Woven Words

A blog by Regal Fabrics

Surface Patterning with Natalie Stopka

September 30, 2019

Regal’s Fall 2019 introduction, R-Juneau, features a custom marble design by Natalie Stopka.  Natalie is a textile designer with a focus on surface patterning.  Her work has been featured in many retail applications.  This is her first foray into upholstery weight fabric which brought new challenges as far as creating the right repeat.  We talked to Natalie about her art and her process.

Q:  How did you get into surface patterning?

Natalie:  I came to surface patterning through illustration and bookbinding. A beautiful handmade book deserves a gorgeous cover and endpapers, and rather than rely on pre-made decorative paper and fabric, I began making my own. This wasn’t too big a leap, as I’ve always done lots of fiber and paper crafts with my mother, who is a professional textile designer. Initially I created simple botanically dyed fabrics, but over time my practice evolved to incorporate shibori, suminagashi, and marbling.

Q:  What are some other applications for what you do?

Natalie:  I work to develop custom patterns for a variety of brands in industries including stationery, fashion, hospitality, and even confectionery. The designs we collaborate on end up patterning all sorts of paper goods and packaging.

Hand marbled yardage and paper goes to special events and installations, like wedding albums and garlands, invitation suites, and table linens. The largest run of hand printed fabric yet was 148 yards for a gala.

Q:  Where did you learn your technique?

Natalie:  I took an initial paper marbling class at the Center for Book Arts in NYC, and have thereafter been self-taught. I love experimenting in my studio, and researching historical techniques in the NY Public Library’s special collections. I also teach marbling workshops, in which students always pose interesting questions or run into new problems. This pushes me to come up with novel solutions, which contribute to the progress of my studio practice.

Q:  What makes your art so unique?

Natalie:  I learned Japanese suminagashi prior to marbling in the Turkish & European tradition, which takes a more passive approach. The organic patterns created with suminagashi allow the ink to express itself, rather than the marbler imposing a predetermined vision on the design.  I’ve allowed this mindset to influence all of my marbling, in which I try to remain observant and encourage the paints to create forms I’ve never seen before. Rather than reproduce only historical patterns, I’d like to keep pushing the design vocabulary into new territory.

Q:  Do you do anything differently when developing for upholstery fabric?

Natalie:  Firstly, I wouldn’t normally recommend original hand marbled fabric for upholstery; it simply isn’t adequately rub-fast. But when I’m designing a marbled pattern to be digitally printed or woven, the question of repeat is hugely important. What is the scale of the design on the finished product, and how can a very organic pattern be made to repeat seamlessly? Many beautiful patterns are not suitable for upholstery simply because they are too complex to repeat nicely.

Q:  What is your favorite part about what you do?

Natalie:  That’s difficult to pin down, because marbling is such a fun craft! I particularly enjoy mixing colors to develop new palettes.

Q:  What is the hardest part?

Natalie:  The hardest part of marbling is battling the elements. It’s a complex chemistry at play, and variations in temperature, humidity, or ingredient formulation can ruin a marbling session. For this reason making a large edition of matching prints can be tricky, or recreating a very particular newly-discovered effect can be impossible!


You can check out the results of Natalie’s design collaboration with Regal in our new pattern, R-Juneau.


To learn more about Natalie’s work and view other applications, check her out at www.nataliestopka.com or @nataliestopka on Instagram

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