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Remaking a rug at Miller House

Today's blogger is Bradley C. Brooks, Director of Historic Resources and Assistant Curator, American Decorative Arts at the IMA.

It seems that an important reason why the Miller House and Garden has retained so much of the integrity of its original design is that the Millers greatly cherished and valued the work that Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche, Dan Kiley, and Alexander Girard produced for them. They were patient partners in the design process and tended to seek refinements, rather than wholesale changes, as the house evolved through later years.


Top: The den rug before replacement. Bottom: The new den rug.

The rugs in the house are a case in point. The rug presently under the dining table, for example, is the fourth generation of the original Girard design. The first was one of a group of flat-woven rugs produced in France, all of which were later replaced with looped-pile versions of the same designs. With wear and food spills, the dining room rug was the most often replaced.

At the time the museum took ownership of the property, the Miller family had begun a project to remake a number of rugs in the house. Most in need of replacement was Girard’s den rug, which had been worn quite through in a few spots. We fudged it for a while with the placement of furniture to hide the worst of the damage, but this was only at temporary fix.

As with any such project, there were concerns about achieving the appropriate weave structure,  pattern, and color accuracy. We had received some of the original design drawings as part of the Miller House Archives, and IMA conservators had painstakingly removed unfaded fibers from deep in the rug’s pile in order to make accurate color comparisons. After several rounds of adjustments and approvals, we gave a go-ahead to Edward Fields to put the rug into production.

The new den rug!

The new den rug!

In mid-April of this year, the new rug was ready to install, and it more than lived up to all our expectations. The vibrant colors were back, and the many emblems of family history and association were renewed, all rendered in a highly disciplined, multiple colorway grid of lozenges – a glimpse into the mind and design process of Alexander Girard.

Filed under: Conservation, Design, Miller House, Textile & Fashion


From wallpaper to silk scarves

lilly-wallpaperArtists find their inspiration from … well, everywhere! In the case of Cleveland artist Susan Skove, she found inspiration in the wallpaper in the drawing room at Lilly House. Floral and nature images have provided the bulk of her inspiration over the last 22 years, and so she found that the Lilly House wallpaper aligned perfectly with her work.

“When I saw the incredible paintings done for the Lilly House, I was excited to create a series of scarves based on them,” said Skove. “Not only are the drawings incredible — the choice of colors are sensitive and beautiful. The wallpaper is also so varied in subject matter that it allowed for wonderful combinations of flowers leaves and birds on the scarves.”

Skove paints on silk. Her wearable canvases are delicate swirls of color that make a one-of-a-kind fashion statement for the lucky wearer. The process of painting on silk can take her anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the complexity of the design. First, she stretches the fabric between two sawhorses and applies the first layer of dye. Then she draws the design with a resist to allow for detailed painting. When she finishes the images, she paints the background. Once the scarf is dry, Skove steams it for two hours to make the dye permanent. The steaming ensures the scarf is colorfast and can be washed or drycleaned.

skove-scarvesYou can watch Susan Skove demonstrate her scarf-painting process at Lilly House on October 19 from 11 am to 4 pm. She will have scarves from her current fall collection for sale. If you can’t make it on the 19th, no worries … you can purchase her work  in the Museum Store, the Lilly House shop, and The Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse and Shop.

Filed under: Art, Greenhouse, Textile & Fashion


Designing for Project IMA: Reinterpretation and Reuse

Our guest blogger today is Margarita Mileva, a designer in tonight's Project IMA fashion show.

“Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.” – Coco Chanel

I grew up in a family of artists: my father was a painter and my mother is a sculptor. At home, it was like an open house for other artists to come over and passionately discuss art and politics. For me, the best painter was my dad and the best sculptor was my mom. So I guess the other “real” artistic professions, in which I will not compete with them, was to become an architect. I was good in mat, loved problem solving, and was fascinated by shapes and colors, so becoming an architect was a very natural path for me to choose. From here comes my deep interest towards fashion as an art form, with its volumes, colors and proportions.

