Aimee Fitpatrick Martin is the author of "At Home with Jack Lenor Larsen," a story in the Southampton Press about LongHouse Reserve, the sanctuary Larsen founded "to exemplify living with art in all forms." Larsen is one of the best-known and most revered textile designers and craft advocates of the 20th century, now in his eighties and continuing to influence the 21st century. From the LongHouse site:
Martin's article describes the residence at LongHouse and many of the artifacts, textiles and furnishings that Larsen selected. It's a fascinating look into the workings of a brilliant designer's process of creating a vision in the material world, in partnership with nature and in celebration of the handmade.
Larsen, with an astonishing list of international accomplishments and awards, says, “I am a weaver and a gardener. Both are slow and require much patience.” This struck me as remarkable; we're all trying to inflate our resumes and our titles, and he's opted for the most reductive description possible. Of course, that's easier when the world has already recognized that you matter, but it's so damn refreshing.
I was also taken by the article's opening quote, from Larsen's memoir: “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t seeking identity through a sense of place.” In that sentence I feel like he articulated something I've been trying to do for 50 years and have never expressed so succintly -- seeking identity through a sense of place. It explains a lot. I need to ponder that for a while.
I went looking for an image of a Larsen textile to share and, as is the Way of the Web, came across another intriguing site. Craft in America is a nonprofit with a mission "to document and advance original handcrafted work through programs in all media, accessible to all. We are dedicated to the exploration, preservation and celebration of craft, the work of the hand, and their impact on our nation’s cultural heritage." Check it out -- there are about 300 pages of content at the site. Here is their page on Larsen.
And here is a living archive of Jack Lenor Larsen fabrics at the Minneapolis Institute for the Arts. From the archive:
Larsen Design Studio
Classification: Surface Ornamentation- Dyed
Conquistador, introduced as part of the 1967 Andean Collection, was particularly successful and soon became one of the signature cloths of the company. In a note in the company archive Larsen writes that “Conquistador is my concept of how an Inca might handle a baroque motif. That is, flatly and without the robust movement typical in Europe. More like the stone walls of Peru.” For some of the colorways the cloth was dyed twice for a contrapuntal vibration of close value colors such as bronze and amethyst, or amber and brown to suggest a tortoise shell. The Spanish Colonial motif was scaled to fit upholstery cushioning and the total impact is one of great antiquitiy.
In addition to the initial four colorways (wild honey, tortoise, crimson and bronzed amethyst) Topaz, Blue Blood and Pigeon Blood were added at a later date. In 1977 Wild Honey was discontinued, but Tortoise and Pigeon Blood remained in production until 1985 when the company ceased batik production.
(Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Larsen archive)