Q & A with Iris Delphine Textiles

One of my favorite things about running a multi-faceted business is the opportunity to meet and connect with some incredibly talented artists.  Iris Delphine is one of them, and she is a weaving wizard who can work some serious magic on a loom.  A recent graduate of the prestigious Central St. Martins, Iris is based in Los Angeles where she works out of a weaving studio set up in her home.  Last year I visited her studio and was in awe of her capabilities and knowledge about yarns, dyes, techniques.  But what I was really impressed by was her way of thinking, and of the inspiration behind her pieces.  I immediately asked if she wanted to create some one-of-a-kind swatches for Kneeland Co., and I couldn’t be more in love with the collection.  Inspired by Egyptian and Greek imagery, Iris used rayon; organzine; cactus silk; wool; cotton; lurex; paper yarn and more to design and weave some mesmerizing works of art.  Kneeland Co. is thrilled to introduce Iris Delphine Textiles to clients in both fashion and home.  Below, Iris talks about her rigorous textile program at Central Saint Martins, her creative fuel in Los Angeles, and her favorite textile artists.

1. You left your home city of Los Angeles to study textiles at Central St. Martins.  What was it that drew you there, and when did you decide to study weaving?

I actually left LA and went to New York, only knowing I needed to be in the creative/ art field. I didn’t even know what textiles were until my second year of College at School of Visual Arts, where I took a fiber arts class.

The funny thing is, I grew up with my mom running her own line of women’s wear and somehow missed the whole concept of textiles!

2.What was your academic schedule like?  When I visited your studio the first time we met, you mentioned that it was a fairly rigorous program you had to adhere to.  Can you give some examples?

In London at CSM it was a bit insane.  There was no off time and if I wasn’t on the loom, finishing samples, or designing warps, I was either on my commute going somewhere or at home. Thankfully there was a bar in the University so when we needed space from working we wouldn’t have to go far.

3. How long was the textile program, and what were the main things you took away from your textile education?

For the Textile BA there are 3 years, but before that there is foundation year and during that time you apply to different universities. I transferred in the first year of the Textile BA. In the first year, students are shown the different avenues they can go down, ie: print, knit, and weave. There is an emphasis on print as it is the basis of all textiles in one way or another. The second year students choose 2 specialties from the 3 options and then go on to choose one as their main focus. It’s an incredible system, because you can come in knowing very little and have your entire world expand from all that they expose you to.

4. How would you describe your work?  Do you build collections or create around themes?

This is a fun question! I love dipping my toes in all different types of work. I do both building collections, typically for clients or commission based work, and I create around themes, which is what CSM had taught me, as it creates completely original work, when done correctly.

5. Does Los Angeles have an influence on your work?  I know sometimes when I’m in another city or country for a period of time, I’m heavily influenced by my surroundings.  Then, when I return home to LA, I go back into my Cali creative state.  Have you ever experienced that? 

I definitely have a strong connection to how things are done in LA; what I mean by this is that there is this incredible nurturing of independent creatives and small business that is so inspiring. The culture of the creative/craft community is unlike anything I have experienced so far, and even when I was in London, I craved it and when I felt overwhelmed with work I would fantasize about how I would start my practice here.

6. For those who aren’t necessarily familiar with looms, can you please talk about the type of loom you use? 

I have a 24 harness Compu Dobby loom, which means it is semi-computerized (which makes my life a lot easier).  The looms at CSM have this same technology but the manufacturer has been out of business for years. The only looms with the same technology are made in Chico California! This was one of the signs that made me come back to California. 

7. What are you working on at the moment?

So many pies in the oven right now, I am working on fabric for parts of the most exquisite bomber jacket made from patch-worked kimono lining that my friend is cutting and sewing. I am planning warps for my LA River project, which I spent this summer researching. I am in the beginning stages of a bridal project, where I am making custom fabric. Lastly, I am working on a sample line of shoe uppers for an LA shoe designer.

8. Which textiles artists do you admire, past and/or present?

My favorite textile artists are Peter Collingwood, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, Marianne Kemp, and Peggy Osterkamp. They are all very different but I am inspired by a very wide range of textiles and art objects.

9. Name 3 things that are inspiring you right now.

I recently went to the “Striking Iron” exhibit at the Fowler, and I am really feeling the incredible organic and minimal shapes of the different African iron tools from the last 200 years.

I’m perpetually inspired by the LA River as I have an ongoing project about it. It’s a huge source of optimism in regards to the plans for its future and the effect it will have on the city, and has inspired me to look into its history and significance.

Lastly, I always get inspired from found things and peculiar aspects I find when on walks or hikes, as I tend to slow down and start to really look at things. Sometimes I find the brickwork on the sides of freeways to be intriguing, especially when thinking about weave structures!

10. We talked about our love for Greek, Roman and Egyptian art and imagery while I was visiting your studio and you used that as a starting point for the collection you created for Kneeland Co.  Can you talk about your process and what was going through your mind while designing and weaving the swatches that are part of the collection?

After our conversation I was feeling very inspired by ancient Egyptian culture. I then found these images of gold hieroglyphics and decadent jewelry, which then lead me to balance this out by looking at Egyptian pyramids in their landscapes, where I focused on their texture. 

These two focuses were the inspiration for the collection as I took elements of lush opulence and balanced it with elements of eroded repetition to form the collection.