Resurgent Interest in Craft Is Injecting Fresh Perspectives in the Textile Industry

For this six-part series, Metropolis asked the textile industry's foremost experts what inspires them—here's what Nani Marquina, designer and founder of nanimarquina, told us.
Nani Marquina handmade textiles

Giant Waffle by Hiroko Takeda Courtesy Hiroko Takeda

Textile design is, to say the least, a varied field. High-tech woven wearables seem far removed from efforts to grow climate-beneficial fibers, and further still from more everyday concerns, like improving commercial upholstery. But speculative art and industry research can propel each other in powerful ways. Metropolis asked six leading textile designers to name inspirational projects that have pushed them to think differently about their work.

The following crafty inspirations come from Nani Marquina, designer and founder of nanimarquina. Stay tuned to the Metropolis homepage as we publish the other entries in this series!

Giant Waffle by Hiroko Takeda

Marquina refers to Hiroko Takeda’s weavings as containing a “subtle and passionate beauty”—qualities that become apparent in the depths of the Brooklyn-based artist’s Giant Waffle series. Trained in mingei, the Japanese folk-craft movement, Takeda blends techniques in architectonic weavings that introduce contemporary elements to traditional structures. In one of her first pieces in the series, Takeda combined the resist-dyeing technique kasuri with an enlarged version of the European waffle textile structure. The piece conveys the synergies and contrasts between Japanese and Western craft traditions.

One principle of mingei is that beauty enhances function. In this case, the honeycomb structure of the textile increases the functionality of the fabric. By enlarging the structure, Takeda hopes to “magnify its power and beauty for the purposes of art and architecture.” She states, “When I look at my work, I want to feel some energy and get some power from it.”

Nani Marquina handmade textiles

Fluffy Yoni Portal by Rachel Ehlin-Smith Courtesy Rachel Ehlin-Smith

Fluffy Yoni Portal by Rachel Ehlin-Smith

Rachel Ehlin-Smith is the owner and fiber artist behind the studio and online store Mr Blue Skye. Her delicate weavings use dried flowers, stalks of wheat, and other plants in art pieces with what Marquina calls “romantic, magical, almost dreamlike” qualities.

Mr Blue Skye originated after the premature birth of Ehlin-Smith’s son Skye, for whom the studio was named. At the time, she picked up weaving to relieve stress, and she says she quickly fell in love with the craft, the sound the loom makes, and the way the body moves in production. Informed by her growth as an artist during this time of early motherhood, much of her work is also in dialogue with the female body’s sexuality and maternal power.

Many of her pieces incorporate materials she collects near her home in San Diego (she calls its landscape a jackpot of “free art supplies”), such as sesame bloom, raw silk, wheat, and horsetail. Within one series, the textile Fluffy Yoni Portal, she says, is an interpretation of “all of the amazing things that women can do.”

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Categories: Textiles