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Article

Courtney Ann Shaw

(b Fort Plain, NY, Oct 27, 1925; d San Francisco, 2006).

American tapestry artist, painter and stained-glass designer. Adams studied painting at Syracuse University and with Hans Hoffmann in New York, where he was influenced by the medieval tapestries in the Cloisters and also by the work of Matisse. In the 1950s Adams was apprenticed to the influential French tapestry designer Jean Lurçat, from whom he learnt the bold colours and clear imagery that characterize his work. He also studied at the Ecole Nationale d’Art Décoratif in Aubusson before beginning to use a series of workshops, notably that of Marguerite and Paul Avignon, who wove his first nationally acclaimed tapestry, Phoenix and the Golden Gate (1957). Flight of Angels (1962) was exhibited at the first Biennale Internationale de la Tapisserie in Lausanne. In 1976 his cartoon of California Poppies (San Francisco, CA Pal. Legion of Honor) was woven for the Five Centuries of Tapestry exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, as a demonstration piece. Later tapestries, for example ...

Article

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

(b. Beirut, 1925).

Lebanese–American artist and writer. Daughter of a Greek Christian mother and a Syrian Muslim father, she was educated in Lebanon and at universities in France and the United States. For many years she taught the philosophy of art at Dominican College, San Rafael, CA. She also lectured and taught at many other colleges and universities until her retirement in the late 1970s. Also a novelist and poet, she combined Arabic calligraphy with modern language in her drawings, paintings, ceramics and tapestries. She explored the relationship between word and image in over 200 “artist books,” in which she transcribed in her own hand Arabic poetry from a variety of sources.

E. Adnan: Sitt Marie Rose (Paris, 1978; Eng. trans., Sausalito, CA, 1982) [novel about the Lebanese Civil War]E. Adnan with R. Koraichi and J.-E. Bencheika: Rachid Koraichi: L’écriture passion (Algiers, 1988)E. Adnan: In the Heart of Another Country (San Francisco, 2005)...

Article

Adrian  

Ann Poulson

(Gilbert) [Greenburg, Adrian Adolph]

(b Naugatuck, CT, March 3, 1903; d Los Angeles, CA, Sept 13, 1959).

American costume and fashion designer. Adrian is best known for his costume designs for Hollywood films and his signature women’s suits (see fig.). Adrian was educated at the School for Fine and Applied Arts (now Parsons School of Design) in New York and Paris. He began his career in New York by designing costumes for Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue of 1921. It was through his work on Broadway that he met the costume designer Natacha Rambova, wife of the screen idol Rudolph Valentino, and began designing costumes for films. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1924 and by 1926 was working for the director Cecil B. DeMille, who brought him to Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in 1928. When his contract with DeMille ended, Adrian signed with MGM, where he would remain as head costume designer until 1942. At MGM, Adrian dressed stars such as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer and Jeanette McDonald. Although it was his designs for Garbo, in which he was careful not to distract from her natural beauty, that first brought him fame, it was his creations for Joan Crawford that made him a household name....

Article

Chika Okeke-Agulu

(b Cairo, May 22, 1963).

American painter, sculptor, fibre and installation artist of Egyptian birth. Amer, one of the few young artists of African origin to gain prominence in the late 1990s international art scene, studied painting in France at the Villa Arson EPIAR, Nice (MFA, 1989), and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastique, Paris (1991). She subsequently moved to New York. She is best known for her canvases in which paint and embroidery are combined to explore themes of love, desire, sexuality, and women’s identity in a patriarchal world. Amer’s use of Embroidery, historically regarded as a genteel female craft, to create images of women fulfilling their sexual desires without inhibition, recalls the provocations and strategies of 1970s Western feminist art. However, her work also reflects her alarm at the incremental curbing of women’s social and political freedoms in her native Egypt following the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser ended in ...

Article

Joan Marter

(b Atlanta, GA, March 16, 1938).

African American painter, printmaker, and weaver. Amos studied fine arts and textile weaving at Antioch College at Yellow Springs, OH, where she received her BFA in 1958. She went on to study etching and painting at the Central School of Art, London (1958–9), and the following year she moved to New York, where she began working at two printmaking studios: Robert Blackburn’s workshop and that of Letterio Calapai (an outpost of Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17). She completed her MA at New York University (NYU) in 1966. Through Hale Woodruff, an art professor at NYU and family friend, she was invited to exhibit with Spiral, an all-male art group founded by Woodruff and Romare Bearden and featuring recognized African American artists. Spiral, closely allied with the Civil Rights movement, dissolved in 1967 and subsequently Amos had trouble exhibiting her work. In 1974, after the birth of her two children, Amos found a position as an instructor in textile design at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts. She continued her own weaving in New York and benefited from the revival of interest in women’s traditional art forms in the early years of the feminist art movement....

