By Emily J. Weitz
For Casey Dalene, a piece of fabric is more than just a commodity. As a textile designer, she employs her love of painting, her connections in the printmaking world, and her understanding of fabric mills to deliver unique pieces of material to her clientele.
After five years working with renowned designer Elizabeth Dow, Dalene decided to start her own business in April of last year.
“I had so many ideas,” says Dalene, “and I wanted to see them through. Elizabeth was super supportive of me. She was in my shoes once.”
Dalene loves design because she loves “making something out of nothing,” she says. “I love taking a blank canvas and giving it life. I love creating something beautiful and interesting that people haven’t seen before.”
While in art school, Dalene focused mostly on painting, but she always had an interest in fashion and interior fabrics.
“I am also a people person, and I don’t think I’d be happy at home painting alone every day. So I did another year [after art school] at FIT,” she said. It was there she learned how to take her loves of color and texture and apply them to other surfaces.
With Dow, Dalene had the opportunity to travel to Europe and see where these materials actually came from.
“We traveled to Belgium and Italy, and met with amazing mills over there. At FIT I had learned about how to make fabric from fiber to design to print… Being able to meet with the people that were making the goods, and seeing the process of how things are made, woven, and dyed, was amazing exposure,” Dalene said.
Many of the mills that she visited were family-owned and operated, and have been for generations.
“These are the best in the world,” she says.
Of the all materials she’s worked with, Dalene loves linen the most.
“In Belgium they’re well known for their linen. They grow the flax, harvest the linen, make the yarn, and then make the fabric.” She loves the feel of the material because it’s “dry, with a nice hand to the cloth. It has a nice drape, with a body to itself. It’s super durable, ages over time, and has its own personality. I think it looks even better with age and ware.”
In her new business, Dalene continues to work with some of her favorite mills. She creates designs, orders fabric, and has the fabric housed at a printmaker she loves. She works directly with interior designers, and when they order a design from her collection, she sends a digital file to the printmaker, and they print it directly onto the material.
“When I need ten yards of Dry Brush Circles in Bay Blue on natural or ivory linen, I let the printers know, and we use that. It’s made to order at this point, and it takes only two to three weeks to get the fabric to the client,” she said.
As she approaches her first anniversary as a business unto herself, Dalene feels like things are “Going great. At first I was just developing things, talking to a bunch of different printers and mills.”
She selected the people she wanted to work with – a mill in Belgium and a printmaker in the Northeast US. Then she started choosing the designs she wanted to use in her first line.
“I started doing color samples, then narrowed it to five patterns,” she said. “The patterns balance each other nicely. [There’s] a large stripe and a smaller pattern that complements it well. You could use them in the same room.”
In Dalene’s work, her artistic influences can be seen.
“One of my biggest inspirations is abstract expressionist art,” she says. “The point is more about materials than about a specific object. For instance, Pollock was about the paint itself… rather than a tree or a bunny. I get inspiration from that. You can see the bristles as they go across the paper, so it’s like you’re looking at the brush stroke.”
Dalene has been bringing her work to shows in Manhattan for interior designers.
“Every designer I’ve been to has given me great feedback,” she says. “I’ve heard things like ‘This is fresh and new and we’ve never seen anything like this before.’”
Because she uses her own designs that she hand-painted, Dalene believes “They like the look of the handmade, hand-painted quality. You can see the brush strokes, I am referencing art, paintbrush, paint, pen, and drawing, and people seem to get that.”
bycasey, LLC, www.bycasey.com.