New day, new web site, and a creative philosophy

Today is a new day, and oh look, I have a new web site! What do you think? It’s the work of my friend Ben Bunch. Ben is an amazingly talented visual artist, who also develops Wordpress-based web sites.

Faraway Garden embroidery pattern set

(from the Faraway Garden embroidery pattern set, available here)

There’s a new logo image, the work of Yuki Maeshima of Waffle Patterns, whose sewing patterns and graphic design work you all know I admire.

Kate & Rose new logo

I really wanted to remain with WordPress because in one form or another I’ve been using it since 2004. There are still tweeks to be made (and the new, branded web shop’s not done yet), so please excuse any unexpected webby behavior!

I must confess I love the new design. So let me tell you a little bit about the colors and inspiration behind it.

As you know by now, Iove the imagery, designs, and silhouettes of Eastern European folkwear. The way the embroidery bursts into color, and into wild, exuberantly hopeful floral designs on the most mundane garments or household textiles reminds me of springtime as a child, when my grandmother’s garden burst into greenery and blooms after a long, cold, gray winter.

Hungarian apron detail, Metropolitan Museum of Art

(Silk, metal and glass embroidered on linen)

I loved playing in my grandmother’s garden. She could grow anything. She didn’t let a few weeds or a little disorder get in the way of her (most amazingly sweet) strawberries (have you ever eaten strawberries right off the strawberry bush?), her raspberries, zucchinis, tomatoes (I’ve still never had tomatoes that sweet), peas picked off the vines… It was a feast to play in her garden, climbing the apple trees and waiting impatiently for the apples to ripen, spending whole afternoons weaving headbands out of the wild daisies and dandelions that grew in the grass (not very carefully tended, to be sure) between her different patches of delicious bounty.

005

(Shepherd’s Mantle)

But the springtime flowers. Oh, the flowers! For a brief time each year, they covered everything. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t due to some kind of magic that I’m now based in New York City’s flower district.

Flower District New York

Isn’t it pretty?

Speaking of magic – there is magic in Hungarian embroidery. It’s, exuberant, winding, colorful embroidered flowers are meant to conjure springtime during the coldest, grayest winter months, and winter months in Hungary are indeed very cold and gray. All my all my embroidery patterns are inspired by this creative power.

Here’s a story they tell about it in the towns and villages of North-Eastern Hungary. The story begins (of course) with a young girl who deeply loved a young man. But one winter, an evil spirit kidnapped her sweetheart. The young girl missed her beloved, and pleaded with the spirit to give him back to her. The spirit, smiling wickedly because it thought of a cruel trick to play on the girl, said to her: I will return your beloved if you fill your apron with all the flowers of springtime, and bring them to me in three days’ time.

It was the dead of winter, as cold and gray and barren as could be.

The girl despaired. And then she thought and thought and thought until she had an idea. She found her needle, gathered every color of thread she could find, took off her apron and began stitching. She stitched all day and all night, and then the next day and night, and the next day too. By the end of the third day she had covered her apron with the embroidered images of all the flowers of springtime. When she was done, she put her apron back on, tying it carefully in the back, then she caught the corners and held them in her hands as if she were carrying a giant bouquet of flowers. Then she set off and went back to the spirit.

The spirit watched her coming along with an evil gleam in its eye, believing she had lost the bet and was coming to admit defeat. But when she got there, the girl said: I did what you asked. Now return my beloved to me! No, said the spirit. Look around you, the world is gray: there are no flowers anywhere! The girl quietly looked the spirit in the eye and let the corners of her apron drop. As she did so, all the embroidered blooms burst forth with all of the colors and hope and the joy of springtime, nearly blinding the spirit. Who had to admit – the girl had outdone herself. The spirit then released her beloved and left the village.

MatyoWeddingApron

(Hungarian Matyó Wedding Apron)

I’ve always loved this story, and not just because how gently it alludes to the tough social realities of the villages in which it’s from, and the scrappiness that was needed to even just get food on the table every night.

I love it because it’s also a story about women’s resourcefulness and creativity, and the way one can make beauty and call forth joy even during the darkest times and using the most utilitarian objects.

There is, sadly, also a sinister undertone to the tale: I can’t help thinking the evil spirit stands for depression and alcoholism, both of which are huge and partly seasonal problems in Eastern Europe. And they’ve been problems for a long time, especially for men, not least because during the cold, gray, winter months there was, traditionally, no agricultural work that men in small villages could do to earn money.

Women, on the other hand, still had their spinning and weaving and sewing and embroidery. The Cabbage Rose Fancy and Faraway Garden embroidery patterns are inspired by embroidery from this region.

MidriffWIP

(Another piece from the Faraway Garden pattern set)

So… at the heart of my creative philosophy is the hope that creativity has the power to hold many of the evil spirits in our souls at bay, whatever they may be. The power that comes from the ability to add a creative touches to the most everyday objects is immense. That is why I do what I do, that is why I make patterns, that is why I sew and embroider. Because I want to share that joy and make beautiful, exuberant, wildly hopeful garments and textiles together with you.

The way this translated into the new web design was that I wanted more color, joy, hope, and exuberance in my new website. A little creative chaos, even. And I wanted embroidery. Ben delivered, don’t you think? And best of all, this site has room for growth. The shop redesign is still in the works but it will make ordering PDFs, paper patterns or hot iron transfers much, MUCH easier and clearer, both at the retail and wholesale level.

Stay tuned!

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5 Responses to New day, new web site, and a creative philosophy

  1. Melwyk says:

    The new website is beautiful, and I absolutely love the story behind your own creative philosophy. Congratulations on spreading the joy of creativity!

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