Textile artist Nellie Rose presents her collection and talks about launching and growing a small handmade business.
ABI: What techniques do you use to create your handmade clothing?
NR: In a very broad sense, I hand-dye silk to explore color relationships, manipulate texture and make patterns to create my handmade clothing and scarves. For the past three years I have focused on refining my use of shibori, a Japanese dyeing tradition, which consists of various shape-resist dye techniques.
I find myself most challenged and surprised by arashi shibori a technique also known as pole-wrapping. All that is needed to perform this technique is a hard cylindrical surface and heavy weight thread. I’m motivated by the way this technique simultaneously enables and limits me. It allows me to enact precision while entertaining the beauty of non-control. In this balance I find inspiration for endless experimentation.
In addition to shibori, silk-painting recently unlocked an incredibly playful side of my textile design abilities. My handpainted raw silk clothing is designed for organic movement and prompts playfulness in its wearer. By spending more time with these pieces I am reaffirmed over and over that color and patterns that surround us have profound influence on mood and general state of being; that being said, I am excited and encouraged to expand into homewares in the next year.
ABI: How did you get started, and how did you grow your business?
NR: The wheels began to turn the moment I was born to two incredibly supportive textile artists. I mean, who gets so darn lucky? Interested in small-batch-fashion and creative hand-work, I learned to sew and manipulate cloth at a young age.
The first blocks were set into place when I studied textiles and design at Osaka University of Arts in Japan as a Fulbright Fellow. However, when I returned to the states I still wasn’t convinced that I had it in me to be a full-time artist. What would I produce and how? Inspired by my apprenticeship with world-renowned indigo dyer and shibori artist, Hiroko Harada, I was determined to continue to learn directly from a seasoned artisan. This prompted a year soaking up everything I could from my mother in her textile studio. There, I developed and marketed my first line of scarves and proved to myself that I was able to support myself, pay rent, and bills solely on creative endeavors. A modest living, but totally doable for a single gal in her 20’s.
In 2013, I connected with the Tamarack Artisan Foundation. Their extraordinary support enabled me to expand into the wholesale market, showing my work at select juried shows such as the American Made Show and American Craft Council shows. Now, my silks are carried across the country in boutiques, galleries, and museum shops, including the National Gallery of Art!
While creating rurally in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, I get to work with and supply inspiring gallery and shop owners who promote and sell American made fine craft/art. I also do several retail shows a year as well as solo trunk shows and fine-art exhibitions. Most recently I installed a studio and permanent exhibition space as an artist collaborator in Lamplight, a makers’ space and artist showroom in Thomas, WV. All this is tied to my determination to grow my business in a way that expands my creativity and connection to people and communities.
ABI: Tell us about your experience doing trunk shows, and the work that goes into making them successful.
NR: I grew up going to trunk shows with my papa. It is how we were able to travel, see the country and other parts of the world as well as connect with other communities—all in the name of art. I do one to two trunk shows a year and they are an absolute joy (and hard work!). Preparing for them is a new experience each time and presents its own challenge and opportunity. For one, you don’t know your exact clientele, so you must prepare a whole range of price points. It is also an opportunity to present new work to get quick feedback while also presenting your tried-and-true pieces.
Each gallery presents its unique story and show space to work within. With the limited time and space, I find it important to creatively display the work as fine art all the way down to its functionality. This often demands a bit of collaborative effort between the artist and the gallery. Sometimes I even get a chance to give a presentation and/or demonstration. Not only do I get the opportunity to intimately connect with a gallery, I also get to directly interact with a community who is invested and interested in supporting art and fine craft.