fame as a track and field champion, the youngest ever to win an Italian national title at just 16. His path was interrupted, however, by four years as a British prisoner of war during World War II. Released in 1946, he went on to join the Italians in the 1948 Olympics, where he placed sixth in hurdles. But his other contribution to the team was the that he designed their uniforms.
Misooni's fate as a designer was sealed when he met Rosita Jelmini at those London games. Five years later, they married and went into business together. The bride’s family was in the textile business, producing shawls and embroidery. They combined that knowledge with his burgeoning design skills to produce athletic knitwear together. The couple eventually adapted the Raschel knitting machine to make sensational sweaters and dresses instead of shawls, and thus was born their signature chevrons and streaky, space-dyed looks.
Mr. Missoni and his wife, Rosita, in 1968. Image from newyorktimes.com.
Missoni knitwear from the 1960s. Image from woodstockwardrobe.files.wordpress.com.
Missoni had a passion for combining clashing colors to spectacular effect. He once wrote that he created a chromatic harmony by adding a third color to two clashing hues. Earth tones went up against primary colors. He plotted his designs on graph paper, finding inspiration in the ancient textiles of Central America, as well as Abstract, Impressionist and Art Deco paintings. He introduced his kaleidoscopic patterns just at the time when the bohemian style was starting to catch fire. His designs soon caught the eye of every major fashion magazine from Vogue to Women’s Wear Daily. In 1967 the Missoni line achieved international recognition at a Paris showcase and was instantly embraced by fashion’s elite.
Kew fabric by Missoni Home. Image from amara.com.
Passiflora fabric by Missoni Home. Image from amara.com.
Missonii for Target. Image from abullseyeview.com.
There was no stopping the Missoni dynasty from then on. The company is still going strong sixty years after its founding. You may recall when Target introduced its own line of Missoni fashions in 2011, the onslaught of fans caused the website to crash. Today, Missoni also sells accessories, fragrances, and goods for the home in markets internationally. His work has been on display in art museums around the world, where has been hailed as a “genius of color”.
Missoni’s legacy is carried on by his family. Sadly, his CEO and eldest child, Vittorio, disappeared while in flight over Venezuela just last January. But his wife, and two younger generations continue to uphold the Missoni brand to its relentless success.
Find out more here.
Talavera tiles. Image from lafuente.com.
Cinco de Mayo is a day celebrating Mexican culture and heritage and is commonly honored across parts of North America. Contrary to popular belief, it is not Mexico's Independence Day, which is on Septemer 16th. Cinco de Mayo was established during the early part of the American Civil War (1860s) by Mexican-Americans in the Western United States. It was intended as a day to reflect on the values of freedom and democracy, in spite of ongoing conflicts across the continent at the time. The holiday was also created to commemorate the remarkable victory on May 5, 1862 of Mexico's smaller, lesser-armed military over French invaders in the state of Puebla, where the day is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla Day).In honor of Cinco de Mayo, and the state of Puebla, Mexico, I thought it would be fun to discuss the wonderfully decorated Talavera Pottery which hails from that region. Talavera is a white-glazed earthenware that evolved from Islamic-influenced majolica ceramic designs that originated in 12th century Spain. Typical patterns on Talavera work include the abstract symmetrical patterns found in Islamic art, as well as motifs from nature such as flowers, fruit, and birds.
Talavera plate. Image from mexicanconnexion.com.
It is believed that Spanish monks introduced majollica pottery to Mexico around the 1500s when they brought over artisans from Spain to create tile and decorative items for adorning monasteries. As Spanish colonialism and Catholicism spread, the demand for workers to make ceramics increased. Spanish potters began to arrive in Mexico to fill the need and to train the indigenous people (who also had a long, rich tradition of pottery) in the majollica technique. Many of the Spanish artisans came from the city of Talavera de la Reina, a city renowned for its tradition of pottery. Thus, it became the namesake of what was then a new style of ceramics in Mexico. More specifically, the name Talavera Poblana was created to indicate the pottery's newer Mexican origins.
