Friday, February 07, 2014

My Ansonia

I grew up in the heart of New England in the 60’s and 70’s, surrounded by dusty mill towns that had fallen on hard times. This in part explains the soft spot I harbor for old industrial cities that have seen better days. I love the familiar factory housing, the historic brick mill buildings and the towns that grew up around them — all seemingly lost in another era. Once thriving and bustling, these places and buildings seem full of possibility and opportunity to me. (Luckily, I’m not alone in that view; many are now being revived for new uses!)
Ansonia is one such town along the valley of the Naugatuck River in Connecticut, near where I now live. The entire valley was an important center of small industry many years ago. Factories in Ansonia made clocks, copper, and textiles.

When I start work on a new fabric collection, I gather vintage and antique fabric references that I transform through color and redrawing; inventing my own version of history and fashion. I love to juxtapose unexpected styles and scales to make something that resonates with another time period, but also feels new and fresh. The story starts to come together in this stage, though it’s when I start coloring the drawings that things really fall into place.

                                                Kentucky Stripe, in Mossy.

                                         Psycho Swirl, in mushroom

I started to think beyond the town itself, and became curious about the Ansonia Hotel in New York City. Built by William Earle Dodge Stokes, (an eccentric heir to a copper fortune and major shareholder of the Ansonia Clock Company) the residential hotel was grand, luxurious, and unconventional. A farm on the roof delivered fresh eggs daily to residents, and a fountain in the lobby had live seals. Despite trend-setting technology (it was the first air-conditioned hotel in NYC!) and elegant details like fresh linens three times a day, the Ansonia was always considered “Bohemian” due to its Upper West Side location. The hotel attracted celebrated, fashionable adventurers and artists of all types, and had its share of scandals and excitement.

Eventually, the hotel succumbed to financial difficulties and fell into disrepair. Residents fought off demolition, and in the 60’s and 70’s it became a scene of artistic and gay culture.

And now the collection slowly starts to come together, in fits and starts. Because I am a visual person, the designs themselves come first and the story evolves from there.  (The creative process is mysterious, and I have found it best to let it do what it needs to do and try to stay out of the way!)
Ansonia is a celebration of contrasts. The grand, old-world glamour of a graceful waltz meets the wild bohemian charm of the tango. Ansonia evokes a mix of art and industry, historic elegance and trend-setting unconventionality. Operatic hot pinks mix with earthy taupes and deep chocolate browns (Mushroom), and psychedelic-acid citron greens whirl with lush, bold blues (Mossy). The effect is pure drama – the exuberance of fresh discovery juxtaposed with the nostalgic beauty of a bygone era.

Spoolish is a quilt design I have long had in mind to create as a pattern, but hesitated because it would require so much cutting. Luckily, FreeSpirit solved that dilemma by offering it as a PRE-CUT quilt kit! Spoolish has 612 pre-cut triangles, and ALL the fabric you need to make a twin-size quilt front. How awesome is that?!!

I love designing quilt patterns for each of my new fabric collections. Here &There is my latest addition to our DSQ Pattern Collection. The design was inspired by the back of an 18-wheeler I glimpsed, driving on the highway. I love how modern and graphic the design is, and how beautifully and simply it showcases my Ansonia fabrics. Plus, it’s a fast and easy quilt to create, suitable for both beginners and experienced quilters alike. I love when inspiration presents itself so clearly!!

Let my Ansonia fabric inspire your trailblazing creativity, and lead you to find inspiration everywhere.

XO, Denyse


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Rachaeldaisy said...

I've really enjoyed reading this post about the inspiration for Ansonia.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Ansonia and love my hometown. I really like the colors/fabrics you've designed for this collection.

Cindy said...

Denyse, we chose the Connecticut Geometric in brown from your Ansonia line to be the backing of a Quilt of Valor that we are sending to an exhibition of Quilts of Valor at the America Quilts Expo in Des Moines in May 2016. We figured that it would be very appropriate to have a fabric designed by someone from Connecticut that featured the state itself as part of our quilt.