Stylebook Snapshot: Artist adapts nature paintings to fashions, furniture


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What do paintings, scarves and pillows have in common?

To Ashley Cecil, more than people might think.

The painter and illustrator has found fresh takes on wearable art by turning her colorful nature paintings into patterns for fashions and home goods. She debuted them this month at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and has launched a page on Etsy.com, where people can purchase her pieces.

“It‘‍s translating really beautifully to fabric,” says Ms. Cecil, a native of Louisville, Ky., who lives in Highland Park. “The paintings just looked like textile patterns. They were screaming to be put on fabric.”

Much of her career has been spent painting portraits and architectural renderings she was commissioned to do for corporate clients and private individuals. Last year the wine and spirits company Brown-Forman Corp. selected her to create a painting for the label of the 2014 Early Times mint julep bottle, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. But she’‍s long been inspired by the intricate pattern work of 19th-century English textile designer William Morris. When she lived in London, where she earned a master‘‍s degree in art business from Sotheby’‍s Institute of Art, she‘‍d browse the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum for ideas.

She wondered: “How could I ever infuse this into my work?”

She credits Pittsburgh for helping her piece together the answers to this puzzle.

“Pittsburgh’‍s offered me a lot,” she says, including affordable studio space and access to industrial equipment at the TechShop in East Liberty, where she‘‍s a member and goes to sew -- a skill she’‍s recently taken up so she can make her own items. She‘‍s also discovered the city’‍s cultural offerings through her work with the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and as vice president of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators.

The process of prepping her paintings for fabrics has been a learning curve, particularly when it comes to multiplying the bugs, butterflies and birds in her art for a pattern.

“When I first started I would not think about the repeatability, so to speak, of the pattern,” she says. “Then I started plotting out with the intention of repeating it,” paying attention to the spacing between the designs and how they’‍d line up along fabric edges.

She had some software skills from her training as an illustrator and learned (through much self-teaching) how to use Photoshop to adapt the subjects of her paintings for patterns, which a company in Durham, N.C., prints onto the fabric.

So far she‘‍s applied her art to infinity scarves, pillows and chair upholstery, and more ideas are in the works. To get the word out, she’‍s in search of partners who share an art, style or nature connection with which she could collaborate, such as the National Aviary gift shop.

Scarves tend to go for about $99, and pillows typically are $125. Prices are higher than what these items usually go for in a big-box store, but these are more than just fashions or furniture, she says.

“It‘‍s a unique way to wear fine art.”

Information: www.ashleycecil.com or www.etsy.com/shop/ashleycecil


For more from PG style editor Sara Bauknecht, check out the PG's Stylebook blog at www.post-gazette.com/stylebook. Follow her on Twitter @SaraB_PG or email sbauknecht@post-gazette.com.

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