Article

Suzanne Tise

Descriptive term applied to a style of decorative arts that was widely disseminated in Europe and the USA during the 1920s and 1930s. Derived from the style made popular by the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925, the term has been used only since the late 1960s, when there was a revival of interest in the decorative arts of the early 20th century. Since then the term ‘Art Deco’ has been applied to a wide variety of works produced during the inter-war years, and even to those of the German Bauhaus. But Art Deco was essentially of French origin, and the term should, therefore, be applied only to French works and those from countries directly influenced by France.

The development of the Art Deco style, or the Style moderne as it was called at the time, closely paralleled the initiation of the 1925...

Article

Alan Crawford

Informal movement in architecture and the decorative arts that championed the unity of the arts, the experience of the individual craftsman, and the qualities of materials and construction in the work itself.

The Arts and Crafts Movement developed in the second half of the 19th century and lasted well into the 20th, drawing its support from progressive artists, architects and designers, philanthropists, amateurs, and middle-class women seeking work in the home. They set up small workshops apart from the world of industry, revived old techniques, and revered the humble household objects of pre-industrial times. The movement was strongest in the industrializing countries of northern Europe and in the USA, and it can best be understood as an unfocused reaction against industrialization. Although quixotic in its anti-industrialism, it was not unique; indeed it was only one among several late 19th-century reform movements, such as the Garden City movement, vegetarianism, and folksong revivals, that set the Romantic values of nature and folk culture against the artificiality of modern life....

Article

Gordon Campbell

(b 1845; d 1908).

American interior decorator and founder of the first tapestry factory in the USA. He worked for Herter Brothers (see Herter, Christian) on the decoration of a series of grand houses, notably William H. Vanderbilt’s house on Fifth Avenue, New York, and William Welsh Harrison’s Grey Towers Castle (now part of Arcadia University) in Philadelphia. When the Vanderbilt house was completed in 1882, Christian Herter returned to Germany and Baumgarten took over the company. In 1891 he started his own company, William Baumgarten and Company, Inc., and in 1893 complemented his interior decoration business with a tapestry factory in his Fifth Avenue premises. He recruited weavers and dyers from the Royal Windsor Tapestry Manufactory (which had closed in 1890), including five weavers from the Foussadier family. The factory’s tapestries include one at Grey Towers (1898).

A Short Résumé of the History of Tapestry Making in the Past and Present...

Article

Melissa Marra

(b Haynesville, LA, Aug 30, 1927; d New York, Sept 28, 2004).

American fashion designer. A modernist, Beene’s inventive geometric cuts and in-depth understanding of the human body made him one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century.

In deference to a family tradition, Beene enrolled as a pre-med student at Tulane University in 1943, despite his childhood penchant for fashion. While at Tulane, Beene was notoriously caught sketching the gowns designed by Hollywood costumer Adrian in his anatomy book. Three years later, he withdrew from Tulane University and moved to Los Angeles, where he became employed in the display department of the store I. Magnin. In 1947, he moved to New York to study at the Traphagen School of Fashion, but having concluded that the focus of postwar fashion had shifted to France, Beene transferred to Paris’s Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne the following year. During his two years at that institution, he also studied life drawing at Académie Julian, and in the evenings was apprenticed to a master tailor for the ...

Article

Kristen Shirts

(Ralph) [William]

(b Fort Wayne, IN, June 22, 1922; d New York, June 12, 2002,.

American fashion designer. Blass is known for his ready-to-wear apparel and sportswear. He cultivated a high-society personal image to complement his upper-class clientele and is often credited with promoting a distinctly American look that incorporated simplicity, practicality and casual luxury. He is also known for his shrewd business practices, including product licensing and making personal appearances at ‘trunk shows’ across the country.

Blass was the only son of a hardware salesman and a dressmaker. The modesty of his life in the Midwest during the Depression, particularly after his father’s suicide when Blass was five, made him determined to get away from small-town America. As a child, he sketched Manhattan society women in penthouse apartments and, before he entered high school, he began selling sketches of evening dresses to New York clothing manufacturer Kalmour. After high school, he moved to New York and took a job as a sketch artist at David Crystal, a sportswear firm, while attending fashion design classes. He soon enlisted in the US Army and spent the years from ...

Article

Kirsta Willis

(b Newark, NJ, Sept 15, 1943).

African-American fashion designer. Burrows’s trademarks included colour blocking, asymmetry, fluid jersey separates and fluted ‘lettuce’ hems. With a youthful nonchalance and anti-establishment sensibility, Burrows clothes defined the movement and the eclecticism of New York City’s nightlife in the 1970s.

