Lucy Greene participated in our spring 2022 artist-in-residence program, where she leveraged her experience in textiles and architecture to investigate how the disciplines intersect. Her research resulted in two print designs featured in our SS23 collection, Cantaloop, and Directions, inspired by unexpected materials.
We asked Lucy a few questions about her and her work. Here are her thoughtful responses along with images of her process and the final results of her print designs:
What is your relationship to Osei-Duro? How did we meet?
I met Molly Keogh in 2015 in Bloomington Indiana, of all places. Both of us had just relocated from Los Angeles. At the time Molly was getting her Masters Degree in African Studies and I was working on a long term project sewing garments for Andrea Zittel. Andrea connected us when she learned we were in the same somewhat unusual city. It turned out that we had a lot of overlap in our friends, but had never met. Over a couple of years, we talked about everything and especially nitty gritty fabric things, from dying to ironing techniques. It was small miracle to meet Molly in that time and place.
In 2017 she moved back to Accra and I moved to Istanbul. I remember looking at incredible photos from her wedding shortly thereafter and thinking, wow, how am I going to get to Accra? I've got to visit Molly and see what's happening with Osei-Duro. I'd always been super impressed by the patterns and cuts and I was so curious to see how the textiles came to be.
Fast forward to the pandemic era -- I returned to school to finish my BA at Yale. As soon as travel restrictions were lifted, I applied for an 8-week travel grant to work with Osei-Duro over the summer. I was super lucky to get the grant and Molly and everyone else at Osei-Duro were endlessly generous in welcoming me to the residency in Accra. It ended up being such a rich and varied time, it's hard to distill it as just one experience.
I ended up reading Molly's Masters thesis -- Wo Hwe Wo Nua/You See Your Sibling: Locating Batik within Ghana's Textile Practices -- on the couch of the Osei-Duro house. She was writing this and studying Twi when we were both in Indiana, so it was incredible to close the circle -- to read this document and then literally go to Nana's batik studio and see the batik process from start to finish.
It has been such an honor to contribute to Osei-Duro's pattern archive. I can't tell you how thrilling it was to open up the initial samples from the dyers. At least for me, the collab is still an ongoing intellectual process -- both design-wise and thinking about the architecture and urban layouts I saw in Accra, the Upper West, and along the Coast.
What do you do, and how did you get started?
Right now, I'm an architecture student, getting ready to graduate in a few months. For most of my life, I worked in an experimental relationship with textiles, mostly manipulating forms through draping and pattern making. I didn't have any formal training, but picked up a lot of techniques by working in workshops -- the costume fabrication shop at a theater school and later with an upholster. I also learned a lot through old-fashioned books -- home economics type textbooks filled with text and diagrams -- and then tricky maneuvers from YouTube once the internet became more populated with that kind of stuff. I made beautiful one-offs and did fabrication for artists, but never had the business acumen to work at any kind of scale.
When returned to school 2021, it was a natural move to study in the architecture program. All of the formal investigation I'd done with fabrics translated really well to architectural methods. Going from two dimensional shapes to creating three dimensional "occupiable spaces" is what's happening in buildings and in clothing design. Ultimately, clothing design is much more complex because the body must move and fabrics are not rigid. In architecture, you can rely on right angles and stable shapes, but enveloping a person is way different. There is a dynamism in the architecture of clothing.
How has the residency or collaboration experience been for you? Any insights or stories to share?
The collaboration with Osei-Duro is a batik design in the spirit of "discourse between different fashion systems." I had been doing architectural research in Istanbul just before traveling to Accra and Molly was about to go to Istanbul for an Osei-Duro retreat and research trip. So she and I were in a dialogue about Ghana and Turkey -- exchanging observations on how textiles fit into historical and contemporary contexts, how they were mirrored in other materials (like concrete, tile, and metal) and folded into social life, mourning for example.
I had been documenting wrought iron doors in an older, ethnically diverse area in Istanbul so I had an incredible collection of motifs that were so much like fabric design but made out of metal! I discovered some that were directly referencing kilim (woven rug) designs, so there was already a translation from fiber to iron, from soft to hard, and from nomadic to urban. Somehow it made sense to re-translate the iron motifs to fabric and let the wax-resist method assume the transparency of the iron lines/open spaces of the doors.
I submitted seven fabric designs and then Molly asked three different batikers to make stamps and sample each one in the colors of their choice. From there Molly and Maryanne chose two to produce for SS23-- Cantaloop and Directions. It's especially cool that they fell for Directions since it's based on an ancient motif called the Chintamani. It's beautiful and mysterious -- comprised of three balls and some wavy lines that look variously like clouds or tiger stripes or lips. It shows up in Ottoman silks and rugs but probably originates in Hindu and Buddhist arts. I found a variation of it on a door handle in Istanbul - it permeates to all places. It's a perfect example of design "discourse" happening over centuries and between far removed, but still connected, geographies.