In the Shop: Reversible Quilts by Studio Ford

We chat with Josie Ford about our collaboration and her inspiration.

12.24.2020

Josie, thank you so much for bringing these amazing quilts to life with us.

It was such an honor to be able to collaborate with Commune!

To go back to the beginning of this partnership, it actually started in a very… of the times way. There was a mutual follow on Instagram before you sent us a message asking if we’d like to work on something together.

When people ask me how this partnership began, I always laugh because it could not have been more “of the times”. I guess I’m living up to being a millennial.

How large a role does Instagram play in your business? It seems to be so vital to so many businesses these days, especially in our world of things; makers, artisans, etc. There’s an engagement and transparency that was never offered before. Part of our attraction to your work was the background information offered: all of the beautiful photos of your artisan partners in India, their process, your travels and inspiration.

Instagram has played a huge roll in my business thus far. My work is so visual so it is far easier to post photos that describe my process rather than writing it out. I also think it’s really important to give the artisans a voice and face time because they are making my pieces come to life and I would not be able to do my work without their skills. Instagram, while sometimes I wish it didn’t exist, is an amazing platform to share my story and process. I feel like I am able to take everything out of my head and put it out into the world via Instagram.

The documentation of process is something we love as a studio. I know you photograph on film quite a bit, including the photos we’re sharing here. What is it that draws you to that medium? There’s a sort of connection… something analogous between the craft and the documentation. It’s also totally not “of the times”.

One of my favorite aspects of being in India is being present for the process. I find so much joy in photographing the process. It's as if time is still for one second even though nothing is actually still. The craft is an art in itself and to me it is the perfect subject. I choose to use my Canon AE-1 because I love the look of film and the process of winding up my film for each shot. It is a manual process and so is block printing so it feels harmonious.

How often are you traveling to India? Maybe in a more typical year than 2020, ha.

Haha, well this year I haven’t been at all and I really miss India. In a more typical year, I go twice a year for about 3 weeks at a time to work closely with our block printing partners sampling new products and prints. As you can imagine with such a long trip, I try to take full advantage of my time in India and explore a new place with each visit.

Do you have favorite regions, cities, local spots? What are you up to when you are not actively working while you’re there?

I would like to start by saying I could talk to you all day about places to go and things to do in India but I will try to keep it brief. I love Mumbai, it is dynamic and contemporary with beautiful colonial architecture. You can pretty much find anything you’ve ever imagined in this city. Going to the flower and vegetable market in the early morning, walking around Crawford market for spices, wandering down alleys lined with stalls of textiles, witnessing the morning newspaper sorting, dining at new up and coming restaurants and of course, drinking chai from my favorite chaiwala are some of my favorite things to do while in Mumbai. Jaipur is where I stay when I am working and I have found so much inspiration exploring different forts and palaces in the city. I love to wander the Old City for vintage textiles, jewelry, and lassi cups. I pay a visit to Tikam Chand each trip who takes your portrait on a 1860s Carl Zeiss camera. Jodhpur, also in the state of Rajasthan, is another favorite and it’s about a 6 hour train ride from Jaipur. Jodhpur is home to Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest forts in India and is also the best place to find Indian antiques. On my first trip to India I went to the small town of Chanderi, known for the intricate weaving of Chanderi saris. I had a guide who seemed to be the mayor of the town. He knew everyone and took me to different weavers houses so that I could witness the weaving first hand. It was an incredible experience. Of course, in such a small town, there was only one hotel… I haven’t been back since but I hear they opened a new hotel so it might be time to go back. Maheshwar is another tiny town along the Narmada River. I like to go and pay a visit to my friends at Women Weave which is a community of women weavers who are encouraged to make a living using their skills of traditional handloom weaving. Women Weave offers health care, child care and ensures everyone in their community is taken care of. It is a pleasant oasis to sit in the center courtyard and listen to the tick of the handlooms in motion. An evening float on the Narmada River is not to be missed. I could keep going but I will leave you with that. On my next trip I plan to visit Chandigarh and the Himalayas.

So tell us more about Studio Ford. Where did this all begin for you?

It all began with a month long trip to India and a notebook with all of my painted patterns. I studied print making and art history so I knew India was the place I wanted to go to pursue a career in textile design using the traditional method of block printing. I went to six different towns on my first trip, each town specializing in a different method of textile production. When I was visiting Women Weave for the first time, Nivedita who runs the show there, told me I had to meet Sonia in Jaipur. I immediately contacted Sonia and changed my trip around so that I could meet her. Sonia introduced me to the block carvers, block printers and sewers. We started our first samples three years ago. I now have the privilege of working with three different family run block printing shops. It is exciting to be able to provide work for more printers and I hope it will encourage people to continue to work using their hands. There is something so special about a piece made entirely by hand.

We see a lot of ties to nature in your work. There are some architectural references too. What inspires a new pattern for you? Or maybe the question is where do you find that inspiration?

I find most of my inspiration from nature and architecture. I went on hike in the Los Padres National Forest last winter and found beautiful dried white sage brush. This inspired two of my prints. My very first print was inspired by a neighbors dahlias growing along the sidewalk. Some of my more geometric patterns are inspired by architecture. Joints of walls and different angles that compose a building. Recently I have been very inspired by Karl Blossfeldt’s beautiful silhouettes of plants.

I mean, we do have it all in California… Good nature, good architecture. Is California your forever home?

I was born and raised in California so it is very near and dear to me. It has inspired much of my work. I love all that California has to offer but I also love so many other places around the world so I don’t forsee myself staying in one location for the rest of my life.

Lastly, For anyone checking out these beautiful quilts we just released, is there anything else they should know?

It’s important to note that these quilts were made entirely by hand. If you look closely at the stitching you will see the uniqueness of each stitch. Same goes for the block printing. Each color is a different block. It took careful concentration to line up each block correctly so that particular print turned out correctly. It was funny when we started sampling these last year, Tara Chand Ji, one of our master printers, wasn’t sure it would be possible. We made it happen and they turned out beautifully!

Thank you, Josie!