Burrows’s love affair with colour stemmed from his mother, who taught him to draw using the entire box of crayons, while from his seamstress grandmother, he learned how to sew. However, Burrows never contemplated a career in fashion until he attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. After graduating from Newark’s Arts High School, Burrows set out for Philadelphia, intent on becoming an art teacher. However, spurred on by a fashion exhibition he viewed, Burrows left the arts college in his second year, working briefly in the display department of Bamberger’s department store before enrolling in Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1966 and landed his first job with Weber Originals where he spent a particularly boring year designing ladies’ blouses. Burrows took his restless creativity back to New Jersey and began freelancing, mainly making clothing for his friends....

Article

Kristen Shirts

(b Fresno, CA, Sept 28, 1908; d New York, Feb 3, 2000.

American fashion designer. Active from the late 1930s through to the mid-1980s, Cashin designed clothing for women with busy, modern lifestyles. She took design inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including nature, travel and sports. Her signature style included layered clothing, inventive pockets and the liberal use of leathers (see fig.). Her ideal client was a woman like herself, active and interested in the world around her and unwilling to sacrifice comfort or function for fashion.

Cashin was raised in California by a dressmaker mother and a photographer-inventor father. She spent her childhood drawing fashion illustrations and playing with scraps of fabric from her mother’s shop. After graduating from high school in 1931, she was hired to design costumes for a local dance troupe. In 1934, the troupe’s manager moved to the Roxy Theater in New York, and Cashin spent the next several years designing costumes for the Roxyettes. Cashin credited her stage career with teaching her how to design clothes that would accommodate a moving body, a skill she later used for designing sportswear....

Article

Naomi Beckwith

(b Fulton, MO, Feb 4, 1959).

American sculptor and multimedia artist working in fibre, installation, video, and performance. The youngest of seven sons born into a central Missouri family, Cave demonstrated an early acumen with hand-made objects and throughout his career has created works out of texturally rich materials imbued with cultural meaning. Cave received his BFA (1982) from the Kansas City Art Institute, developing an interest in textiles and, after some graduate-level work at North Texas State University, received his MFA (1989) from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, renowned for their textile, fibre art, and design programmes. While working toward his art degrees, Cave simultaneously studied with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, a company known for introducing African American folk traditions into the modern dance vocabulary. Cave moved to Chicago where he became chair of the Department of Fashion Design at the School of the Art Institute in 1980.

Working across the disciplines of sculpture, textile, dance, and cultural performance, Cave’s oeuvre is based on the human figure; he has produced wearable art as sculptures, arrangements of human and animal figurines as installations, and performance works. Cave’s signature works, the multi-sensory ‘...

Article

Martine Reid

(b Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Nov 4, 1946).

Native American Haida sculptor, metalworker, printmaker and blanket-maker. He was the grandson of the Haida blanket- and basket-maker Florence Davidson (1895–1993), and great-grandson of the Haida wood-carver Charles Edenshaw. He began carving argillite as a teenager in Masset, and in 1966 he met Bill Reid, who offered him workshop space in Vancouver. There Davidson developed new carving skills and learnt the fundamentals of the two-dimensional (‘formline’) designs used by the Haida and other tribes of the northern Northwest Coast (see Native North American art, §III, 2). In 1969 he returned to Masset to carve a 12.2 m-high totem pole, the first heraldic column to be raised on the Queen Charlotte Islands since the end of the 19th century. In 1987 Davidson and his crew produced a set of three totem poles entitled Three Variations on Killer Whale Myths for the Pepsicola Sculptural Garden in Purchase, NY. In these totem poles Davidson worked within the strict conventions of the Haida style, refining it by introducing subtle variations in design but preserving a degree of conservative austerity in which movement and individual expression are sacrificed to overall unity of form. In his early work in silver Davidson used flat patterns influenced by Edenshaw, and he went on to develop these into an innovative style of his own in screenprints, silver and bronze. Davidson’s younger brother, ...

Article

Kristen Shirts

(b Portsmouth, VA, March 3, 1940; d New York, May 30, 1986).

American fashion designer. Ellis’s sportswear designs were prime examples of the relaxed, youthful American look popularized in the 1980s (see fig.). His design signatures included natural fibres, hand knits and a casual fit. Despite a career cut short by his death at the age of 46, he built a fashion empire that included several lines of apparel as well as accessories, furs and other licenses.

