"Everything should be made as simple as possible..but not simpler." Albert Einstein

4.29.10

Since returning from my trip to Mexico, when people ask me what I thought of the place, I have a hard time describing it.  I fell hard for Mexico City, from the moment the cab left the airport in the dark and drove around and around, circling back through the same dense streets searching for our little hotel.

Walking out onto the sidewalk the next morning I felt this excitement of being somewhere new, but also an electricity about the place.  I was all at once completely overwhelmed, happy, amazed and at  home.  The best way to describe it is that the place is compressed.  It really felt to me exactly like a Diego Rivera mural, where everything, color, texture, architecture, people, experience and time are all overlapped.

I really liked the range of architectural styles mingling together with an emphasis on texture and material.  So much beautiful concrete.  And the contrast of lush foliage with flowers and plants draped and hanging everywhere was jolting.

I remember feeling out of breath, like I needed to take it all in instantly and knowing that I couldn’t.  And knowing that there would be no way to capture what it is really like in an image or words.

4.15.10

I saw this courtyard on a recent trip to Mexico City, and was taken by the “living room” quality the potted plants give the space.  I like how using the pots outdoors allows the space to be changed and also let the individual plants stand out as objects, with space around them.

It reminded me of this space by the japanese architecture firm SAANA, who just won the Pritzker prize.

4.14.10

Insomnia, Luc Tuymans, 1988

In March I went to see the Luc Tuymans exhibit at SFMOMA.  I think I stopped dead in my tracks upon entering the first gallery, completely overwhelmed by the color and spareness and subtlety of his paintings.  Part of this might have been surprise.  A friend had traveled to see this show a few weeks before and when she told me about it, I looked up his work online.  I had not heard of Luc Tuymans before (yes, I live under a rock) and was not moved at all by what I saw.  But seeing the paintings in person, and as a group, was completely different.  There is a layering and glow to the paint that has an utterly phenomenal effect.   The combination of minimal compostions, difficult subject matter (often dealing with historical horrors), cool color palette and faded, subtle beauty has been called the “Tuymans effect.”  And I understand why.  It’s an effect that is hard to describe with words.

The difficulty in the subject matter makes the work even more complex and interesting but for me the atmosphere of the paintings, grouped together, felt like something I could just inhabit like an environment.  I went back to see the show again a few days later and felt the same way -like I was melting into the floor.  I had a similar experience upon hearing the music of Sigur Ros for the first time.  Beautiful, spare, haunting, surreal and incredibly inspiring.  The ultimate combination of simplicity and complexity.

A talk with Luc Tuymans about the SFMOMA show.
Some images of paintings here.

2.19.10

I don’t often use printed fabrics. I like the design of a garment to come from the way it is made and I tend to favor texture over pattern. But I do like patterns, especially if they are abstract or geometric and take advantage of the size of the cloth. This type of pattern is hard to find in fabric though, and when I do find it it is often not on the type of fabric I want to use.

Recently I decided to try designing my own patterns. This one is based on striation patterns on a rock surface. The overall pattern stretches the whole width of the fabric (58″) and has a 12″ vertical repeat. The linework is grey and printed on a tissue weight cotton knit.

I used it to make some tops with a drapey front and overall I like how they came out although they are a little more casual than I had intended. I debated having it printed on silk but thought that might be too formal. In hindsight I think the print would have toned down the formalness of the silk and given it a bit more polish.

This was an amazing learning experience, going from sketch to print to fabric selection and garment.

2.15.10

I’ve been working on some home accessories and realized just why I like making them so much: there is no issue about fit or how they will look on someone.

I love making clothes, but when it comes right down to it, clothing is very personal. No matter how much you like an item, whether it is from a designer or from a chain store, it might not look right on you. Every person’s body is so different and everyone’s idea of what looks good on them or what works is also different. I have to admit that that gives me anxiety. My goal is always to straddle the line of simple and basic pieces that have something that makes them just a bit different and interesting. Hopefully this translates into clothing that works on a wide range of body types and for a lot of different style interests. But I know every piece can’t work for every body.

Pillows though, are completely different. No fit issues there:)

2.4.10

I have several sketchbooks.  A little one that I take everywhere that mostly has notes and sketches in it, a super big one that I paste little bits of inspiration into and then a spiral one with perforated pages, that I use for making what I call garment sheets.

When it’s finally time to sit down and put all my ideas into a somewhat cohesive whole I gather my sketches and fabric swatches and image tears and make a page for each garment or accessory I want to make for a collection.  I like this part of my process because it’s the first time I see everything all together.

I have several sketchbooks. A little one that I take everywhere that mostly has notes and sketches in it, a super big one that I paste little bits of inspiration into and then a spiral one with perforated pages, that I use for making what I call garment sheets.

When it’s finally time to sit down and put all my ideas into a somewhat cohesive whole I gather my sketches and fabric swatches and image tears and make a page for each garment or accessory I want to make for a collection. I like this part of my process because it’s the first time I see everything all together.

These are some of my garment sheets for my spring SHIFT collection.

An interview and a video, both on young female artists, that I saw recently and found inspiring.

1.22.10

When I’m working and seem to be at a point where I’m not making any progress, sometimes I’ll make word lists. I tend to forget how helpful words can be. But then I’ll sit down and try to clarify my thoughts and realize that there is a unifying thought running through my process. And the words will pile up and inspire more ideas.

Another thing I like to do is work in illustrator, putting words and images together. There is something very calming to me about graphic design. I think it has to do with the amount of control and preciseness you have. You don’t have to worry about fit or drape or the organic nature of fabric.

My S/S 2010 collection is titled SHIFT:
a change or transfer from one place, position, direction, person, etc. to another
a straight, loose fitting dress; chemise
a dislocation of seam or stratum; fault

Inspired by the occurrence of change, SHIFT is both slow and sudden. Slowness and the marking of change over time, like striations inscribed by rock fragments in a glacier moving across the earth’s surface, allows contemplation and subtlety.
Suddenness, like a fracture along a fault, brings attention to one point, if just for a moment.
Although naturally drawn to the slow, the sudden helps us see that which is familiar in a new way.

Something else I’ve been thinking about lately is the philosophy of Super Normal – objects that are designed in such a way as to seem undesigned or normal, but with a special kind of normalcy.

1.18.10

When talking about design with my students I often mention beauty.  Surprisingly, it is a word that makes them visibly uncomfortable.  Make it beautiful I ask, and they squirm. The study of Architecture is too serious to include beauty, is what they imply. Is this because beauty has come to mean something outdated and romantic?  I hear students, faculty and other designers refer to architecture as “sexy” and that is the word that makes me cringe.  To me this implies something shallow and surface based.

There is what we symbolically think of as beautiful, and then there are things that just are.  Why do I love the grey-brown time of year after the colorful leaves have fallen?  Or the textural imprint of a tire in mud and snow? Usually these things are beautiful because of their context or juxtaposition (there’s that word again).  A place might be beautiful only at a certain time of day or year or even moment.

The other day while taking a walk with my 5 year old son, he stopped wordlessly staring out across the frozen road.  It happened to be one of those warm winter days in the city that are incredibly ugly -brown snow and slush everywhere.  But the sun was hitting a patch of ice and there was this incredible shimmer emanating from the surface.  He stood motionless and quiet just looking.  On the way back he asked if we could stop and see “that place” again, not really understanding yet that phenomena is fleeting.

It makes me incredibly happy that he was able to find something beautiful in that banal, bleak landscape.

The Plain Beauty of Well Made Things