This week’s big news is Dries van Noten’s announcement of their summer 2021 collection – inspired by Len Lye. This was something that’s been under wraps since New Zealand’s Covid19 lockdown earlier this year and an uplifting way to start seeing out the year. And hopefully anticipating a better 2021.
Lye’s experimental films inform many of the pieces in the collection. Particularly works like Trade Tattoo and Rainbow Dance, both made in the 1930s and many decades ahead of MTV.
What’s interesting is that even before Lye was making these films, he dabbled in textile design (an area I’ve spent much of the last year researching). Not long after arriving in London in 1926 and settling in Hammersmith, Lye connected with the Footprints workshop. Established by Gwen Pike, Elspeth Little and Celandine Kennington at Durham Wharf in 1925, Footprints was known for produced hand block printed fabric, curtains, coats and shawls. You can see some examples of the studio’s work here.
Lye’s work associated with the studio largely involved batik scarves and cushions which he likely sold in the Footprints shop to aid his finances while working on his first film, Tusalava. A few examples are extant in the Len Lye Foundation Collection including several works documented below.
The two larger works above are Watershed and Pond People, both made in the late 1920s. Lye retained these two scarves (or shawls) himself and Watershed he claimed to be his favourite work of all. Other works were either sold or gifted to friends. One was gifted to Gertrude Stein sometime around 1930 and another gifted to Laura Riding. Riding’s shawl featured in the transition magazine in 1929.