Born to upper-middle-class parents, Ellis had a happy childhood. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, and a brief stint in the United States Coast Guard, Ellis enrolled at New York University, earning a master’s degree in retailing. He returned to Virginia in 1963 to work as a buyer for Miller and Rhodes, a venerable department store in Richmond, VA. Assigned to work in the junior sportswear department, Ellis honed his sense of what his customers wanted and made his department the most profitable in the store. As an influential buyer, he soon began to make design suggestions to manufacturers such as John Meyer of Norwich. John Meyer executives were so impressed with Ellis’s ability to spot trends that in ...

Article

Damie Stillman

Architectural and decorative arts style that flourished in the USA from shortly after the acknowledgement of independence in the Treaty of Paris (1783) until c. 1820. The term is derived from the period surrounding the creation of the federal constitution in 1787 and was in use in a political sense by that year. Essentially it was a form of Neo-classicism, strongly influenced by manifestations of that style in England and, to a lesser extent, in France; but at times certain more conservative qualities inherited from the previous Colonial period are also present. The inspiration of European, and especially English, Neo-classical architecture was to be expected in a society grounded in that of 18th-century England; but an added impetus was the association often cited at the time between the fledgling American republic and the ancient Roman one.

Although a few indications of European Neo-classical influence are found in the American colonies before the Revolution began in ...

Article

Sandra Sider

Folk art, or vernacular art (specific to a group or place), developed in Colonial America out of necessity when individual households produced most of the utilitarian objects required for daily life. Using traditional tools and techniques, many of these makers created pieces in which aesthetics came to play a substantial role, through form, ornamentation, or both. In some groups, notably the Shakers, function was emphasized, with pure form evoking an aesthetic and spiritual response. Religious beliefs have informed American folk art, such as the saints and other figures (Santos) carved and painted by Catholic settlers in the Southwest as early as 1700. Although the majority of folk art is now anonymous, the oeuvre of numerous individual artists can be determined by their distinctive styles or marks. Folk art is often considered within the field of ‘material culture’, with an emphasis on the object’s context rather than its creator. Most American folk art falls within three categories: painting and cut paper, textiles and fibre, and three-dimensional work such as furniture, carvings, metalwork, ceramics, and outdoor installations....

Article

(b Brussels, Dec 31, 1947).

American fashion designer of Belgian birth. Von Furstenberg is best known for her sexy, printed jersey wrap dresses. Von Furstenberg credits her work ethic and determination to her mother Lily, the survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. In 1966 at the University of Geneva, she met Austro-Italian Prince Edward Egon von Furstenberg, heir to the Fiat fortune. The two married in Paris in 1969. Von Furstenberg’s career as a fashion designer began that same year with a short apprenticeship to Angelo Ferretti, an Italian textile manufacturer. Despite having no formal design training, she put together a small collection of shirtwaist dresses inspired by Ferretti’s silk jersey prints. In 1970 she arrived in New York to show them to the editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, who was impressed by them. Von Furstenberg officially launched her company two years later with the slogan, ‘Feel like a woman, wear a dress’. Von Furstenberg was designing for herself—a working woman in her late 20s or early 30s who was successful, free-spirited, confident and sensual. Her dresses were a feminine and flirty alternative to the androgynous trouser suits of the 1970s....

Article

Molly Sorkin

(b Philadelphia, PA, Sept 20, 1924).

American fashion designer. During a career that spanned the second half of the 20th century, Galanos occupied a unique place in American fashion. He embraced the art and craft of haute couture to create high-end ready-to-wear fashion characterized by luxury materials, impeccable construction and lavish embellishment. Pleating was a hallmark of the Galanos style as was elaborate embroidery. Though trained in New York and Paris, Galanos based his business in Los Angeles, away from the centres of high fashion, which allowed him the freedom to develop an enduring style that reflected his vision of modern elegance (see fig.).

In 1941 Galanos began his formal training at the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York but left without finishing his degree. After a stint at Hattie Carnegie he moved to Los Angeles where he had been offered a design position with a new company. He also met Jean Louis [Berthault] (...

Article

Cassandra Gero

[Rudolf]

(b Vienna, Aug 8, 1922; d Los Angeles, CA, April 20, 1985).

American fashion designer of Austrian birth. In the 1950s and 1960s, Rudi Gernreich was the leading avant-garde designer in the United States. His sportswear was an attempt to free women from the constraints of the fashions of the past, dominated by French couture. He continually proved to be ahead of his time, and the results were sometimes found to be shocking.

Gernreich’s father was a hosiery manufacturer and he learnt about clothing in his aunt’s couture salon in Vienna. He moved with his mother to Los Angeles in 1938 and in 1942 joined the Lester Horton Modern Dance Troupe as a dancer and costume designer. After six years he decided that he was not talented enough to be a dancer and began to focus on fashion. By 1951 he was working with a clothing manufacturer named William Bass, and by 1959 he was designing under his own name, as well as for Harmon Knitwear....