African Print Fashion Now!

Hi. This is Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Julie Paschkis invited me to repost my latest article from Books Around The Table (a blog we share with three other children’s book authors and illustrators) here.

Julie, Deborah Mersky and I just returned from a field trip to Los Angeles to see African Print Fashion Now! at the Fowler Museum.

All of us are fans of the large and varied category of fabrics known as African prints. Deborah first introduced me to them many years ago when she brought some pieces for Julie and me back with her from a shop in New York. Then Julie gave me some yardage from Vlisco for my birthday.

“African print” is an umbrella term for commercially produced, patterned cloths made for the African market. The most prestigious, true “wax print” is a complicated process using wax or resin resist.

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Many African prints, including some that say ‘genuine wax’, are printed with simpler processes such as roller or screen printing. They are still very appealing. 

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The designs often carry symbolic meanings, and are chosen to communicate the cultural heritage and status of the wearer. Many motifs appear frequently in different designs. Keys and locks are common.

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Some have political or popular figures.

IMG_3293I’m always drawn to the ones with birds.

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These two were designed with a similar theme in mind, over fifty years apart.

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Some are electronic.

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Fans are popular. Very cool!

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Some designs are geometric and others floral. Many are both.

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It seems as though nearly anything can be made into a beautiful print cloth design.

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I’ve rarely seen African prints for sale in Seattle, but London fabric shops have a large clientele for African-style material. My collection grew substantially while I was there.

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Julie and I even went to Helmond outside of Amsterdam to visit the Vlisco factory for a bit of viewing and shopping.

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Established in 1846, Vlisco is the premier producer of African prints. It was hard to leave with only as much as we could carry. 

The origins of these prints can be traced back to painted and printed cottons from India for trade between South Asian and East Africa. These then inspired batiked fabrics in Indonesia. Later, Dutch and British manufacturers started producing mechanically made wax-resist prints for the Indonesian market. When the Indonesians rejected their products, preferring their own hand-dyed cloth, European manufacturers shifted their market to West Africa.

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There, they began to work with local traders, most of them women, to provide goods that reflected the cultural values and aesthetics of their clientele. During the 60s and 70s, newly independent African nations opened their own factories. More recently, Asian companies have flooded markets with more affordable designs, many of them knock-offs of Vlisco and other well-loved patterns. This has hurt the European and African companies, but has also increased the global awareness of African print textiles.

Both men and women wear clothing and accessories made from these fabrics.

Below are a few pieces shown in the exhibit.

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Here are two more that I saw in shop windows in Montreal recently.

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Why do I like these prints so much? Perhaps because of their connection to the printmaking techniques that have always appealed to me. Or maybe because of their playful and bold designs. They are as illustrative as they are decorative. I use patterns and color on clothing to add to the story in my children’s books too, like in the illustration below from Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, but mine aren’t quite so bold.

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I think what appeals to me most is the anything-goes approach to pattern design.
Fashion is always a form of personal expression. These fabrics just sing a bit louder than gingham or chambray.

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Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay painted rhythm and color. She painted across a century and across a continent.

A friend lent me the catalog from an exhibition about Delaunay at the Tate Museum. I am sharing pictures and information from that book with you here.
Delaunay was born in Ukraine in 1885. As a young girl she lived in St. Petersburg, Russia and summered in Finland.

She attended school in Karlsruhe, Germany. She moved to Paris in 1908 and spent most of her life there, with time in Portugal and Spain as well. She died in 1979. In her 20’s she started to paint exuberant rhythmic abstractions, and she continued to paint them for all of her life.

She also designed textiles, quilts, books, costumes for dance and murals. Delaunay’s ideas and images cross-pollinated in her work and in her life.

A painting…

…translated into embroidery.

Poems became dresses.

A dress echoed a book cover.

Bold patterns adorned dresses,

coats,

bathing suits,

and cars.

Here is a self portrait from 1916. Her face slowly reveals itself in the wheels of color. Delaunay said that color is the skin of the world.

As I get older I am interested in and inspired by artists who keep creating. Sonia Delaunay painted throughout her long life. She grew and changed and worked across many media. You can see her singular style shining through the decades.

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Thank you for your work, Sonia Delaunay.

 

 

 

Mmm Marimekko

What do you do on a rainy Saturday in Seattle? Grab your umbrella and go out.
At the Nordic Heritage Museum a show just opened: Marimekko with Love.

Marimekko was founded in 1951 by Viljo and Armi Ratia, and it was Armi’s pioneering vision that shaped the company.  She believed in the power of design in everyday life. Her vision rocked the world.

Marimekko fabrics were designed by many people (Maija Isola, Vuokko Eskolin Nurmesniemi, Annika Rimala, Katsuji Wakisaka.)  The designers had different styles but they were consistently powerful. The patterns still feel fresh today.



One room contained a rainbow panorama of swatches.

Here are some of them close up:

The show included clothing with delightful details.

Armi Ratia was from Karelia in the north of Finland. The Kalevala is an epic poem based on the folklore of Karelia. A verse at the end of Rune 50, the Marjatta, fits the radiant Marimekko show.

Bring anew the harp of joy
Bring back the golden moonlight
Bring again the silver sunshine,
peace, and plenty
to the Northland.

Oaxaca

This winter Seattle has been dark and wet. At times it has felt like the world is in black and white. In January I went to Oaxaca, Mexico. In Oaxaca the world is in color. (These photos haven’t been altered or filtered.)oaxaca street img_3763 img_3859 img_3838 img_3755 oaxaca flowers img_3722

The state of Oaxaca is a center of textiles. There are farms of cochineal. There are embroiderers and weavers. There are beautiful woven plastic totes in the markets and stalls of embroidery. There are markets in the surrounding towns and there is a textile museum in the city of Oaxaca. Here is a small and somewhat random sampling of the textiles that I saw.

