[Block and Brayer's Triangles linen in Slate, Raspberry, and Celadon.]
Athens, Georgia seems to be a good place for creative women. Barrie Benson, now based in Charlotte, originally studied interior design in Athens at the University of Georgia, and a few more nationally known talents who choose to live and work in the city include textile designer Susan Hable, photographer Rinne Allen, and surface pattern designer Karla Pruitt. The latest on my radar are Allison Harper and Hollis McFadden, two designing women behind the young textile company with Athens roots, Block and Brayer.
[Deco Circles in French Blue, Light Gray, and Teal.]
SC: Often you seem to gravitate to geometrics, no? Or in some cases highly stylized natural forms. I see clean lines softened by the hand-silk-screening process. (These hand-screened designs come directly from Hollis's original hand-carved blocks, right?)
HM: Yes! I think it is a nice juxtaposition that works well for textiles.
AH (following up) : The patterns have an edge that can blend with a modern interior or update a traditional one. I love the simplicity of our one color prints. These characteristics appeal to our male audience as well -- the ones who typically are not interested in throw pillows on the their sofa! Also, the designs add a layer of unique interest that I always look to curate in the spaces I design.
[Frances in Celadon]
SC: Allison, do you and Hollis collaborate on the current colorways or are the color choices your personal stamp? You have an array of really mellow, unsaturated tones but then there's the punchy raspberry, rich teal, and sunny orange.
AH: The color choices are my stamp. I chose colors that work as accents or blend nicely into the scheme of a room, where the soft color balances the strength of the pattern.
[Pods in French Blue]
SC: Who or what inspires you? Favorite periods, artists or designers?
[2. Papilio polic; New York Public Library ID: 74797; Creator, Séguy, E. A.]
SC: Hollis, have any go-to textile related books to recommend?
HM: The Printmaking Bible: The Complete Guide to Materials and Techniques by Ann d'Arcy Hughes and Hebe Vernon-Morris is a great book to learn about printmaking in general. While it doesn't focus on textiles specifically, many of the ideas are transferable.
Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens by Lena Corwin and Thayer Allyson Gowdy is a great book if you are interested in trying out some printmaking of your own. It outlines simple, home solutions to printing textiles.
There are so many great design books out there...as I mentioned earlier, I love the art deco period. One I go back to often is Plants and Their Application to Ornament: A Nineteenth-Century Design Primer by Eugène Grasset and David P. Becker. I also reference other creative areas like metalworking or architecture for inspiration. You never know what you will find!
[Block and Brayer pouch]
SC: Where are your things made?
AH: Our product line is manufactured in the South and our fabrics are printed in the US.
[Images courtesy Block and Brayer]
[Mini Stripe and more Frances]
AH: When Hollis was a student at the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, she had the opportunity to go abroad during her junior year for the Cortona, Italy program. While there, she took a relief printmaking class and really fell in love with the process or carving and printing the blocks. Then, several years later, she was reintroduced to printing textiles when asked to create a handful of designs for a holiday pop-up shop at the Hawthorne House in Athens (curated by Rinne and Lucy Allen). There was such a great response to the fabrics that she kept working on designs and eventually started Block and Brayer.
SC: What about Snakes? What inspired this pattern specifically?
HM: With the snake pattern I wanted to create an edgy, bold print that keeps your attention and makes a statement in a room. It's fun because it's snakes but it's just as much about the play of negative and positive space in the print. It's one of our more graphic prints. You don't need much of it for a pop!
SC: Are you ever surprised by the prints customers like the most? Or not surprised?
AH: Yes and no. In general, I handpicked this collection with the hopes that there would be something for everyone. So, I've been pleasantly not surprised by the overall favorites.
Scout. Alternatively, fabric by the yard, pillows, poufs and pouches are available directly through B & B's site. All fabrics are printed with eco-friendly water-based inks.