A collaboration between Aisha Likes It and National Picnic
WAXING is an intertextual conversation. Bringing together the tools of their trade, two artists add to the long, transatlantic history of wax prints.
While often attributed solely to the African continent, wax prints have a unique, blended heritage. Indonesian batik techniques and pre-colonial African textile arts mix and meld. With the advent of 19th century Dutch industrialization and trade, a cultural industry traveled the world. Its ubiquity is evident in its estimated 4 billion annual retail sales value.
Vlisco, located in The Netherlands, is one of the first major manufacturers of wax prints. West African countries like Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire become important, local producers in the 1960s with manufacturers like ABC Wax, Woodin, and Uniwax. No other region embraced wax prints so enthusiastically and over time these celebrated textiles were further imbued with rich culture and tradition. Distinct patterns, designs, and motifs emerged and became closely tied to identity, especially in the African Diaspora.
Our design goal for WAXING is not to disrupt its trajectory or meaning, rather we seek, eagerly to add to the international conversation these textiles began long before our arrival.
ABOUT THE COLLABORATORS
African wax prints have always been a part of my life. I recall them as decorative, cultural flourishes in my childhood homes: a tablecloth, a curtain, a pillow. As I got older, I sought wax prints out for special occasion dressing. I took trips to Harlem fabric shops stacked floor to ceiling with richly colored 12 yard pre-cut pieces of wax print. The vast array of patterns and possibilities was dizzying but always, I left with something that felt just right. I find myself drawn to them even now. They fill my adult home, my wardrobe, and my creative imagination. I am excited about this collaboration, this WAXING of two artists because it is my opportunity to speak to the textiles that have said so much to me over the years.
“I like what you are making. Can you make it with this?” Many of my experiences creating with wax print have been the direct result of customer requests. Clients and friends bring me fabrics from treasured stashes and trips to the continent and ask me to transform them into lasting memories. I have made custom signature tees and special occasion wear. Perhaps most memorably, I created a, one-time only, traditional kilt exclusively designed with wax print. Each time I work with these textiles, I feel like I learn a little more about them and the possibilities they present to tell a new story.
Gillow, J. (2003). African Textiles. Colour and Creativity Across a Continent. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.
LaGamma, Alisa (2009). The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Young, Robb (12 September 2012). "Africa's Fabric is Dutch". New York Times.