Travels Inspire An Orange County Designer’s Textiles

ART + CULTURE | BY | March 31, 2019
James, in action in her Costa Mesa studio, works out a new pattern.
James, in action in her Costa Mesa studio, works out a new pattern.
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hile traveling in India two decades ago, Elizabeth James first fell for hand block-printed fabrics. To this day, that journey informs her work as the founder and designer of the spirited, bohemian collection Pacific & Rose Textiles. Mostly printed in the same Jaipur workshop since 2001, her table runners, quilts, kitchen linens and more immediately reveal their fine construction upon even a cursory examination. “The difference is night and day between a machine-made textile versus one printed by hand with wood blocks,” says James. “I call them slow-made–not just handmade–but slow-made fabrics.”

Though some of the company’s prints have been in circulation since the line’s inception, James frequently adds to the collection. She’s amassed a significant assortment of wood blocks over the years, which provides endless opportunities for pattern mixing. “I’ll rummage through them and find one that speaks to me and just start experimenting,” she says. At the root of many are her favored Mughal elements, featuring classic motifs of swirling vines and flowers.

Yet, the designer’s influences spring from more than a single source. Whether it’s Mexican Talavera pottery, which she has been collecting for 20 years, or Impressionism and Fauvism, her varied travels have provided her with a substantial visual library. An early trip to France, for example, led her to a palette of blue, yellow and green, inspired by Claude Monet’s kitchen and dining room at Giverny, and evident in her aptly titled Monet’s Kitchen pattern. “The colors are so quintessentially French,” she muses. The designer admires Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Marc Chagall, too, for their painterly qualities and strong hues. “Their work reminds me so much of the color-saturated block-printed fabrics I discovered in Jaipur,” she says.

Lucky for her customers, James’ inspiration travels well: After all, it’s back in her sunny Costa Mesa studio where her ideas and experiences are downloaded and distilled into Pacific & Rose’s covetable goods. “Inevitably, one’s environment informs one’s art,” says James, adding, “I can’t have enough blue.”

And in Newport Beach, at Seaside Gallery & Goods Collective, James sells her wares–and teaches hand block printing. The emporium stocks her own line and also offers products and workshops from more than a dozen fellow artisans, specializing in various media. “When the opportunity to be part of a collective came, it was just a gift,” she says. “I love teaching. I can share my huge assortment of wood blocks; we can gather and create together. It’s expanded my world.” Given her well-used passport, that says it all.

PHOTOS: LOU MORA

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