Creating With Character: In The Studio With Ellisha Alexina
PHOTOGRAPHS Joyelle West
Ellisha Alexina’s personality is woven into each piece of hand-painted and polychromatic screen printed fabric in her popular collection—which is the key to its success.
The most important part of my textiles has always been the process. Not just printing the yardage—I’m talking about every. single.detail. of the process.
It starts with an excitement, a reaction to something. For me, I always reacted to pattern. Whether it be historical textile achieve books, the way the cracks in the sidewalk blend together to create a pattern, or the rhythm of a poem. Whatever stimulates that excitement, that urge to explore and want to create, I keep it. Often times I hang these inspirations in my studio—pictures, drawings, a leaf from a time I want to remember. Having these things around me helps me to stay stimulated.They are a constant reminder of what keeps me going.
My textiles begin with a drawing. A drawing inspired by something on my inspiration board. For me, it has never been about recreating something with a definitive subject, as it is more about the rhythm within the shapes that create something beautiful. This is important because the flow of shapes coming together calms your eye.
What a beauty it is when all the shapes begin to connect and you start to see a pattern. From there, it becomes a solveable puzzle putting it into repeat. (Or more like a chess game) because it is a patient process, yet exciting and fun when the shapes come together within inches, and your drawing becomes a repeatable pattern. From there, I take the pattern and expose a silk screen with it. What a beauty is it to see the print become a repeatable pattern! I measure out stops on the table, so each time I paint and print on the silkscreen, the pattern connects.
Like magic. The rhythm of printing repeatable textiles has always enlivened me. How engaging to see something fit together and flow.
Now let’s get more detailed. Once we have the screen it’s time to mix the colors. I choose to mix with only primary colors because it gives me the most fulfillment. I mainly print with soft pastels, neutrals, and blues. The color mixing is one of my favorite parts. I think its because mixing is craft in itself, and when you add just the right amount of yellow or a teardrop of blue to create the perfect color, there is pride and satisfaction in your skill.
Once the colors are mixed it’s time to paint onto the pattern on the silk screen. This process is enough to keep me engaged for hours. Watching the colors blend together within each shape and having the control to change how each color blends within each shape is so mesmerizing. I love blending the colors in each shape differently—I think it adds character and a delicate detail. I have painted within the shapes of my fabrics a thousand times; each time I do, it’s just like it’s the first time because it becomes a new experience. With each yard I am able to dictate where the paint goes and where it blends. And it’s these choices and decisions that you notice. Each is a new unique yard with different detail, and a character all of its own.
What’s funny (and I often get reminded of this by loved ones) is I rarely have music on when I’m working. I think it’s because there is such a rhythm and tempo between the repeat printing, the color mixing, and the painting that I don’t want to be distracted by anything else. The process is enough for me.
It is important to me to share the entire process behind my yardage. The small little details behind the fabric is what truly makes the collections speak. I am always trying to explain the behind-the-scenes of the process to people, because I think that is worth understanding to fully appreciate anything that is handmade. The subtly of these processes and details is something only a certain eye notices. And what a pleasure it is when they do, because it makes me feel like I am doing my job as an artist.
Not only am I creating textile collections for the home, I am creating something rhythmic and one of a kind. The traits my textiles hold are important to me, and the beginning to the end of each new pattern, each new yard, is something that will always be alive.
More About Ellisha Alexina:
Ellisha Alexina is a New England based textile restoration artist and designer, specializing in hand-printed fabrics. While restoring hand-painted silk scarves for Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, Ellisha was inspired by the rich history of Turkish embroideries and Islamic cloths, and began to formulate a design process that would incorporate elements from each. After experimenting with the effects of layering watercolors and natural plant dyes on textiles, Ellisha developed a mixed media process that blended elements of polychromatic screen-printing and hand-painting. Ellisha Alexina textiles are made to order, and produced on 100% linen. www.ellishaalexina.com