What collective unconscious sensory memory does a blanket activate? Why does it represent simple, personal comfort for so many? A blanket is probably the most common gift given to a baby. Very few of us are welcomed into the world without being held in one just after leaving our mother’s womb. From our beginnings, it represents both a real and perceived comfort. A blanket is flexible, molds and conforms to our bodies, and never makes us feel fat.
For me a blanket intrinsically represents all these things and more, but it is also a vessel for expression and art. An aesthetic and emotional expression and a statement of luxury.
A little more than five years ago while on honeymoon in Marrakesh (where I wandered constantly in the colorful souks) it came to me in a dream that I would design blankets. No wonder, given the color, texture and sensual exoticism of the city. After two years of research and listening to people’s textile stories, came to discover my fiber – baby alpaca made of the best quality fleece from the softest areas of the animal’s body. I also came to know the story of the people of Peru who have preserved their sustainable, indigenous tradition of hand weaving.
Baby alpaca combines the softness of cashmere with the strength of wool, yet is hypoallergenic. There is also character and substance in its hand – its feel. Artisanally spun and woven alpaca woven has become my vehicle for achieving aesthetic luxury with conscience.
When designing, I am most excited by the infinite possibilities of color. I’m inspired by nature, indigenous peoples and global fashion – where I always find timeless design that is simultaneously lovely, avant garde and relevant. In the case of my Khotan and Berber Stripe blankets, colors were inspired by Persian paintings then put together with the structure of the handloom to create handsome horizontal and vertical stripes.
Collaborating with the artisans when creating the Saba Chief and Gade Chief blankets resulted in a more evolved design. On paper, there are areas of these designs where a thick, rectangular stripe appears but does not span the entire width; it cannot, therefore, simply be woven into the blanket. To stripe is layered over the delicate, woven pinstripe fabric with hand embroidery. The stitching applied over the woven stripe results in beautiful depth and variety. Curiously the embroidery manifests differently on front and back of the blanket, creating even more interest and variety. In the end, designer and artisans both produced a new design in a modern, thoughtful way.
I’m also completely blown away every time I get to see Peruvian women processing the raw alpaca fleece by hand. They classify fleece by texture, and also sort and mix the natural colors by hand before the spinning process. The skill is passed down from generation to generation. It’s a simple example of why to me it makes sense to create textiles in a place where the people have a strong connection to the land, the animal, the fiber, as well as the hand weaving tradition. The design experience as well as the end result is so much more dynamic. I think it comes through when the product is used by the end customer, too.
I’m proud to debut two new colorways of a successful blanket design known as Dakar. One uses natural, un-dyed alpaca colors combined to create a camel colored blanket. The other, my favorite, is a dark linen color. In addition, we’ve recently launched a new pillow collection based on these and all our blankets.
In the end, we want our species to thrive, and our land to be healthy so that we can continue to be creative. I’m honored and proud to have a part in creating something beautiful in a way that can survive for generations to come.
For more about D. Bryant Archie Textiles, visit www.dbryantarchie.com.
Designer D. Bryant Archie talks about blankets