A felt pillow by Franciso Toledo:

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A woman at the market in Tlacolula wearing a Ukrainian scarf.

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The front of my new (old) huipil:

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At the Textile Museum there was an exhibit of shibori, and there was an exhibit of weavings made with feathers. There were little bags of colored feathers and weavings made with the plumage.

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Next door to the Textile Museum was an ex-convent with an exhibit of ikoots woven by Justina Oviedo Rangel of San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca.

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This is just a taste of the textiles of Oaxaca. I hope you have enjoyed them and savored a bit of blue sky and Mexican joy with me.Oaxaca 2011

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Speak to me of scarves

Designing scarves was a real pleasure last year. Now I am going to start manufacturing them too. It is exciting but also risky. So I would like your opinion before I jump in!

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Do you have a preference for silk, cotton or silk/cotton blends?
Do you like rectangles (20″ x 70″) or squares (42″)?
Would you like small pocket handkerchiefs? Other shapes?

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Anything else you want to tell me? I am listening.

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I appreciate this feedback. As a thank you I will randomly pick someone who has left a comment and send that person a Sun Swoon scarf (on February 1st) .

My past designs include Summer Birds (blue), Sun Swoon and Red Star. Summer Birds is almost sold out. They are all for sale at juliepaprika.com

I’ve painted three new designs for possible scarves. I’d like to hear back from you which one I should move forward with. If you like more than one, please rank them. If you don’t like any of them please tell me that too.
Here are the three possible new designs. I will turn them into repeats later.

Courage. You could wear this scarf when you needed extra fortitude.

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Doodle Squares. Ink drawings on colored squares on a white background.

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Blue Moon Garden. Lots of shades of blue at night.

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I look forward to hearing from you.

I will be traveling from the 14-26 so I might not be able to approve or respond to your comments right away. But eventually I will get to all of them and I appreciate your feedback.

Thank you so much.

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Red Star

In the winter a bit of red is nice. A red berry or a red bird can warm the landscape. So I designed a red scarf.

I started by looking at red fabrics in one of my favorite books: Russian Textiles by Susan Meller.

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I noticed that the reds were made more beautiful by the colors around them- by more reds, and by contrasting colors. Here is a small feast of some of the Russian textiles that inspired me. Most of them are from the 19th century. They are either block printed or roller printed on cotton.

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I got out every tube of red gouache that I own and painted the basic building block of my scarf: a red star. The half circle and quarter circle on the edges flip to create whole flowers. I wanted joyful colors.

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I painted a border to use on the ends of the scarf with a different red background.

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I kept a record of all of the colors that I used: one sample sheet for myself, and one for the printer.

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Then, with photoshop, I made a design for a long scarf using that basic red star as a building block, flipping and repeating it. It looked too busy with the border panel, so I ditched that. Using the existing art I created a simpler star pattern for the ends, and added a red-orange border all around. Here are some of the steps, and then the final design.

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Linda Teufel of Dragon Threads had it printed in China. The scarf is 20″ x 70″ long on a beautiful, matte silk crepe de chine, with a hand rolled hem. The red saturates through both sides of the scarf. Allow me to model it for you, please.

It is a limited edition. You can buy one here at juliepaprika.com for $48. I’ll also be selling them (and books and prints) at the Ravenna Holiday Art & Craft Sale at the Ravenna Neighborhood Center, December 3rd from 10-3 (6535 Ravenna Ave. NE). Please come by!

I will leave you with a poem and picture that I wrote/drew about the color red. This is a page from a picture book that I am working on now.

Paschkis Red Poem

Oh, Mama

This is a story of many hands.


In May of 2015 I had a show at the  Bitters Co barn in Mt.Vernon, WA. I wrote here about  the barn sized quilt that I made for it: Mr. Big.
Here is a picture of Mr. Big in his new home, where he can stretch his legs over two stories.
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This year I wanted to make another big quilt, so Oh Mama was born.
Oh Mama is made of cotton quilting  fabric that I designed over the years for In The Beginning Fabrics. I designed the quilt and cut out the pieces at home. Then I went to Coyote Central and laid it out on the floor. I came home and sewed it together, and then sewed many pieces together for the back. It was too big to spread out in the house so I spread it out on the street.
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Now to sew the front and back together! I put out a request for help, and  the following kind and wonderful women stepped up:  Betz Bernhard, Margaret Bovingdon, Nancy Harriss, Eileen Hynes, Karen Kosoglad, Christina Reed, Liza von Rosenstiel, Marybeth Satterlee, Joanne Segura, and Lana Sundberg. Nancy took pictures as we worked (at Coyote Central).
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In just a few hours we had tacked it together. I did not include quilt batting because I wanted it to be able  to withstand some weather.
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I took the quilt up to the Bitters Co. barn where it was welcomed by the fabulous Carson sisters, Katie and Amy.
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Installation involved long poles.
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Oh Mama likes to look out at the fields of Mt. Vernon, her new home.
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Oh Mama was part of a show that I had at the Bitters Co.barn this year. I did the work for the show (paintings, drawings, quilts and paper dolls) over the last year and a half. Just before the show I broke my wrist and elbow. The show was still able to go up thanks to Katie and Amy and to my good friends Margaret Chodos-Irvine and Julan Chu.
I think Oh Mama is saying OH my friends are wonderful.

Read on if you would like to e-visit the show at the barn.
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The pictures start with the set up and end with the work in place.
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Thanks for visiting.