It’s no secret that New Jersey is home to countless artists. Many of these creators are inspired by a passion for art that drives them to create; no matter if it’s in the kitchen, a pottery studio, or even their garage. Our new series, I heART New Jersey, is dedicated to celebrating these amazing artists. This month, we’re featuring some of the Garden State’s best makers who work with textiles. Textile art encompasses many works that incorporate the use of fabrics in their design.
These creators perfect their craft and sell their wares out of their own boutiques; often through the power of the internet or even in local markets. In this month’s I heART New Jersey, we meet some artists who are working their own magic with textiles; these designers are creating everything from wraps to utilitarian bags and blankets.
Laurie DiBiagio of Sirena + the Sea
Imagine silk robes and jewelry inspired by a lifestyle lived by the sea. For Laura DiBiagio, it became more than just a vision. A Point Pleasant resident, DiBiagio has traveled the world; she’s lived in places like the North Shore of Oahu and even visited tropical locals like Bali. She has worked for companies including Ralph Lauren and Tiffany and Co. But after feeling like a “controlled artist,” DiBagio decided to leave the corporate world to follow her calling.
During a visit to Hawaii’s Big Island, she wore her first ti leaf lei and felt a moment of inception. After a chat with a friend and a soul-searching visit to the beach, Sirena + the Sea was born; “Sirena” means mermaid in Italian, a beautiful metaphor for a girl in the world. DiBiagio’s jewelry consists of labor-intensive handmade sculptural pieces of jewelry. She uses natural fibers like leather cowhide, silk, wood, porcelain, bronze and stoneware.
As her art evolves, so does her collection, which now includes the dreamy silk kimono wrap. This past holiday season, she introduced Sirena Swim. The swimwear line is the epitome of slow fashion; it features four styles made with regenerated nylon from fishing waste and Italian Lycra. Moreover, these items promise to “fit as many women as possible,” DiBagio notes.
Barbara Pisch of P A T R I Æ
Twelve years ago, Barbara Pisch made her first tote bag. She used antique, homespun, handwoven hemp and linen textiles sourced from Central/Eastern Europe; a material she had become fascinated with and began collecting. Born in Slovakia, Pisch moved to New Jersey when she was seven-years-old. But she’s been collecting these durable organic textiles since her mid-20s.
Almost 10 years later, Pisch’s original tote bag became her business. Coming from a long line of family that worked in the textile industry, Pisch began to take orders; first, from a few stores across the country. In addition, she looked for a workshop and studio space near her family at the Jersey Shore. Two years ago, she moved to Bradley Beach and opened up P A T R I Æ, meaning “fatherlands” in Latin. The Asbury Park business is a multi-functional space that combines retail with her sewing studio and storage.
Walk into the bright and airy studio and you’ll become just as fascinated with the textiles as Pisch is. Woven between the early 19th and mid-20th centuries, these textiles were used by families for everything before WWII. What makes Pisch unique is that she wants “the fabrics to speak for themselves,” as she puts it. Beyond being “impeccably tailored, the pieces are largely undersigned and are durable, functional and simple” to boot. Honestly, when she says they’re durable, she means it. Machine wash-friendly, these pieces – including her original tote bag, single strap tote and pouches – are meant to be used. Pisch also sells textiles by the yard, as well as runners and pillows.
P A T R I Æ designs are available at P A T R I Æ studio (713 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park). They can also be found at The Market in Asbury Park, and Meus in Maplewood.
Kate Wilt of “Kate Wilt”
When you see and feel a piece of Kate Wilt’s work, you can’t help but marvel at her weaving; whether it’s a limited-edition blanket, a handwoven bag or one of her naturally-dyed scarves. In the case of Kate Wilt, it’s more than a craft, it’s her calling. After a career as a women’s clothing buyer, she began interning at the Textile Arts Center in NYC. There, she apprenticed with the lead weaver. It was also during this time she learned various techniques that ignited her passion.
Growing up in Monmouth County, Wilt wanted to bring that same type of arts center to the area. She eventually began teaching others how to work the loom, a practice which she finds extremely therapeutic. Working on a frame loom can be intimidating; but Wilt finds that as long as you know the basic fundamentals, you can’t really go wrong. (Many of the frames she uses are built by a local woodworker using wood scraps.)
Beyond her work as a teacher, Wilt creates a wide range of custom orders; these include naturally-dyed handwoven bags, scarves and pillows using mainly linen and organic cotton. Her material comes from a sustainable farm in West Texas. She finds that each unique piece eventually becomes exactly the way it should be; each telling a story with every strand of yarn. (Interestingly, a golden thread from Japan is woven into every single piece Wilt weaves.) For Wilt, it’s an intense labor of love, creating a beautiful tapestry out of life’s moments.