In the Studio with Angelina DeAntonis

angelina de antonis

artist/textile designer Angelina DeAntonis sits in the chair her mother made, surrounded by Angelina’s ottomans

I did not expect to be distracted by a chair as I entered the San Francisco studio of artist/textile designer Angelina DeAntonis, but the chair’s clean lines and straightforward presence captured my imagination, and it looked very much at home surrounded by Angelina’s luminous fabric creations. I quickly learned that the chair, like everything else in Angelina’s working space, has a unique story that is integral to her aesthetic worldview. The chair is one of a pair built by Angelina’s mother over 40 years ago, with cushions upholstered in fabric her mom wove from sheep raised and sheered on the family farm in the Pacific Northwest, where Angelina was raised.

DeAntonis most definitely gleaned an early appreciation of hand-crafted textiles from her mother, but she also inherited a fearless capacity for experimentation. Informed by the back-to-the-land ethos of her upbringing, Angelina’s clothes effortlessly link sustainability with beauty, elegance with comfort. While Angelina is well known as a designer of naturally dyed, sumptuously graphic and eminently wearable clothing, which she sells under her Ocelot Clothing label, her development as a textile artist and her sensibility as a designer are more complex.

dyed fabric detail

Trained as a photographer, Angelina learned through working with choreographers as a costume designer how to match her love of the process of making images with the theater of movement. She is largely self taught in the art of fabric dyeing, drawing on diverse influences ranging from the study of traditional Japanese shibori to travels in the Gujarat State of India, where she taught natural dyeing to renowned fiber artist Khatri Ali Mohammed Isha. I recently had the good fortune to spend a morning with Angelina DeAntonis as she patiently walked me through her process of dyeing fabric, an adaptation of the traditional Japanese, dye-resist process, which forms the core of her Ocelot line of clothing.

angelina folding2

Working in the studio with her expert seamstress and patternmaker Che Ying, and sometimes a dye assistant or intern, Angelina calmly balances order with ambiguity as she folds the wools, silks and linens in complex layers, separated by homemade wooden blocks. Here is where she composes her patterns in a kind of premeditated flow state, the patterns emerging from the interplay between material properties, traditional technique, and her own imagination. The fabric bundles are clamped and transferred to vats of dye, some of which Angelina makes herself from plants and insects.

blocks

Angelina shapes her own dyeing blocks from marine plywood

angelina2

fabric washing1

It was truly thrilling to see the abstract ‘dot’ patterns revealed as Angelina unfolded the fabric bundles to dry. The colors are deeply saturated, earthy but vibrant, with translucent luminosity echoing the shapes of her wooden blocks. After the dyeing demonstration, watching Angelina deftly demonstrate endless variations on how to wear her signature wrap skirt, I thought about how she carries the same sensibility of making to dressing- a focus on open-ended structure. Beginning with the meditative folding of fabric, each step of the process is a distinct beginning, and Angelina’s combined control over, and openness to, random variability strengthens the visceral appeal of her designs. Wearing her clothes is a natural continuation of the process of making, inviting her clients to collaborate.

I hope you’ll join me in tracking the progress of Angelina DeAntonis and her Ocelot Clothing as she moves to a new studio and expands into making accessories in US-made industrial felt as well as items for the home in European certified linens, while continuing to develop the classic, bold elegance of her Ocelot line.

To read more interviews with fellow makers and artisans, please click here.

itajime line

examples of Angelina’s Itajime line drying in the studio


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