Because it was located near an abundance of quality clay and well positioned on a trade route, the state of Puebla soon took over as a hub for the creation of Talavera pottery within the Spanish colonies. Guilds were created, rules were enacted, and annual tests were administered to craftspeople to ensure the highest standards for work that was created in the region.
Talavera fruit bowl. Image from lacatrinacollections.com.
The colors used on Talavera pottery were strictly limited to mauve, orange, yellow, green, blue, and black, and they were only to be derived from natural pigments. Blue was the most expensive of the colors and therefore the most coveted by wealthy buyers. Craftspeople were also required to use a glaze that crazed, (a process in which very thin cracks cover the surface of a piece) and which resulted in a whitish tint. The bottom of all Talavera pottery was to be unglazed and imprinted with the mark of the artist, manufacturer, and location of production within Puebla.
Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles). Image from dwell.com.
Talavera ceramics rose rapidly in popularity and came to be used throughout everyday life in Mexico and across the territories of New Spain. A Golden Age of Talavera emerged during 1650 to 1750 when its dishware, pitchers, pots, tiles, and religious objects became pervasive. Puebla was particularly distinguished for its use of Talavera tile, especially in kitchens and outdoors on patios and buildings. Its most famous use of tile can still be seen today on the House of Tiles (Casa de los Azulejos), a palace from the 1700s with three sides of its exterior covered in incredibly expensive (at the time) blue and white tiles.
Talavera sink. Image from lafuente.com.
Unfortunately, despite its massive success, the Puebla pottery industry came to a halt when the Mexican War of Independence hit during the early 1800s. The chaos of the war thwarted trade and undermined previously upheld production standards. Poorly made imitations of the pottery emerged and cheaper English ceramics gained popularity as skilled craftspeople left the industry. Overall production fell significantly, leaving only a few of the dozens of original workshops open.Over the past 200 years there have been attempts to bring back the craft to its old standards in Mexico. Currently there are over a dozen studios making this special pottery, faithfully following the traditional methods. Mexico has even created a regulatory board to ensure that ceramics bearing the Talavera name live up to the original techniques and quality. For more information about Talavera pottery and its fascinating past, visit some of the references in my list of sources below.
Pottery at the Uriarte Talavera workshop in Puebla. Image from wikipedia.com.
| |We recently noted the death of iconic American designer Lilly Pulitzer on our blog. She can be credited with popularizing the pink and green combination, and the New York Times called her “a major force in prep resort wear”. Others have called her a "designer by accident." Lilly was a socialite who was just as famous for her fashions as she was for entertaining. How did she get there?
Photo: Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images. From elle.com. Lilly Pulitzer on right.
Capitalizing on her bright idea, Lilly closed the stand and started her clothing business a year after she sold her first dress. When an old classmate of hers by the name of Jackie Kennedy was photographed by LIFE magazine wearing one of her dresses (or the “Lillies”) her company took off. Soon she was also designing clothing for men and children and dressing the entire horsey set for their warm weather vacations.
Eventually Lilly employed her own design studio to produce her signature fabrics. They were literally signature designs, as she would creatively hide her name among the motifs. Most of her textiles were produced by Key West Hand Print Fabrics. The three artists mainly responsible for the Lilly Pulitzer look are Susie Zuzek dePoo, her daughter Martha, and Leigh Martin Hooten. Susie and Leigh were trained textile designers. “We focus on the best, fun and happy things, and people want that. Being happy never goes out of style,” Lilly said.
Here you see the name "lilly" in the motif fashionsfinest.fuzzylizzie.com
Lilly Pulitzer fashions are now available through specialty shops, select department stores and through their website. The new products retain all the fun, whimsy and sunny disposition of the original designs, because as Lilly famously said, “It’s always summer somewhere!”
What’s your favorite Lilly Pulitzer print? Go to our Google group to share!
