Visions of France

image When we left Paris, we began driving southeast in the car we had outfitted with a mattress and cooking supplies. I was so happy to be on the road again after the month in the city - breathing fresh air, seeing space, blue skies and fields. Spent the night at Troyes, in the Aube Department. That night we had sheep bahhing us to sleep. We definitely were not in the city anymore!

[New art exhibit going up at Aurum in downtown Athens, Ga for the month of February! I am sharing the space with the fabulous textile artist Suzanne Gernandt of North Carolina. Reception: Thursday, Feb 6, 6-8 pm]


On the Road Again - hand painted silk twill - by Rene Shoemaker - 2013


I went to a lecture recently at the Georgia Museum of Art to learn more about one of my favorite topics - color!  The UGA Fabric Design Department invited Leslie Harrington, the Executive Director of the Color Association of the United State (CAUS), to visit in celebration of an exhibit that is currently on view at the Georgia Museum: “Pattern and Palette in Print: Gentry Magazine and a New Generation of Trendsetters”.

Heading up an organization that was founded in 1915, Ms Harrington and her company “creates and delivers global color intelligence across industries”. That means they analyze popular colors over time, they predict which colors will become popular next, and they educate others about the importance of coordinating colors across industries. So, they help to ensure that all American flags are the same colors, that your neighbor’s camouflage shorts will use the same hues as his camouflage coffee mug, and that your cousin will be able to buy kitchen appliances, an apron, AND nail polish in fun retro colors. Rather than working directly with consumers, they position themselves as “trusted advisor(s) to color professionals whose responsibility is to ensure marketplace success for their color decisions in the realm of brands, product and service, and spatial environments.” Even Pantone looks to them for advice and ideas! How cool is that??

An example of what you might see:

As for the GMOA exhibition, it introduced me to Gentry magazine, which, it turns out, is one cool magazine. Gentry was published from 1951 to 1957 and its mission was to help a gentleman be, well, just that - a gentleman. It covered many topics - art, future, fashion, literature. It was extremely well put-together; heavy paper, original art and actual fabric swatches to help people really know about the colors and patterns of the items that were being advertised in the magazine!

It had many famous contributors. Even my favorite artist, Henri Matisse, had artwork on the cover of the journal in 1956-57. The GMOA writes about about the cover here.

The students of the UGA Fabric Design department (my alma mater) created their own color palettes and designs in response to articles and advertisements in Gentry magazine. The resulting textile designs were silkscreened on large swaths of paper and are on display in the Georgia Museum’s exhibition. Here are three examples of what the students created:

Nice, yes?

Back to color, though -  imagine living in a world immersed in color, like Ms. Harrington does.

Oh - you say, that is what I do? 

        You are right! I am very lucky!

Ms. Harrington gave me a few tidbits that I jotted down to think about for my own work:

Color preferences of consumers for a specific period and time.

    As an artist, I have shied away from the concept of being sensitive to other’s color preferences. But as a creator of items for interiors and fashion, I guess I should pay attention! I was aware of color forecasting, but this lecture opened my eyes to the benefit of keeping up with it, and the myriad of possibilities involved in working with or anticipating trends. I had never thought about how strongly people associate certain shades with certain emotions, events, objects, or even time periods. Do you remember the deep oranges and browns that many people associate with the 70s? Isn’t that what you immediately think of when you see, say, a dark orange couch? 

Colors come in three flavors: Fad vs trend vs classic

   Now I have a way to categorize colors as I discover them. A fad may be bright color that seems to be everywhere for a brief period of time. Neons often seem to fall into this category! A trend is a little more classy, and lasts a little longer. Shades like jewel tones are versatile and pleasing to the eye. A classic, well, it makes you feel good; it is a staple, an elegant choice; yet it can be luxurious or casual. Classics like Black, Ivory, White and Brown are always popular!

Color across industries, across markets, across specializations, across disciplines, and across experiences…. 

     Color is everywhere! Watching what color is doing in these various categories will only help me become stronger in my art of color. My mind has now been opened to the bigger world of color. It will be fun to begin exploring these categories, to keep up with what is happening in color, and to see what is influencing the world of color, fashions and interiors.

If you are interested in looking at more information about all this, there is a list of articles related to color and/or color forecasting on the CAUS website:

Learn more about CAUS and the ways that they empower color conscious decisions at:

Now, you will never look at color the same way again!

                What are your favorite experiences with color?


Creating a New Project – An Animal Alphabet

This week, I wanted to share a new project with you. Though I’ve been working on it for a while, it’s a little different from my normal style! It’s been so much fun to branch out, though facing a new set of challenges can be daunting, too. Of course, that makes success feel all the better!

I had already been thinking a little about experimenting with screenprinting when my friend Lisa Fiscus approached me about developing a product for children. Lisa has created an amazing space in the Hawthorne House - it is equal parts fine decor boutique, interior design headquarters, and inspiration central! In addition to running her interior design services out of the building, she also offers a great selection of antique furniture, contemporary furnishings, and local art in the renovated showrooms. As the house was originally designed by Athens architect Fred Orr, we met when I was hard at work on the Orr2 exhibit that was held in the Circle Gallery in April 2009. For many of his buildings still standing in the Athens area, I created a silk piece highlighting a particularly interesting aspect of the design. In the case of the Hawthorne House, it was so amazing that I sketched the entire thing for my silk piece! Here it is:                        

Lisa recently decided to expand her offerings to include decor for children’s rooms. Though the shop carried some of my silk pieces, she asked if I might be interested in designing an animal alphabet. Her idea was to display a prototype in one of the vignettes that she would be setting up around the store in preparation for the big annual party. 

Since we wanted to develop a set of letters that could be used in any combination and in many different formats - on a pillow, as a wall hanging, even on pajamas! - we decided to choose a few to display on individual squares of fabric. After much discussion, we eventually chose a cotton muslin in a light cream color. 

As for the pictures - well! The alphabet is so long, and there are so many animals to choose from! Studying dictionaries, encyclopedias, children’s books, talking to friends and family – I tried everything I could think of to come up with designs of animals that were unusual, recognizable, and aesthetically pleasing. Some letters were especially tough, like X and V and N, but my favorites were the elephant: 

 and the fox:

Finalizing my decisions and making the sketches was a lot of fun, but when it came time to print, I had a lot to learn! Though I silkscreened a couple of times in college classes, the details had to be worked out on my own this time. What kind of inks work best? What consistency is most effective? What’s the best way to blend colors? As each order would be unique, I wanted to offer customized colors, but I also wanted to be able to reliably reproduce colors. Watching someone create a silkscreened print, it looks so easy - but I worried about every step of the process!



It’s important to do a series of prints when silk-screening, as you never quite know which ‘pull’ is going to be the best. You don’t just make one, as I do with my silk paintings – and you have the opportunity to print on different cloths in the same series to see how the ink and design and fabric all work together. One thing I continue to be amazed at is that when silkscreening on a heavily textured cloth, the ink does not move down into the ridges and valleys of the cloth the way my silk dyes do – so the image left on the cloth is textured too, rather than being crisp and saturated. Smoother fabrics seem to take the print better – but I would love to figure out a way to achieve a crisp print on textured fabric! 

For the prototype that is still on display at the Hawthorne House, I decided to spell out the name of Lisa’s son. After much trial and error, and lots of repositioning, I completed the sample and hung it on the wall over a beautiful antique bed next to a giant lamp made from Hable Construction fabric. The vignette looks great! I’m so excited about this new direction that my work is taking, and I am pleased to have finally mastered this versatile skill. Though I’m still stuck on X and V and N, if you have any suggestions, let me know!!