We love highlighting artists in our community--our Portland community and the textile community in general. Today we are pleased to bring you a little about Rio Wrenn and her brand, R.A.W. Textiles. Rio is a master natural dyer, creating exquisite designs. She's now offering workshops and we will be holding a trunk show with her later in the year, so keep your eyes and ears open for more on that. As for workshops, check our her site here for more information.
We’d love to know a bit about your history as a dyer and designer. Are you a life-long fabric artist of some sort or did you discover it as an adult?
I went to college for design but it was more like interior and furniture design. I graduated with a sculpture degree, but I discovered my love of textiles during my last year in college. That would be 2001. I came upon rusting on silk from a slide presentation and there was no one to give me instructions about thisprocess so I felt like I was in an open field left to run and explore till my hearts content. And that is just what I did.....
What was your path to pursuing this as a career?
Well actually, I embraced rusting and natural dyes right away and began to develop processes since there was no information except some very ancient processes that used nails to create iron baths. I started by making samples of lingerie and large skeleton pieces and joked that I wanted to work for Victoria's Secret. So flash forward 7 years and I found myself constructing garments and lingerie in anticipation of starting my own lingerie line called R.A.W. That is really what got everything going in a commercial direction verses just the creation of visual art.
Tell us a bit about your latest collection, The Pearl of France.
This collection is the second textile collection since I switched over to creating yardage for the trade instead of having a product like lingerie or scarves. I went through a large transition in my life starting in 2014 and this inspired me to look at new ways to connect with community and a deep desire to find a mentor. I believe that the people who have come before us are the masters of what we want to learn or are in process of learning. In the natural dye world Michel Garcia would be that master. He lives in France and founded a natural dye garden in 2001. I met him at a lecture and began conversation about visiting France or Lauris ( proper) to start a work study / residency. So this spring I took my maiden voyage to Lauris and spent 4 weeks in the garden and working with Michel. I had already prepared the collection for 2017 before I left but wanted to photograph the look book in France. So I set my camera up on a tripod and with a timer took all the photos. It was a wonderful experience to think quickly about how to present the looks after I arrived. In general my trip was nourishing and I took away many lessons and made friends that I will keep for a life time.
What are some of your favorite fabrics/patterns/materials to work with?
I mainly work in silk. I do work in cottons as well, and wool is a wonderful material that I have some experience dyeing. I also like to work with vintage laces and old fabrics that can be repurposed.
What trends in design have you excited?
I am thrilled that natural dyeing is now coming out in the market place. When I started my lingerie collection there was no one dyeing lingerie with natural colors and hardly anyone dyeing clothes in that manner. Because of this the buyers were not as interested in trying something new. Now it is trending. Perhaps my collections can finally be implemented into other designers collections?
What are you working on right now?
I am heading out to NYC for fashion week and I will be part of a collaborative (Livari) that is showing on the 360 style stage. I am very excited about that!! I am also starting to teach my processes from my studio in North Portland and I will be hosting Michel Garcia in May 2018 for two workshops. And just to make sure I don't stop working any time soon, I am writing a book about native and invasive plants in the NW and alternative processes to create color.
We love to hear about locals’ favorite spots in town. What are some of your favorite haunts?
Honestly I work a lot and I have little play time but I do love to visit the beach and the forest in the Gorge. I hope there will be some left after the horrific fires that have consumed a lot of the land. In town I like to go dancing to DJ Anjaliwho usually plays at Analog or Goodfoot. and I love to eat breakfast at the Hazel Room or dinner at Sudra!! Yum
Huge thanks to Rio for taking the time to share with us! We look forward to seeing more from her in the coming months and years.