Lillian McKim was born in New York to a wealthy family in 1931. In 1952, she eloped with Herbert “Peter” Pulitzer of the Pulitzer Prize family. They moved to Palm Beach, Florida where she embraced the tropical lifestyle, typically spurning shoes and underwear.
But even carefree, wealthy socialites among waving palms can suffer from depression. Lilly ended up undergoing inpatient treatment while in her twenties. When she emerged in 1959, she was looking for a new hobby and decided to open a juice stand in Palm Beach using the fruits of her husband’s citrus groves.
It turned out to be a messy business and Lilly's clothes were often stained with juice. She recruited her friend, Laura Robbins (a former editor at Harper’s Bazaar), to help design a simple shift dress and, using bold, tropical prints, Lilly fashioned a wardrobe that effectively hid the stains. Her dresses ended up drawing more interest from her customers than her juices!
Photo: Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
When the 1980s arrived, interest in her kitschy designs waned so Lilly filed for bankruptcy and retired. Then in 1993, her brand was sold and revived to introduce her bright, optimistic fashions to the children and grandchildren of her original customers. The tropical preppy wardrobe was back. Lilly returned to work as a consultant for the new company which has thrived ever since.
Photo: Slim Aarons/Hulton. Lilly and her fabric!
Image from http://www.mcny.org
| |Recognize the vintage textile gem above? Ever wonder who designed it? This chrysanthemum fabric is one of the most recognized creations by D.D. and Leslie Tillett, husband and wife textile designers whose life and work are currently being highlighted in their first retrospective at the Museum of the City of New York.
The show features fabric, clothing, photos, and more to illustrate the fascinating story of this New York design team from the mid-20th Century. The couple first met in the 1940s when D. D. was sent on assignment by Harper's Bazaar magazine to photograph the textile workshop run by Leslie and his brother in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Enamored with Leslie and his beautiful art, D. D. decided to stay in Mexico and learn the craft. The two joined as partners in life and work, moving to New York a few years later where they started a successful design studio. Over the next 4 decades, the couple produced colorful, worldly designs which were adored and worn by such luminaries as Jacqueline Kennedy, Brooke Astor, Greta Garbo, and Gary Cooper.
If you are in New York between now and February 3, 2013, this show is definitely worth a visit!
Morris & Co. Wallpaper. Printed between 1915 & 1917.
Have you ever wondered how wallpaper gets printed? There are tons of traditional methods:
- Block printing;
- Pan (Trough) Printing;
- Surface Print;
- Flat-bed Screen;
- Rotary Screen;
- Flexographic; and
"Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"
Trellis was Morris' first attempt to design wallpaper
William Morris was a prolific designer of tiles, tapestries, carpets, wall paper, stained glass and furniture. The work of this 19th century designer are lately enjoying renewed popularity for its themes of nature and florals, expressed in intricate and complex designs.
Born in Walthamstow, England to an affluent middle class family in 1834, Morris was the son of wealthy stockbroker. He originally studied theology, intending to enter the Church. However, he developed a deep love for mediaeval arts and architecture while studying at Oxford. When he later joined the gothic revival architectural practice, George Edmund Street, he formed the Arts & Crafts movement along with Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb.
Married in 1859, he moved into the now famous Red House in Bexleyheath, designed by Philip Webb. Together, they completely decorated it in the mediaeval style including stained glass windows, murals and tapestries. It was this experience that led Morris to become a designer of home furnishings. Thus was founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. to produce high quality decorative work for commercial sale.
Pink & Rose Wallpaper
In 1875, "the Firm" disbanded and Morris set off on his own as Morris & Company. He flourished with full control of the company, and was most prolific and creative during this period. He perfected his indigo discharge print technique that would be his signature style, combined with madder reds. Interestingly, Morris was unable to draw birds, so crucial to many of his designs. Philip Webb is credited with filling those in.
Morris died at 62 years of age, seemingly of exhaustion. His company continued to operate until its final demise through the Great Depression. And yet to this day, his original designs survive and are still printed, a testament to the lasting beauty and timeless appeal of his work.
