Textile artist embraces shibori, a traditional Japanese dyeing method
By Alison Isaacs
Photographs by Paul Corbit Brown
Textile artist Nellie Rose is not your typical material girl. Energetic and innovative, socially and environmentally aware, this creative visionary could change the course of women’s fashion … for our good. How? By creating products that celebrate the female form, inspire simplicity and revolutionize our concept of product purchasing.
Born into the trade as the daughter of textile artists, Rose was swaddled in silk and immersed in a world of sumptuously vivid colors and divinely delicate textures. Filled with gratitude for her upbringing and opportunities, Rose beamed as she said, “I’m so privileged to do what makes me happy … my heart’s work.” Such inspiration and passion are the impetus for the creation of her innovative works of wearable art.
Rose seeks to maintain the integrity of a tradition while introducing an innovative touch of intuitive creativity. Trained in the art of shibori, from the Japanese verb shiboru, to compress, and short for shibori-zome, to compress and dye, Rose has mastered the intricate and traditional craft while rejuvenating it with an energy that is relevant to today’s fashion trends. Quoting the master shibori and indigo artist, Hiroko Harada, under whom Rose apprenticed following her Fulbright Fellowship in Japan, “tradition is only tradition when it is carried into the present.” And oh does she carry it well. At 27, this two-time “NICHE” magazine awards finalist in the Wearable Fibre category (2013, 2015), is no stranger to accomplishment in this specialized, yet diversified field. Despite her success, she remains humble, full of vivacious energy and down-to-earth zeal.
Although her shibori draws visitors into the gallery with its delicate pleats and rich tonal dyes, it is her one-of-a-kind hand-painted raw silk wearables that may be most intriguing. They are airy and breathable with playful designs allowing free movement and imagination.
The design concept is as impressive as the product itself. Inspired by the Japanese theory of “whole cloth,” Rose fashions one dress and one top from a three-yard bolt of hand painted fabric. To diversify individual pieces, she incorporates scraps to create pockets, sleeves and what she dubs “hip wings.”
Rose’s designs are created with minimal waste and incorporate an idea that is a bold divergence from typical design — let’s call it “minimal intention” — the process of not processing. She allows the creative evolution to flow by intentionally not planning her design. As she explained, “there is something freeing about not restricting your hand with a desired outcome. When dye falls in a place I didn’t intend it to fall, I let it fall and honor it.”
Rose’s pieces flow with the feminine form. The delicate silk and woven cloth seductively kiss the most important features while giving the body room to move with grace. She wants every woman to feel beautiful in her own skin, and magically her “one size fits most” has a way of doing just that. Curvy figures can look as magnificently sexy as a model’s sleek form. The crux of all style conundrums: the look for all.
Dedicated to small batch, meaningful pieces, there is no mass production for this unorthodox fashionista. While there is something for everyone, don’t expect to find her wares in every corner boutique, and certainly not at the local mall. Based in the mountain town of Thomas, W. Va., Rose’s one-of-a-kind wares can be found in 29 gallery stockists around the nation, including stores, boutiques, galleries and museums, as well as online. You may also meet the artist herself while working in her studio/permanent retails space, Lamplight Gallery in Thomas, W. Va., displaying her work at juried art shows as well as at trunk shows hosted by various galleries.
Rose’s pieces are keepers. The light, comfortable, easy wear and elegant simplicity make for some serious “love it till it’s threadbare” additions to your permanent wardrobe. You know you want to wear a piece of cloth that loves you back!