Two Maine Authors Ask, What is Modern Fabric?

Two Maine Authors Ask, What is Modern Fabric?

A new book by Maine authors brings the world of modern fabric design to your coffee table.


Two years ago, Jan Hartman stopped by Belfast’s Fiddlehead Artisan Supply and took in the kaleidoscope of contemporary printed fabrics before moseying over to a shelf of how-to books. “Are there any that are just about the fabrics and designers?” owner Abby Gilchrist recalls Hartman asking. When Gilchrist came up short, Hartman, who lives in Brooksville and was then an editor at Princeton Architectural Press, asked if she’d like to write one.

The tome that Hartman and Gilchrist envisioned (once Gilchrist overcame her initial hesitation —“I am not a writer!” she protested) would celebrate what those in the quilting world refer to as “modern fabric.” But a clear understanding of that phrase proved elusive. “There are a gazillion definitions or there’s no definition,” says Amelia Poole, of Brooksville’s Ecouture Textiles, a fabric artist, teacher, and customer of Gilchrist’s who joined her as co-author of Modern Fabric: Twenty-Five Designers on Their Inspiration and Craft, published in early November ($40, Princeton Architectural Press).

“The coloring is what makes fabric modern,” Arizona designer Bari J. Ackerman, whose textiles are emblazoned with her floral paintings, told the authors. Screen-printers Lara Cameron and Caitlin Klooger, of Australia’s Ink & Spindle, maintain, “Modern fabric design is about being timeless, classic, and ethical.” In the end, Poole says, what knits together the disparate work in the book is an affirmative answer to a simple question: “Would it fit in Abby’s shop?”

Splashy spreads illuminate the biographies and creative processes of textile greats like Japan’s Naomi Ito, whose material often exhibits her watercolor brushstrokes, and London’s Kaffe Fassett, known for designs translated from his gouache paintings, as well as mid-career designers like Gorham screen printer Erin Flett (the book’s only Mainer). “We’re trying to appeal to a wider audience,” Gilchrist says: Sewers, yes, but also non-crafty types, like her cousin, who has purchased yardage to tie around throw pillows “just because she loves the fabric so much.”