Featured Member – August 2015
Featured Member – August 2015
What is your background as an artist and what led you to surface pattern design?
The path that led me to textile design has been a rather circuitous route. My educational background includes art college studio courses in ceramics, photography, weaving and design, contemplative and Buddhist psychology and a PhD from the University of Toronto. Over the years, I have worked as a fine art and production ceramicist, as an actress and wardrobe mistress, as a fine art archival printer and photographer, as a part-time university lecturer, and as a psychotherapist in private practice. My photographs have been exhibited in numerous solo shows and are featured in private collections in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The inspiration for fabric design began in the summer of 2012 in Mexico. As part of a solo exhibition of my photographs, I printed a 4 x 12 foot composite photograph on silk. It was hung as a floating vertical silk installation in the gallery entrance way. When I first saw it--shape shifting in the wind, backlit by the Mexican sun—I was transported, experiencing the photographs in a different, even more sensual way. Now, my passion for creating beautiful textiles inspires my photographic proclivities.
How would you define your style?
Themes of intimacy, sensuality and presence, are threads that run through my work. To enter the liminal space where two worlds touch, where it is possible to receive an image, requires a quality of attention that is both present and available, yet without preconception—the kind of receptivity that allows something new to arise. Entering this transitional space I experience a feeling of wonder at the fresh vividness of reality. The “ordinary magic” of this kind of presence is a passion that has run through my life: in my early love of theatre and my work as an actress; in my visceral resonance with form and composition which drew me to ceramics and black and white photography; in the intimate and layered listening that was part of the “art” of working as a psychotherapist. It influences both what I am drawn to and the process of how I work. One of the things I most love about the practice of photography is that it allows me to enter a very intimate space in which I get "to kiss the world with my eyes." These themes have also been primary considerations in choosing to create textiles and small edition wearable collections. My hope is that, wearing and using them, people will experience the pleasure of “ordinary magic” in even more intimate and sensual ways.
What was your first job doing surface pattern design and how did you get it?
Well, once the inspiration took hold of me, I followed where it led me. I started to play with my images, treating them as “scraps of material” I could fashion into new forms. As various designs were created, I printed them on different fabrics and had them made into wraps, which I wore. People immediately expressed interest in purchasing the work. The problem was that I was printing with archival pigment dyes that were great for photographs, but were not adequate for creating colorfast washable textiles.
This led to months of research and learning: I taught myself new software programs, so I could execute my vision. I used my large format archival photo printer to test the designs on various fabrics, and made the decision to focus on various types of silk. I researched ways I could print silk with colorfast and washable dyes. After exploring other options, I made the decision to print my own line so I could continue to test fabrics and maintain quality control. I imported a relatively inexpensive large format printing system and jury rigged it to print with acid dyes on silk. I sourced silks and dye, and discovered I needed to import them since they were not available in Mexico. I learned how to properly steam and wash the printed silks. I sourced and met with skilled local seamstresses, and formed relationships with them. I developed garment patterns, and worked with a graphic designer to create logos and advertising. I created inventory. The culmination of all this happened six months later when I opened a small boutique in downtown San Miguel de Allende.
Because San Miguel is a very popular international tourist destination, it turned out to be a perfect testing ground. In a very short time the designs were purchased by people from New York, Boston, Miami, Aspen, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Toronto, Ottawa, Dubai, Paris, Dublin, Mexico City, Puerta Vallarta, Leon, Queretaro, Melbourne, Singapore as well as by residents of San Miguel. It still amuses me that my textiles are more well traveled than I am.
In April 2015 I relocated from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to Montreal Canada and began the next chapter of kateMCKENNA. The move was motivated by my desire to continue my textile design work and have access to resources that weren’t available in Mexico. Over the past few months I have been setting up my studio; sourcing and testing various silk fabrics and printing company options; finding skilled seamstresses; and learning how to construct an e-commerce website. I am also developing a collection of new designs.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I am inspired by patterns in nature and by urban landscapes; by color and light and form; by theatre, music and dance; by the 8 years I lived in Mexico; by visits to museums, galleries and artist studios; by great design in whatever form; and, perhaps especially, by the creative process itself.
You can see more of Kate's work on her website: www.katemckennadesign.com and can read more about her on the SPDG member's profile page.