There are probably more than a few of us who were exposed to the happiness of blissful creativity by a teacher, parent or friend and because of all the necessary decisions for the work-a-day life, set it aside with a whispered, “someday!” A box of paints and paper, an easel leaning against a wall in the shed, woodworking tools folded in Grandfather’s canvas bag or fabric cutouts pinned to patterns neatly put away for when there’s time. Time! Now more than ever, a career path may not be a trajectory propelling us forward to achieve, but a series of options and choices where the beginning relates more closely to where we may ‘end up’ than we ever imagined.
As I’ve gotten to know Anne Christenson over the past year; I’ve seen big puzzle pieces in her journey reconnect her work-a-day life with her love of creating batik art. From young art student in college who took a break from painting classes and experimented with fiber out of curiosity, to store executive at Laura Ashley, the link was always there in the world of designing prints on fabric.
After spending twenty-five years immersed in the world of printed chintz, linen and upholstery fabrics in a successful home décor enterprise gaining substantial expertise, Anne knows how to use a collection of print fabrics and colorways to create exceptional living spaces. Her life journey brought her back home to parents, family, old friends and the Midwest from sunny Hawaii and soon Anne rediscovered the excitement of painting. Encouragement led to a proliferation of completed work, one of which is ‘on loan’ at the end of my hallway (not sure if mentioning it here is a good idea), but it wasn’t long before the lure of the batik process found Anne experimenting with the same type of subject matter as in her acrylic paintings. Representational, they included fond memories of northern woods, old country roads, Hawaii-sized flowers and still life. Anne continued to experiment and soon found herself creating small repetitive prints in happy colors that energized her, reminded her of Hawaii and her original creativity with batik.
As an artist, Anne feels her creativity is rooted in her ability to draw. Her designs are drawn free-hand on graph paper and colored in with crayons. They are next transferred to cotton fabric where she applies the authentic and complex batik wax and dye process learned from art school Professor Roberta Cramer. Working with an absorbent medium such as fabric, Anne says batik is a process that requires the artist to have a solid ‘plan the work’ strategy. It’s complex because the order in which the artist alternates the application of color and wax yields different results. The co-mingling in between the color and wax is what creates the slightly crackly lines and allows for color to move around a little more—planned or not! Anne finds the randomness and the interaction between the materials and the medium challenging and rewarding. And she says she couldn’t live without her trusty Goodwill electric skillet for melting beeswax!
Anne feels the authenticity of the batik process makes for a better printed fabric. Since her patterns are drawn, not graphically generated, they show the imperfections of the process rather than the perfection from a computer generated file. That could be a good thing or not depending on the buyer’s opinion, but Anne wants her designs to begin with hand drawn art.
Batik is considered the traditional fabric art of Indonesia. The word batik originates from the Javanese work tik and means to dot. In 2013 the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C. held a contest called ‘American Batik’. Here’s a link to the three winners’ designs. Each design is represented two ways. One, with a computer aided design and two, the design made using the traditional methods of resist and dye. The differences are quite remarkable. Indonesian Embassy Design Competition
Anne uses technology in a rather ‘casual way’. Before the finished pieces are professionally photographed, she shoots some quick snapshots with her iPad and uploads them to software which allows her to modify the pattern using repeats, mirror images, angles and inverse all while keeping the designs proportionally correct. It’s a great way to quickly view the ‘big picture’ shortening lead time to market and reducing the potential for costly mistakes.
When asked about her work motto, Anne quotes from three relevant sources. First, the position of the artist is humble. He/she is essentially a channel. (Piet Mondrian). Second, every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. (Pablo Picasso). And third, do all things with love. (Maybe that’s why Anne’s prints always seem so happy).
Anne’s design business is just getting started so look for updates and batik art and prints offered for sale at AnnieChristensononEtsy.