Kravet and Valdese: designs of distinction
“To me, the most refined aesthetic art form is fabric design,” said Pinnacle Award-winning textile designer Wesley Mancini, speaking to an attentive group of SCAD fibers students in Pepe Hall. “I hope some of you become professional fabric designers.”
Judging by the enthusiasm in the room, Mancini’s wish will be realized. It was the penultimate week of fall quarter, and ten students were about to present their work for the Design of Distinction Competition. In addition to Mancini, the luminaries on hand included Kravet Inc. principal Scott Kravet, Kravet special projects manager Karen Lerman, and Valdese Weavers Chief Creative Officer Laura Levinson. SCAD chair of fibers Cayewah Easley introduced the special guests before passing the mic to fibers professor Deborah First.
“This project was a collaboration between Kravet, Valdese Weavers, and my class,” First said. “Kravet furnished archival documents — designs on paper and actual fabrics — that the students used as springboards for their own interpretations. The students researched the time periods and styles of their chosen artworks, then began sketching.”
After intense iteration and revision under Mancini’s steadfast mentorship, the students’ designs were finalized, before being woven at the Valdese Weavers Mill in Valdese, North Carolina. Now, the weavings were all hanging together in Pepe.
Each student stood to offer a précis, elucidating process and inspiration. What was immediately apparent was the diversity of the work.
Quinn Carney was attracted to a neo-classic Jacquard weaving in the Kravet archive. Rebecca Durgy created a mash-up of Art Nouveau floral and her beloved bugs. Luke Doiron was drawn to the modern chromatic pattern of a Deco design. Kayla Perno went with 1970s organic shapes. Hannah Cunningham was inspired by a mid-century Modern design, originally a French luggage pattern.
Saira Mary Netto and Alejandra Fiallos both declared an affinity for Bauhaus master Gunta Stölzl, in turn creating designs inspired by Stölzl’s work. Netto: “If you turn [a Stölzl composition] upside down it still looks like a complete piece, which is what I tried to achieve in my design.”
The cumulative effect of the presentations was like watching a loom come alive.
“I usually tell designers it takes six months to understand Jacquard weaving, and you all did it in about six weeks, which is amazing,” said Valdese CCO Levinson.
“It’s very difficult to select a winner,” declared the ever-exuberant Scott Kravet. “It’s like, what kind of ice cream do you like better? All your designs have different interpretations for different purposes. From a mill perspective, they might favor one design. Considering salability, I may select another design for residential or hospitality.”
Finally, Kravet’s Karen Lerman said: “After much discussion, we have decided that there is no clear winner. You all will receive a certificate of recognition bearing the SCAD, Kravet, and Valdese logos.”
Even to the untutored eye, the decision was just. The quality of the student work was, without exception, stunning. Each student was also rewarded with Valdese notebooks and pins and a Kravet coffee table tome.
Outside Pepe Hall, the Kravet mobile showroom van stood parked, chock full of textiles from the company’s extraordinary archive. The students walked outside, not heeding the rain, to see what other inspirations they could find.
Written by Peter Relic.