Oona pattern designed by Maija Isola, Furnishing Fabric, Finland, 1969, 55.25 x 29.5″
By Samuel Anglehart, a fourth-year student in SoHE, studying Textiles and Fashion Design.
Marimekko is a design house that played an integral role in the world of textiles. Starting in the early 1950s, Marimekko became a household name as they incorporated graphic designs into their fabrics, exploring color while keeping classical printing techniques intact. Marimekko utilized dyes as opposed to pigment, which kept the hand of the fabric flexible and also created distinct characteristics in their designs. Dyes tend to run, or expand, when printed. Marimekko designs used this fact to their advantage, often running two colors into each other to create a natural third. As a screen-printer myself, seeing the textile up close in the HLATC was important to understanding the processes that Marimekko employed to accomplish such designs.
Marimekko’s overlapping of dyes, a tactic that added an undeniable beauty to the textiles, was the focus of my viewing. Flowers stretch across the three yards of fabric in the HLATC, with deep browns, black, and green, as well as perfectly placed accents of red. Simple lines cover the fabric, each cleverly placed and thought out. The fabric appears different from a distance than up close, as the seemingly simple design gains much more detail when viewed from arm’s reach. From farther away, the colors bleed into one another and the piece becomes whole, each motif connected with the next through simple dye technique. Marimekko designs first revolutionized the fashion industry, and remain relevant today as they have rebranded and expanded into the world of home furnishings. Their progressive approach drove the world of textiles further and continues to utilize designs that were pioneered by some of the original designers.
In 2019, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology launched a yearlong anniversary celebration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Over the past half century, the collection has grown from an original 4,000-piece gift to more than 13,000 objects that have inspired and informed thousands of students, researchers, historians, and textile aficionados. The 50-year celebration began on January 27, 2019, with the opening of new Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, a space dedicated to year-round displays of the collections. Activities continue into 2019 with a calendar of public exhibitions, symposia, lectures, and public workshops.