How a Jewelry Designer Started Hand-Painting Her Own Textiles—and How You Can, Too!
Looking at her squiggly, colorful, enameled jewelry, it’s hard to believe that Kathryn Bentley of Dream Collective would ever feel creatively stymied. But when a friend sent her a Metropolis article about multi-disciplinary designer Gere Kavanaugh, she realized just how much she wanted to dabble in other mediums like, say, furniture and textiles. “Geri Kavanaugh is such a magical being—she did research for the Nixon Presidential Library, designed with Eero Saarinen, and made her own textiles,” explains Kathryn. “I feel like this woman is my spirit animal, and she’s just such a badass. Reading this article really completely changed my outlook.” One of Kathryn’s mind-expanding undertakings: painting her own textiles—and she’s happy for her three takes on that to be creative fuel for you, too.
1. The Spongeware Effect
“This blue-and-white style is a reference to nineteenth century spongeware pottery, which I collect from flea markets and eBay and Etsy. There was a tradition of women hand-painting stoneware with sponges, and then a few companies—one big one was Red Wing—started copying these handmade patterns into a bit more of a commercial product. And I remember when I was growing up, people would sponge their walls, but I’d never seen it on fabric. We use scoured canvas as a base for all of these projects. We use silkscreen ink in cobalt blue, which is a traditional color that was used a lot in this type of pottery. Silkscreen ink gets absorbed right into the fabric nicely. [Ed. note: You can print using fabric paint for a similar effect that doesn’t require professional setting—follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time and washing instructions.] We use a combination of natural sponge paint rollers and natural hand sponges to apply the ink to the canvas.”
2. The Artist’s-Palette-Inspired Color Swatches
“The second technique uses acrylic paint in multiple colors. When I started experimenting again with painting, which is what I studied when I was at SVA, I realized that my actual palette was way more interesting than what I was painting. This pattern, made with standard, flat artist paint brushes on scoured canvas, references how an artist would leave their messy palette—it will never be quite as good because it will never be as random, but it’s meant to be loose. As humans, we gravitate towards patterns, so it’s hard to get outside of that, but I try to keep it totally random.”
3. The Imperfect Grid
“In the Memphis Group style of art, the grid ties everything together and is structural—and a looser, hand-drawn grid is having a moment. In art school, you learn how to lay masking tape on canvas and then peel it off after painting to make straight lines, so that’s exactly what I did. This one usually takes four hands, so myself and a helper measure out a grid, lay the tape down and hand-paint each line with a brush and that same cobalt screen-printing ink as with the spongeware. Before everything dries completely, you peel off the tape and have these neat but a little imperfect lines.”