This is my second participation in Project IMA. Two years ago, my daughter and I created a dress made from rubber bands as part of Project IMA: Fashion Unbound.  It was a great experience to be involved with the Indianapolis Museum of Art and I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to contribute again. For my current entry, I found inspiration in this evening dress by Norman Norell:

I wanted to grasp the spirit of Norell’s work and give it a new, contemporary interpretation. My work, which will be made entirely from different sized black rubber bands and industrial felt scraps, is continuation of the design ideas developed in my conceptual project “Recycling of the Architectural Office,” in which I explored the ever-changing character of the contemporary architectural office and how standard tools become obsolete in lieu of digital technology. Recently I’ve also been thinking about our current economic condition, and opening our senses towards the use of alternative materials, recycling and upcycling. I believe that we have to be environmentally responsible and conscious about our surroundings. My submission to Project IMA is my creative response towards finding new sources and expressions. Intrigued and inspired by the Chantilly lace that Norell used, I created my own version of the delicate net by using only black rubber bands. Thousands of rubber bands are knotted, interlocked, twisted together and assembled in order to create the unique texture of the garment. Looking for a fusion of past and present, I’ve chosen to pay respect in this way and give a modern interpretation of the artistic techniques associated with creating fabric, all done by hand. Norell used fox fur to trim the lampshade-shaped top of the evening dress. Half a century later, and living in different environment, I decided to interpret his design by using colorful industrial felt scrap circles. The felt that I used is 100% wool – a biodegradable and renewable material.

In my work, I am inspired both by the artistic and cultural heritage of couture, and am intrigued by innovative designers like Norell who changed the shape and the mood of fashion with his geometrical shapes and attention to detail.  You’ll have to come to Project IMA tonight to see the results of my work.  I hope that you will find it interesting, challenging and a valuable contribution to the show.


Filed under: Art, Public Programs, Textile & Fashion, The Collection, The Toby


Designing for Project IMA: Inspired by Norell

Our guest blogger today is Julie Diller. She is designer of ohm, a women's clothing collection and will be participating in Thursday's Project IMA show.

I work at a large table in an old candy factory in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been designing and making clothes for thirty years, and my passion for it has has only grown over time. Though I live in Brooklyn, I visit Indianapolis often and I came to the IMA this summer with my sister for a tour of the fashion exhibition that inspired this year’s Project IMA.

Norman Norell, “dress,” 1968-1971.Gift of Clare Eggleston Geiman in memory of Norman Norell. 1985.667.

I met Niloo and Petra, the curators responsible for the organization of fashion arts and textile exhibitions at the museum. After speaking with them, I decided to  make a couple garments and submit them as entries in Project IMA.  Below is an image of the pattern I drafted after being inspired by a dress in the exhibition by Norman Norell.  This deceptively simple day dress was carefully constructed with a fitted torso and molded waist.  The skirt’s beige fabric was cut on the straight grain, using a technique called slashing and navy blue fabric inserts were then added. It’s an excellent example of the precision Norell brought to the cut and construction of his garments.

For my dress, I cut it completely on the bias from silk chiffon, which adds a draping contour to the body without darting. I work on the bias often, as it lends itself to soft feminine shapes. Here’s how it turned out:

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Public Programs, Textile & Fashion, The Collection, The Toby


Celebrating Sixties Fashion

What unspoken messages do First Ladies send with fashion? And how did the unforgettable Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy break the mold to present her husband’s candidacy and presidency as progressive and modern?

On September 13, 2012 the IMA’s Fashion Arts Society hosted design historian Sandy McLendon, former contributor and senior editor at Modernism Magazine, for a lecture on the influential “Jackie Look.” McLendon took attendees through a visual tour of Jackie’s strategic choices: hiring Hollywood costume designer Oleg Cassini; embracing the slim sheath dress and fuss-free pillbox hat; and selecting—down to the detail—trim, elegant gowns suitable for superpower diplomacy.

FAS members turned out in their fabulous finery for the event, wearing hats, gloves and fur to celebrate mod sixties fashion.

Even if you couldn’t make it to the event, you can still watch it on ArtBabble or YouTube. I won’t judge you if you break out your pillbox hat for viewing, either.

Filed under: New Media, Public Programs, Textile & Fashion, The Toby, Uncategorized


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