The work of contemporary Dutch designer Nicolette Brunklaus is filled with narrative and imagination. She often manipulates photography to generate pattern and tell a story, whether printing a wooded forest scene on the interior of a lampshade, or, as in Blond Curtain, digitally printing long blond tendrils on velvet to create a curtain. The textile, at almost ten feet (three meters) tall, creates a dramatic and arresting image, with long lines of blond hair stretching downward and cascading into a mass of curls. Each of the two curtain panels is printed in mirror image, together forming a symmetrical design.
Brunklaus, in describing the inspiration behind the design, says “When a woman throws her hair in front of her face, she creates her own introverted world.” Here, the hair becomes a metaphoric and literal curtain behind which to withdraw. It signifies the function of a curtain itself—to separate and close off. And the choice of material further develops the narrative. Initially printed on silk to move and flow, Blond Curtain was later printed on velvet, as is the piece in Cooper-Hewitt’s collection, to enhance the idea of privacy and isolation.
In creating the textile, Brunklaus opted to utilize digital printing technology rather than rotary screen printing, a widely used technology in the textile industry. Digital printing enables textile designers to not only freely manipulate images, but to print on fabric in unexpected ways, and in a single run. With quick production, designers no longer need to maintain a large inventory, reducing waste (if unsold) and needed storage space. Such flexibility allows for more experimentation and innovation in design, which suits Brunklaus well. In 1998, she left the wholesale market in which she had been working to establish Brunklaus Amsterdam and self-produce her own products. In keeping her production small, she is able to freely experiment, avoiding the compromises of commercial production. The sweeping, sensual, and expressive blond curls in Blond Curtain are one alluring result.
[Re-posted from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum blog.]