How Nature Inspires My Designs
by Katarina Protsack
I always make a joke that, where I come from, there are more bears than people. I think this isolation formed an ability for myself to personify nature – to see the natural world as having a certain kind of living aura, or personality.
In my adult life, I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world and study how different areas of our planet emit their own unique presence. Not only in the natural surroundings, but in the spirit and energy of the people themselves. When starting my brand, I decided to focus on a specific area of the world as each collection’s muse, as these inspirations can be creatively interpreted endlessly. A specific area of the world not only has inspiring natural elements such as color and texture, but also unique architecture, art, music, and spirit.
When starting on a new collection, I first make an auditory mood board, or more simply, a playlist inspired by the region. Music is the easiest way for me to creatively communicate, and I can vividly see colors and landscapes in music. I find that the auditory mood boards help direct and anchor myself artistically in the ‘mood’ of an area, which helps me create the physical elements of a collection.
With the physical mood board, I draw on my own photography from the area of the world that I am currently being inspired by. Sometimes it’s the specific curve of a tree, and sometimes it’s a photograph of a rusted teal-colored pickup truck contrasted with the sun-drenched browns of New Mexico’s mountains. Next, I study the photos to find colors that draw my eye unexpectedly. If it exists in nature, it will work in art, right? I’ve been inspired by the artist Tanya Goel lately, who will visit the same spot in nature day after day to study how the year’s changing light alters the colors of the environment. I’m amazed by her dedication to studying color.
After my color studies, I amalgamate my photography, Pantone color swatches that I’ve identified in my photographs, architectural photographs of beautiful homes in the area, and a few fashion mood shots onto a two-page mood board.
It is at this point the artists I collaborate with and myself get to creating the artwork and the collection. The artists use the mood board as a jump off point to inspire the colors of their artworks, the mediums they want to work in, and their visual references. Sometimes the artists create art that has literal references to the physical landscape, and sometimes they create very abstract work that, to me, more so embodies the spirit of the landscape. Meanwhile, I get started sketching designs and ideas for pattern layouts for the artist’s artwork. Sometimes we print their art onto fabric using reactive digital methods, interpret their artistic motifs in embroidery, or hand paint the artwork on our pieces.
When sketching designs, I always imagine the piece existing in its natural environment – how do the colors, material, and silhouette reflect the soul of the area it comes from? For my Sonoran collection, I was inspired by the freedom of the American Southwest – the endless desert, the open road, its association with creative metaphysical culture – and reflected this in my silhouettes. Easy American staples, like the classic t-shirt, and comfortable wrap pants you could wear on a long road trip embodied the free-spirited ease of the area.
Of course, being inspired by and respecting nature go hand in hand. This is why I only use earth-positive fabrics in my collections, whether they are plant-based, recycled, or deadstock.
In our photoshoots, we try to only use fauna that relates to the area of inspiration, decorating our shoots with cacti for the American Southwest, and moss for the Pacific Northwest. It’s so much fun to use these natural elements in a more surreal way, such as taping the moss to the wall so it looks like it’s growing through the building in the photos.
My collections are sort of a worship of the intersection of art and nature. I try to convey my admiration for the beautiful world in which we are lucky to live. It has been one of my life’s greatest honours to, in some cases, open eyes to the miraculous world that we inhabit. Our existence on earth is something I don’t take for granted and I hope through my work, I can make others feel the same.
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