In addition to his profuse design work, Morris was also an accomplished poet, author, publisher and Socialist, the latter pursuit of which led to some controversy among his peers.
Today, amongst high tech and computer-generated designs, we find refuge in this designer's handcrafted, detailed ode to nature and natural beauty.
A Kelly Kinzle Collection quilt from Pennsylvania illustrating the life of a Civil War Zouave-unit soldier, at the American Textile History Museum. Photo from www.nytimes.com.
An interesting bit of American history to kick off our Independence Day celebrations...Fabric supplies, textile factories, and cotton fields directly influenced Union and Confederate strategies during the Civil War. Did you know that Southern seamstresses, knitters, and weavers were even kidnapped by Union troops and deported to the North to cut off supplies to the Confederate Army? Learn more in this intriguing article from the New York Times.
Two exhibitions delve further into this period and its textiles:The American Textile History Museum's exhibit “Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War,” runs now until November 25th, 2012 in Lowell, Massachusetts."Civil War Era Quilts From the Illinois State Museum" featuresblankets made by the sisters and mothers of soldiers and is showing now through September 14th, 2012, in Chicago.Happy 4th of July!-Ruby
| |Cue space age lounge music…
Hello and welcome to the second installment of your fabulous 50s surface pattern design education! In our previous lesson, we learned a fun doodling technique to help create lots of simple motifs. Let us now turn to the Shapes and Space Divisions section of Commercial Art and Design, a booklet from 1953 that I scored at an antique shop, for an exercise in working with "panels" to create more complex, geometric motifs.
The booklet defines a panel as a shape in which you place a motif. I think another name for a panel could be a tile. Shapes like circles, squares, and triangles can be used as basic panels, or tiles. These shapes can be combined or tweaked to create more unusual ones (see image below). Try taking some basic shapes and overlapping them, cutting into them, and manipulating them into new ones.
Now that you have several panels to work with, try adding motifs inside them. It is recommended in the booklet that the motifs you use to fill your panels should compliment the overall form. I say, try that first to see what happens and then start getting crazy and break that rule. Why not?
The image above shows two different ways to build panels with motifs in them. One approach is to work inside out, starting with building a motif and then outlining it with a panel shape at the end. The other way is to start with a panel and then build a motif moving from the outside in. Either way, you should end up with some fun geometric motifs in panels (tiles) that can be then used to form an overall layout.
Okay everyone, crack open your sketchbooks and get started!
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us travel back in time and open the surface pattern design vaults of yesteryear for a little educational exercise. Our guide today will be "Commercial Art and Design: Design and Decoration" by Art Instruction Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, an art education manual from 1953 that I found at an antique store.
This booklet was a major score for me. Not only am I a surface pattern designer who is always on the lookout for new sources of education and inspiration, but I adore mid-20th century design! And, where can I find a more appreciative audience with which to share my second-hand find than right here on the SPDG blog? Excuse me while I do the Snoopy dance . . .
Let's get started with today's lesson.
As most good instruction should, this manual starts out with a definition.
"Design: the adaptation of forms to space, objects and materials; artistic invention."
To help us turn our wheels of artistic invention, we are presented with the following fun little challenge. Begin by creating a very simple mark, like the arrow that is pictured in the image below. Copy that mark at least ten times, then add different types of lines around and over each of the original marks to create entirely new motifs.
Be sure to use one color for the original mark and a second color for the added lines so that it is easy to follow your progression. It is also recommended that you snug your new lines in close to the original shape, so as to prevent them from looking "stringy" or "vague." My advice from 2012: play with it. Do both and see what happens! Either way, you should now have at least ten new motifs on your page that you can then arrange into an even bigger, super-motif or a pattern.
This concludes our brief sojourn back to the Fifties. There is more to share from this art instruction booklet, so stay tuned to the SPDG blog for the next installment. Now, off to doodle!-Kiera