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Fresh Twist on Traditional Textiles

Fresh Twist on Traditional Textiles

Printmaking senior Nina de Vassal 13 PR is pleased to have found a way to showcase the outdoor textures typical of Philadelphia’s oldest neighborhoods inside the home – through sophisticated upholstery and wallpaper inspired by the brick exteriors of many of the area’s Federal-style homes, not to mention the wisteria that creeps along their wrought iron fences.

“This brick pattern is incredibly hip,” notes Lisa Scull 82 TX, a senior critic in the Textiles department, in responding to the work. “I never imagined this particular design could be refashioned to look so contemporary.”

de Vassal developed her chic fabrics as part of a six-week design project sponsored by Traditional Home magazine and Fabricut, one of the world's largest distributors of decorative fabrics. Students enrolled in five Textiles studios – Computer Interfaced Dobby: Weaving and Design, CAD in Textiles, Design for Printed Textiles, Jacquard for Pattern and Knitted Fabrics – created refreshing new print designs inspired by a distinct home of their choice. Whether designed for a modular structure, a log cabin or a fictional mansion, each of the residential textile projects retains a strong sense of tradition while pushing contemporary boundaries.

“This project gave RISD students and faculty a focused opportunity to address the question of what the term ‘traditional’ actually means,” notes Daniel Hewett, a critic in the Interior Architecture department who helped coordinate the project. “As a result of this exploration, the body of work is exceptionally innovative and full of rich ideas.”

In mid-May representatives from Fabricut, Traditional Home and RISD got an inside look at students’ designs at the final crit. After carefully reviewing each of the 38 designs presented, Fabricut designers will select patterns to be adapted for production at manufacturing sites across the world. Nina Butkin 89 TX, vice president of Design at Fabricut, confirms that a portion of the proceeds generated as the result of the student patterns selected will be donated to the Textiles department.

“These projects are really innovative because students brought their own perspectives to the design process,” notes Butkin. “These textiles will undoubtedly influence the home furnishing market in the years ahead.”

Selected designs will also receive national media coverage. At the end of the year Traditional Home – a popular home décor magazine that reaches more than 4.5 million readers worldwide – will run a story featuring selected student projects.

One pattern that immediately caught reviewers’ eyes is a bold art deco print created by Katherine Entis 14 TX. “I was inspired by the mansion in the film Citizen Kane,” she explains. “It represents the empty sense of power that comes with acquiring things.”

Using a computer-programmed jacquard loom the textiles artist wove a multilayered wallcovering out of rayon, wool, cotton and metalized polyester. She then cut away parts of the fabric to expose the darkest layers, meant to represent the materialism and egregious wealth captured in the classic novels that inspired the piece. “It’s a beautifully realized concept that’s rooted in fine art,” notes Assistant Professor Brooks Hagan MFA 02 TX, head of the Textiles department. “There's an oddity to these shapes that is strangely refreshing.”

The professional designers and journalists at the final review were also intrigued by a series of patterns conceived by Rosa Glenn 14 TX. The junior made plaid silkscreened swatches and neon pop art prints originally inspired by her early childhood memories of Delphi Lodge, a rustic vacation resort in Ireland’s Connemara region. The panelists also were pleased with edgy designs by Racheli Gross 14 TX that were inspired by industrial observation towers inhabited by migrant travelers.

“There was a real ‘wow’ factor with these student projects,” notes Doris Athineos, an editor at Traditional Home. “So much of their individual personalities went into these intellectually engaging presentations. They really blurred the line between art and interior design.”

–Abigail Crocker

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