Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

12.16.2013

Local Talent: Clay McLaurin

[Unless credited otherwise, all images courtesy Clay McLaurin Studio
Pictured above, Elena in Mineral.]

[Elena and Wandering Stripe, both in Gulf.]

[Brush in Twilight.]


"I loved the immediacy of having [material] in my hand -- something that could be touched and used," says Atlanta-based artist and textile designer, Clay McLaurin, explaining his decision to pursue a career centered on fabric rather than graphic design as he initially planned. "I knew my career choice after taking a screen-printing course at The University of Georgia, where I received my BFA in fabric design and first fell in love with printing on fabric."

[Arch in Midnight.]

Today McLaurin has his own line, a graphic yet organically-colored collection of natural fiber fabrics printed in the South. Since I was curious about the art school grad's background and sources of inspiration, McLaurin kindly took time out for a little additional Q & A:

SC: Is there one textile, maybe a piece you studied in school, that further ignited your passion? Tell me a bit more about your education.

CM: At UGA I was exposed to William Morris. I remember being blown away by his process -- the intricacy of his designs and the movement of his patterns.

[A Morris design favored by McLaurin from 5000 Years of Textiles, edited by Jennifer Harris. ]

Later, I received my MFA from RISD. There I honed in on my surface design and weaving skills. RISD taught me to explore concepts and to push the boundary of the textile itself.   

 [Medallion in Tahoe.]

[Manji in Ocean.]

[Bleeding Heart in Melon.]
SC: What about other artists? Who else has informed your work?

CM: There are so many. I love the work of early explorers and artists like Anna Atkins and Karl Blossfeldt. There is a simplicity and natural beauty in their photography.


[Aristolochia Clematitis Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865–1932) Collection of The Met.]

[Anna Atkins, Poppy, about 1852. V & A Museum no. PH.381-1981.]

I also love the abstract paintings of Pierre Soulages. The movement, scale and rhythm in his art is bold and fresh. I take from these artists the idea that nothing is too fragile or perfect, but rather the imperfection is the beauty.

 [Soulages via Tate. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002.]

[Antique shibori via Sri Threads.]

SC: I think traditional Japanese techniques have inspired your work, no? Could you explain the significance of the dot-like forms in your designs? And what about the soft blues and greens in your palette?

CM: Traditional Japanese techniques have certainly inspired my work. The dot-like patterns take their inspiration from the Japanese resist technique called shibori with which fabric is bound, stitched, folded, twisted, or compressed then dyed. The resisted areas have usually been shaped into some type of pattern. When I was a student at UGA, I had an entire class devoted to Japanese textiles. In the class I learned this process of dyeing (in an actual Indigo vat), and I remember how incredible it was to be able to capture a pattern through a process unlike screen-printing or weaving.

[Shibori in Twilight.]
[Manji in Slate.]
Many of the dot-like patterns take inspiration from this concept of shibori in an abstract way. In some instances, such as Manji and Shibori, the dot acts as the resist [like in conventional shibori], but in other cases -- Elena or Medallion -- the dot is filled with a color thereby allowing the negative space to become the positive. I love playing with positive and negative space in my designs.

[Clay at work via Instagram.]

[Shibori in Fern.]

[Wave in Moss.]
The soft blues and greens were mostly inspired by the landscape. I remember when I first stepped foot in Japan, the quality of the light reflecting on the land was stunning.

[Georgia's natural beauty via the studio's Instagram.]

[Bleeding Heart in Midnight.]
So the colors in the collection are what I consider to mirror nature: sky blues, forest greens, lichens, earthy neutrals and midnight blues.

[Wave in Robins Egg.]

SC: Favorite museums?

CM: The Kyoto National Museum is not only architecturally inspiring, it houses a stunning collection of artifacts and textiles as well. And I have to admit, I'm a little partial to the RISD museum, it has an amazing historical textiles collection.


SC: Favorite textile-related book?

CM: Structure and Surface - Contemporary Japanese Textiles by Cara McCarty & Matilda McQuaid.

[Arch in Peony.]

3 comments:

Emile de Bruijn said...

I am a great fan of Soulages too: imposing and fragile, sculptural and graphic, ominous and tender all at the same time.

tokyojinja.com said...

Love Clay's fabrics! I had seen the shibori-esque ones before and thought they were wonderful, but the one that has grabbed me today is the Bleeding Heart.

robyn said...

happy holidays ! love this post :)