Meet the Artist Behind Thompson Street Studio
In SoHo, Kiva Motnyk patches together a new approach to quilting.
Quilt-making has intrigued textile artist Kiva Motnyk since she was a young girl, when she learned how to sew and make patchworks at the arts-focused Waldorf school in San Francisco. “The history of the medium has always fascinated me,” Motnyk says, “and the craft comes naturally to me. When I started my design studio, I knew that quilt-making was a technique I wanted to explore further.”
The daughter of a surrealist painter and a modern dancer, Motnyk later moved with her family to SoHo and received a BFA in fashion and textiles from RISD, although her “college program didn’t focus on patchwork as an art form. So when I graduated, I spent some time in Mississippi working with women who have been quilting for generations.”
After a stint as a textile designer and creative director for Isaac Mizrahi, Motnyk launched Thompson Street Studio, a brand that offers an array of home accessories including pillows, curtains, framed artwork, divider screens, and custom quilts using naturally dyed antique and recycled fabrics. “I like to experiment with repurposed fabrics and traditional patchwork motifs,” says the artist, who often incorporates indigo-dyed and Japanese boro (mended and repaired) textiles into her fabric collages. “When you break the rules a little, then you get something new and interesting.”
Although Motnyk often refers to mood boards of hand-sewn swatches (she calls them “fabric sketches”) when she starts a new project, the design process actually begins with fabric dyeing. “I love natural dyeing and have been doing it since I was a kid,” says Motnyk, who creates dyes with marigolds, goldenrod, and sumac foraged near her Catskills home. She avoids attempting to achieve a “solid perfect color” and simply selects natural materials such as linen and silk that “take the dye the best.” Irregularity in fabrics, she says, “creates dimension in a piece and keeps it from looking manufactured.”
Motnyk’s collage patterns emerge organically as she stitches together her fabric swatches, in addition to over-dyed remnants, with the help of her studio assistants, Terese McCoy and Jasmine Bryant. “The kind of layers you get from passing a piece back and forth are amazing, reflecting each person’s take,” Motnyk says. “When you look closely at patchwork, there is so much intricacy, but when you step back, there’s a quiet stillness.”
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Stitches in Time.