Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Homegrown: Block and Brayer

[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.]

Allison and Hollis both studied the arts at UGA: Allison gravitated to fine art with a focus on interior design, and Hollis majored in drawing and painting. When Hollis began custom blockprinting fabrics in limited runs, Allison -- now a residential and commercial designer in Atlanta -- immediately felt that her textiles deserved a wider audience. I was curious to learn more, so recently the duo took time to answer some of my questions.

[Chain pillows]

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.]

HM: Much of my inspiration comes from nature. I love taking the organic designs nature provides and working them into clean, graphic repeats that work well for textiles. I also love looking through art deco pattern books...they show such a great understanding of how to mix color, pattern, and organic elements. Right now I'm really inspired by E.A. Seguy and his bold butterfly prints. Maybe insects will make their debut in a coming Block and Brayer collection!

[Image from Eames: Beautiful Details ©2012 AMMO Books.]

AH: [As a small business owner] I am constantly inspired by other designers, writers and bloggers --anybody putting themselves out there. It's a tough business and it is inspiring to see everyone working so hard at a discipline they love. Artistically, I find inspiration through studying other cultures and history. I love the tradition and colors established by classical design. At the same time, I'm a fan of Charles Eames and other modernists for their emphasis on joining interior and exterior elements, and for their devotion to function.

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 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]

SC: Tell me a bit more about Hollis's background and foray into textiles?

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.

In Atlanta, find Block and Brayer at 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.


Jennifer C. Webb said...

beautiful collection. Miss my days in the UGA art department. Celebrating of of my dearest friend's birthdays this week....a friendship that began in that very department. An incredible incubator of creative talent.

Karla Pruitt said...

Hurrah for Athens! Lovely post and beautiful textiles!

Style Court said...

Karla and Jennifer -- thanks for popping in. And kudos Karla on the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles piece!