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Weaving Narratives: Exploring the Intersection of Art and Textile Pattern Design (Part 1)

 In 2023, I received an invitation from the cultural center "Colombo Centro Americano" in Colombia to speak about my art practice and its connection with pattern textile design. As we begin 2024, I am excited to share this interview, which discusses the origins of my art brand, Juliana Silva Studio, and my goal of bringing together two worlds in which I enjoy working.

How did everything start? How did you get involved with art and textile design?

 It all started with my maternal grandfather and uncle on my father's side. My grandfather, who was a tailor, used to take care of me when I was a child. I remember playing with the spare fabric, making collages, and dressing up my dolls. Meanwhile, my uncle was an architect and watercolour painter who had a studio in his cabin where he spent time painting and discussing art with his artist friends. I was captivated by what they were doing and intrigued by their conversations about art, although I didn't understand much then. My uncle used to lend me his watercolours and art supplies, and I spent a lot of time painting while my cousins played. My passion for art and textiles grew from these experiences. My mom was also a big motivator and sent me to art courses. 

When choosing a path, I applied to art, fashion, and history programs and let destiny help me decide. I was accepted at Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota for my art degree, and I knew that art would be my path. In school, I incorporated textiles and clothing in my artwork, exploring the influence of fashion in our society and the relationship between textiles and women's bodies. I approached these subjects through painting, sculpture, photography, or installation. Eventually, I got into textile design through my paintings and drawings. 

Detail Ropa Blanca Installation, 2022

Juliana, how would you describe your work and design style? What motivates you, and what do you aim to communicate with your work?

I am a multidisciplinary artist currently focusing on sculpture. I enjoy exploring various mediums and techniques based on the specific needs of each project. For example, my work, Ropa Blanca, from 2018, involved soft sculpture, photography, embroidery, and animation. This project was inspired by a specific cotton textile I learned about during my childhood vacations in La Mesa de Los Santos, Colombia. I was intrigued by the story behind this textile and its significance to the Indigenous Guane Peoples. Through my research, I better understood the history and stories associated with this textile. 

I discovered that textiles are potent objects that can reveal much about politics, power relationships, economy, culture, and society. By exploring the micro-stories woven into our daily lives, I aim to create pieces that tell a story and provoke thought. For Ropa Blanca, I used textiles as a primary art material, which led me to explore sculpture, installation, drawing and photography. This methodology, which I follow most of the time, defines my way of making. 

Regarding design style, I find inspiration from my art practice. I start with my drawings and paintings and then transfer my work onto the computer to finalize the design. I use the iPad for finishing touches, but I prefer the hands-on approach to crafting my designs. However, I also enjoy drawing digitally and creating pattern designs that way. 

Installation view  “Ropa Blanca Installation”  Museo La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia. 2022.   Installation, hand-crafted cotton textile, stop-motion animation, sublimation on textile, dimensions variable, 2018
How do you turn a concept into a finished textile design? Do you have a story you want to tell?

My approach involves a mix of theoretical and practice-based research, field trips and collecting visual references from various sources like exhibitions, books, films, and dance. I also draw inspiration from my own memories and experiences. During practice-based research, I experiment with different materials and colour palettes through sketching. The design started to come together once I had gathered all these elements. 

My art and textile designs inherently convey storytelling. I aim to communicate stories that speak to the private world of women and the intricate relationship between textiles and our bodies.

 2D stop-motion animation part of Ropa Blanca Installation 

Many artists see the process of using their art to make all kinds of merchandise using textile designing as something profitable, what do you consider are the boundaries between fine art and design?

​​I find balancing function and appearance in my designs challenging. This struggle stems from my artistic background, which sometimes conflicts with the practicality of design. However, history has shown us numerous examples of artists successfully bridging the gap between fine art and design. Let's say some names, such as Sonia Delaunay, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Olga de Amaral and Alexandra Kehayoglou, among many others. If there is a boundary between art and design, it is primarily a result of classical academic education. In today's contemporary art world, the lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred as they influence and inspire one another.

Please share with us, how did you created Julianasilvastudio, since when is operating, who do you work with and what products you offer. 

I've always been drawn to textiles and their surfaces. The Ropa Blanca art project, which I mentioned earlier, is an example of my work and style, and it drove me to start designing surfaces. I've always wanted to turn my paintings and drawings into long meters of fabric and make installations with them, but digital printing was only available to a select few back then. In 2018, I found suppliers in Canada who could help me make small quantities of fabric and good quality products on demand, and it opened up a whole new world for me. 

I decided to create an online store, Juliana Silva Studio, where I could sell wearable art that aligns with my values and appeals to people. I wanted to offer environmentally conscious products that didn't rely on fast fashionmarketing strategies. I wanted timeless products that could last longer. It took me three years to develop the business concept and one year to execute it. I spent so much time because it was working intermittently. I did a lot of testing before launching the e-commerce site, which became operational in October 2022. 

Currently, I offer scarves, tote bags, cosmetic bags, and cushion covers, and I plan to add fabrics and other home decor accessories soon. Juliana Silva Studio is an online store and a creative space where I invite other artists to collaborate. For my next drop, I'm excited to revisit my roots and feature the artwork of one of my mentors, Carlos Silva, in a capsule collection inspired by the La Mesa de los Santos landscape and the mountains of the Chicamocha Canyon.  The collection has a serene and contemplative vibe and will be available online in November.

Silk scarf designed by Juliana Silva 

How is the design and art scene where you live? 

I currently reside in Vancouver, Canada, where I pursued my Master's degree in Fine Arts at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Although Vancouver's art scene is relatively small, it's quite active, with many exciting artists, galleries, and artist-run centers. However, it's worth noting that much of what happens in the art scene is in an alternative world hidden from those who aren't immersed in the art world. That being said, the leading art institutions showcase interesting exhibitions, albeit in smaller formats. Vancouver has several festivals and multidisciplinary events; its natural parks and outdoor activities are well-known. The relationship with nature, land, and water is a recurring theme that motivates local artists. I was also fascinated by West Coast Indigenous art and contemporary indigenous art practices. Another significant surprise for me was the interest in art made with textiles and the connection of textiles with the ancestral.

My experience studying and living in Vancouver was a mix of contradictory feelings. Initially, it was a stimulating experience, with many new things to learn. However, being an immigrant can be challenging because we must adapt to a new environment. Establishing a new network and feeling comfortable in a new place takes time. Despite this, my experience enriched my life in many ways.

I chose Canada because I participated in an academic exchange program at Concordia University in Montreal while studying in Colombia. I liked the art education at Concordia, so when I decided to pursue my Master's, I thought of Canada as the option. However, the harsh winter in Montreal led me to look for another city with milder weather, such as Vancouver, where I also had relatives. My time studying at Emily Carr University was intense but ultimately very rewarding.


I hope you have enjoyed learning about my art practice as much as I have enjoyed answering this interview. I invite you to join me for the second part of the interview next week. If you would like to stay connected and be notified about my future posts, please subscribe.