Valdese Weavers' Textile Competition Focuses on Adapting Cultural Materials for Modern Designs

We recently had the honor of hosting a textile design competition initiated by Valdese Weavers. Laura Levinson, Creative Vice President for Valdese Weavers, tasked her creative team with a unique challenge: design a textile – residential or contract -- inspired by pottery or basketry from the collections at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. The seventeen in-house designers reviewed photographs of objects chosen by Laura during a previous visit to the Museum and chose one from which to develop a new fabric. Utilizing the diverse material resources for which Valdese is so well known, the designers got to work. The resulting group of sophisticated and diverse fabrics demonstrated a thoughtful and impressive creative effort by Valdese’s team of designers.

When asked about the contest, Pamela Kelly, VP of Licensing for the Museum of New Mexico Foundation said, “We so value our partnership with Valdese and have the highest regard for Laura. She is a thoughtful, wise and inspiring person and this group of young designers is lucky to have her as a mentor. Because of her vast creative experience, Laura understands the value and uniqueness of our museum materials. For that we are grateful and honored to work with her.”

This competition highlighted the inherent challenge and opportunity the museum offers designers when working with cultural material. The inspiration material is quite special as it is hand-made and represents the spirit of the maker. As such, the museum requires all its design partners to adapt and expand the source material, rather than replicate or appropriate. We believe this transformative step is essential in working with such material as it shows respect for the culture and maker of the original item. Equally it requires designers to deeply examine the original piece and understand how the materials and construction influence the ultimate design. This level of effort encourages designers to draw on their own talents to create something new but with the essence of the source material still evident.

To judge the competition, the Museum brought together a dynamic group of professionals with distinct areas of expertise and backgrounds: museum curators, designers, business and licensing professionals, a manufacturer and a textile scholar. Each “judge” brought their unique perspective to the competition, which in turn expanded the parameters for evaluating the fabrics. The whole exercise confirmed the value of cross-pollination and collaboration in design.

Kimberle Frost, Textile Designer
Robert Nachman, Textile Professional
Dr. Bobbie Sumberg, Textile Scholar and Curator
Tony Chavarria, Curator of Ethnology, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
Valerie Verzuh, Curator, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
Pamela Kelly, VP Licensing & Branding, Museum of New Mexico Foundation
Saro Calewarts, Licensing & Brand Manager, Museum of New Mexico Foundation

LEFT: Our favorite three contract designs. RIGHT: Our top four residential designs.

LEFT: Our favorite three contract designs. RIGHT: Our top four residential designs.

Choosing a winner for each category was challenging! There were so many fantastic designs. Our panel of judges took their time examining each fabric and discussing how the designer creatively adapted the source material, the strength of the design and the appropriateness for the fabrics’ intended use. The winning fabric for each category will be put into the Valdese line and will benefit the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. Each of the two winners will also attend the 2017 Museum Design Summit this February.

The winning two contract designs. TOP: Design by Abby Scheer, inspired by a graphically patterned pot from Acoma Pueblo. BOTTOM: Design by Jackie London, inspired by a textural ancestral Pubelo pot made with fingernail indentations.

The winning two contract designs. TOP: Design by Abby Scheer, inspired by a graphically patterned pot from Acoma Pueblo.
BOTTOM: Design by Jackie London, inspired by a textural ancestral Pubelo pot made with fingernail indentations.

The winning residential design is by Mary Krochmalny and was inspired by a different ancestral Pueblo pot decorated with fingernail indentations.

The winning residential design is by Mary Krochmalny and was inspired by a different ancestral Pueblo pot decorated with fingernail indentations.

Congratulations to the winners and to all of the designers!