It was during the early days of the Coronavirus that I first noted the designs of textile designer and anthropologist Claire Gohorel on Instagram. During this dark time, they were a breath of fresh air: fanciful patterns that drew inspiration from flowers and nature, children’s books, Russian dachas, Nigerian clothwork, museum artwork, and so many other sources from around the world.
I love Claire’s designs! I would wear them on dresses; print them on walls; splash them on curtains, sheets, tablecloths and towels.
The sampling above include prints inspired by Oberon’s monologue in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (left); a Wayside and Woodland print from a book of the same name (right); and two designs intended for children and named for the artist Pegeen Vail Guggenheim (middle). "I loved her artwork very much as a kid when I visited the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice, and painted a replica of two of her paintings on the back of my closet door. These designs combine some of her signature elements like curvy chair legs and happy flowers."
Claire and I met ten years ago when she interned at the Museum at Eldridge Street where I was then Deputy Director. Claire was one of my favorite interns! She is a beautiful person both inside and out. She has an innate curiosity about other people and cultures, and was then studying anthropology at Brandeis University and would go on to get her MA in museum anthropology at Columbia. She was drawn to Eldridge Street by her interest in Jewish culture, immigration and the Museum’s Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival, an annual celebration of the Jewish and Chinese communities that have resided in the downtown neighborhood in which the Museum is located.
Claire’s interests have taken her around the globe, including a semester in Ghana where she studied traditional bead making, and a residency in the craft-rich region of Kutch, India where she apprenticed with a family of master textile makers and learnt the Ajrakh technique of hand block printing. (If you are interested in a similar opportunity to study craft traditions in India, visit www.somaiya-kalavidya.org, the organization through which Claire studied.) When Covid hit, Claire was finishing up a one-year program in Textile Design at FIT. Turns out virtual weaving on Zoom is not as inspiring as the in-person version!
For our outing, Claire and I met in Fort Greene Park and talked on a bench while eating apple cider donuts. We both wore fuzz! Her coat was soft and lovely, a gift of many years ago from Nini Ordoubadi, the owner of Tay Home tea shop where Claire worked when she was in high school and college; mine was my shaggy blue Cookie Monster coat which is one of my most storied articles of clothing.
Claire loves the idea of wearing clothing with a past and she selected pieces that had a back story: from the earrings from Vienna that her father gave her when she was fourteen, to her sweater, shirt and belt, vintage items from Beacon’s Closet and eBay. Claire definitely inherited her creativity and talent, in part, from her mom, who has worked as a textile designer, as well as an art instructor and professional baker. Of special note is the scarf Claire is wearing: she printed the pattern herself during her residency in India.
"Making new designs is one thing that kept me going during Covid. I looked forward to translating my daydreams into repeats for textiles. I tried to make something new every day of the work week to give myself a sense of structure."