In his classic tome on two-dimensional design, Wucius Wong indicates that it takes at least three elements for something to be considered repeating. Repeating elements is one of the first theories you learn as a textile designer. I spent an entire semester discussing the theory of words and their meanings in design language. We were all in agreement: for repetition, two isn’t enough. What about over three hundred?
Wucius Wong’s theory is the first thing that comes to mind when I look at these pictures from an exhibition by the artist Francis Alys, showcased at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In room after room, over 300 portraits of Saint Fabiola are displayed: the same woman in the same pose, the same traditional rendition. Repetition – the same image seen over and over again.
The artist has collected these paintings from flea markets and garage sales in his adopted home of Mexico City. Most are painted by amateur artists. All portray the same woman, again, and again, and again. What Alys points out is that, though the images are similar – they all portray this woman, Saint Fabiola, in the same traditional veil, seated in the same pose and with the same background color – each individual image is unique. Each bears the mark of the artist. One may paint her nose with a slant; another may paint her with makeup or a solemn expression. The artists have copied a widely known image, but interpreted through their own eyes. We see repetition, but without absolutely identical images.
The larger art here is in the repetition of the “pattern,” or image. But, Francis Alys is showing us that even copies bear the mark of the creator. Seeing the same image repeated hundreds of times makes for an impressive impact. Viewed as a whole they represent merely a single pattern; viewed more closely, they demonstrate that, even when re-creating someone else’s work of art, the artist’s uniqueness shines through.
*Photos borrowed from California Literary Review.
It’s the time of the year when the shape of a heart makes its prolific comeback (although with a six-year-old girl at home, the heart shape is a pretty common part of daily life). Graphic symbols often carry with them deep histories (and controversies) over where the shape emerged. This simple shape is no different. Apparently it is found in cave paintings dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.E.
Some believe that the shape was a simplification of the silhouette of the human heart; others believe that it was a sign used for a now-extinct plant called silphium, which was used as a form of birth-control—therefore becoming the sign of love. Still others believe that the inverted heart symbolized the hanging scrotum —perhaps a stretch of the (over-active) imagination.
Wherever your beliefs land, it can’t be denied that the heart is possibly the most (over?) used symbol of our time. But then, why should that stop us?
Here is our version of the heart in stencil form:
Check back this week as we elaborate on all things love (and heart shaped), from Dr. Ruth to DIY Kits, and little girls’ valentines (to themselves). “I love you. I love you. I love you,” she murmured as she gazed in the mirror.
Should we all find such self-love in these next two weeks… and for the rest of our lives.
You can download the Hearts Stencil from our Resource page and sign yourself (and a loved one) up for our One-Day Studio workshop to get in the mood.
Valentine’s Special: Buy a One-Day Studio workshop at full price and get a second one for $295.
P.S.: Heart rocks above were carefully selected from Natalie and Maggie’s collection.
In 2008, to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the peace symbol, National Geographic published Peace: the Biography of a Symbol, by Ken Kolsbun with Michael S. Sweeney.
The book documents the symbol, from its creation in 1958, through its usage in the folk scene of the 1960s, its very visible presence in the 1970s at Woodstock, Vietnam war protests, and in the artwork of Peter Max, until today, with its wide use in commerce and as a cultural icon.
National Geographic has a moving photo gallery of the peace symbol that you can view here, starting with the gorgeous photo of Arlo Guthrie below by Bettman/CORBIS.
The ancient Greeks believed that the olive branch brought not only food, but deliverance from evil—or that is to say, they believed that the olive branch kept evil away. Since that time (and most likely before), the olive branch or the olive branch in combination with the dove, can be found in all manner of art and design. The incorporation of these images always infers peace. Not inner peace—if I understand it correctly—but the absence of war.
This imagery also found its way into literature with the “offering of the olive branch.” The item itself has been beloved in the kitchen since first tasted, is the base for creating the best oil you can find to eat (in my humble opinion), can be used for creating cleaning supplies, and is now a popular name for little girls my daughter Maggie’s age. Perhaps that comes from the sweet little exhausting mischievous pig Olivia. And, as you know, we also have an Olivia in our studio.
But I diverge…
And this is what my pencil bag would want me to draw if I were Gordon Hull:
Stencil artwork used in our Studio Style Book Series are now available for download from our new Resources page.
These stencils should (in best case scenario) be to full scale when printed;however, keep in mind that different printers can alter the scale slightly.
Visit our STUDIO STYLE DIY shop for our favorite sewing, resource, and inspirational books.
I own a lot of books on pattern design but British Textiles – published by V&A – is one of the loveliest I have seen for a long time.
(It was at the bottom of the pile yesterday but is on top today.)
The book highlights woven and printed fabric (embroidery is planned for an upcoming volume); however, I adore the simple painted designs that sometimes include the artist process. In my favorites, you can see finely drawn pencil lines, loosely painted swaths of color and the underpinnings of structural grids. The silk design above from page 29 feels incredibly modern but was designed by James Leman in 1719.
Moving through the book, you experience an exquisite evolution of British color and design through the ages.
While expensive, this big (weighs 6 pounds), complete (494 pages), beautiful (over 1000 images), inspirational book is one of my new favorites:
British Textiles: 1700 to the Present
Looking very forward to the embroidery volume as well…
This year marks a decade on my journey to Alabama Chanin.
Looking at where we started, where we have been and where we are headed has been an amazing and beautiful process. What a time of laughter, tears, exploration, and, well, growing up.
To celebrate our growing up, we will be launching several exciting collaborations over the next months, planning celebrations, looking back and, of course, looking forward.
The first of these collaborations – with our friends at Commune Design – has resulted in a set of new logos for Alabama Chanin and Alabama Studio Style.
Here today we present our new Alabama Chanin logo…
Look for the new logo to be integrated into our couture clothing, our site and the Alabama Chanin world over the next months. Come back tomorrow for a chat with Roman Alonso, from Commune, about design, his trip to Alabama, a bit of history and the humor behind our new and improved label.
Thanks to everyone for sticking with us this past decade… looking forward to the next.
We use rubber stamps for so many things… the very first label I designed was a rubber stamp. We use them for letterhead, envelopes, presentation covers, business cards. This is a great resource and so easy to design your own: www.rubberstampchamp.com
I guess that I am the last person on the planet to learn about printing fabric with Spoonflower – well, just happens that way sometimes…
BUT, I have signed up on the list and can’t wait for my turn.
Until then, I will occupy myself playing with these great instructions for making repeats in Photoshop:
Learn more: How do I repeat an image to make a pattern?