Artist Interview: Mr. Blue Skye

As we get ready to launch our sixth collaboration with textile artist Rachel Ehlin- Smith, aka Mr. Blue Skye, we thought it would be fun to take you a little deeper into her inspiration for these stunning one-of-a-kind pieces.

"Using nature’s blueprint, Mr. Blue Skye creates magic with our signature dupioni silks as her canvas - hand-dying these unique carriers in her Little Italy studio. Luxurious yet laid back; these one-of-a-kind works of art weave the natural world in with your baby and you..."

What inspired you in particular for our Vol. VI collaboration?

There was a lot that inspired me with this collection. My next door neighbor Krista owns Hand Meets Sky. She sells deadstock turquoise jewelry from the 1960's and 70's. I regularly go over to her house and try on jewelry. I've always been fasciated by turquoise so I took a lot of pictures of the stones that she had and tried to recreate that on fabric. Another color way was inspired by a recent trip that I just took with my mom to New Mexico. We collected soil samples from everywhere we went and the colors ranged from a really deep reddish/rust to various shades of brown and tan. I met this woman at the Taos Pueblo and she gave me a little bag of creamy white clay to take home. So I really looked at those samples and tried to recreate the color of New Mexico soil. I was also inspired by the purple prickly pear cactus. I'm not really a purple person, but breaking down the purple into various muted shades and creating what I called "gross green" with the paints was really fun. And when you see the photo that the color way is inspired by you really do see the purple prickly pear. I made another color way that was inspired by a necklace that I bought at the Taos Pueblo it has a lot of black, turquoise, rust and cream in it. There is a darker color way that is inspired by photos of nebulas. I really wanted to recreate the magic of space and its also reminiscent of oil in a parking lot. And lastly I was inspired by the ocean so I worked with a lot of shades of blue. 

How did you decide on marbling for our last collaboration, Vol. V?

I feel like last time was a big group effort between everyone at SB and me. Lynne and I really narrowed down 3 different color ways that all had one color that flowed through all of the pieces so the line seemed cohesive. 

Tell me about your technique this time around, how does this collection differ from the last?

I used a few different techniques this time. I worked with the marbling comb a lot more. I didn't really add negative space this time around except for a few pieces that had a lot of cream in them. I also started to use mister bottles and almost did kind of like an airbrush effect. That was a really difficult thing of me to work out and its something I'd like to experiment with more. 

We'd love to hear a bit more about your creative process, how you actually make these beautiful textiles. 

Its a long process. First I have to wash all of the fabric. Then I have to mix the mordant and soak each piece for about a half an hour and then run it through the spin cycle to get the excess liquid off. I then have to let the fabric air dry and then go over it with an iron to get the wrinkles out. I like to mix my carrageenan mixture the night before so it has time to sit. The tray that I've built is a little over 9 feet long and holds about 20 gallons of size at a time. I make more size (which is the medium in which to float the paints) as I go along to refresh it. And then I have to mix the paints. This time around because I made so many different color combinations I was hand mixing a lot of colors and I made all of the paint brushes from the ends of these dead plants that I weave with. I ran into a lot of obstacles a long the way. Mainly the cold weather this time around. So I really had to work at getting the right temperature with the carrageenan and the acrylic paints. 

This is our 6th collaboration together! Why do you keep saying yes to our crazy ideas?

I really love working with Sakura Bloom. I think because I get given a lot of creative freedom. I work really well like that when I don't have too many creative constraints. I feel like for the most part you all trust me to make something that people will like. Almost everyone who works at SB is a woman or a mom and understands if I have to take little longer on a job because my kid got sick or I have to chaperone a trip. You guys understand what it means to be a working mom. And I really appreciate that. I really love seeing my fabric being made into something useful and beautiful. And you guys know I love babies. I think there is nothing better than a baby and I get to hold them at the photoshoots and that makes me super happy. So yeah, making pretty things and holding babies :) 

Stay tuned for more details. Mr. Blue Skye Vol. VI in the shop, Friday 10am pacific time.