Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Six Inspiring Design Books


It’s no secret that I love books, as anyone in my family will attest, having seen me laying on the couch with my nose in a book most of my childhood. When I was in my twenties, single and gainfully employed I managed to amass a collection large enough to elicit complaints from people who helped me in one of my frequent nomadic shifts from rental to rental. Among these are many design books which I cherish and refer to often when thinking about color, style or silhouette. So at risk of overburdening our audience with lists, I wanted to share six of my favorites (in no particular order):

1. Japonism in Fashion Tokyo

This is the exhibition catalogue for an amazing collection of clothing K and I saw on display at Te papa Tongarewa in Wellington in 2003. It traces the influence of Japanese design and art on western fashion, as well as modern Japanese fashion design. An amazing show, the catalogue (as is so often the case) only captures a fraction of it, but enough to remind me of its beauty and power.

Issey Miyake

John Galliano

2. Pattern Magic Vol.2 , Tomoko Nakamichi

A series of quirky and complicated sculptural pattern developments. I have to say that due to the fact that the book is untranslated from the original Japanese, and the content challenging, I’m certain that I’m missing out on most of the meat of it. Nonetheless it’s helped me to think about clothing in a more three dimensional way. Plus it’s just great to look at.

3. Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout and Period, Susan Meller and Joost Elffers

A gift from dad, this turns out to be, in my opinion, an indispensible and incredibly comprehensive source book for textile designers and enthusiasts. One of these days I plan on actually reading the text too!

4. Fashion Illustration, A Rizzoli Paperback

Another gift from dad, I’ve had this slim volume of illustrations from the 1900’s through the 1920’s for over twenty years, and have hauled it back and forth across the world. I love the colors and sensibility, and  it was a big influence on the painted fabrics I made during the early years of modaspia.

5. Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries, Avril Hart and Susan North

Warning, this book is serious textile porn. I could have chosen any page, each one is just as lovely and sumptuous as the last, though the scans really don’t do them justice . An ode to an age of truly slow fashion: just imagine the hours of human labor required to create these clothes!

6. By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art, Shu Hung and Joseph Magliaro, editors

I love seeing traditional craft re-imagined in a contemporary fine art context. Features the work of three women whose work I love and admire : Tess Giberson, Natalie Chanin and Kiki Smith.

Fiberglass Teddy bear by Dave Cole

Chicago Tribune, September 29 2002 (embroidery), by Karen Reimer

Constellation (detail) by Kiki Smith

Owl and Pussycat, by Kiki Smith

I have curbed my book addiction somewhat by way of avoidance, but occasionally I fall prey to the lure of Amazon and the seemingly endless supply of interesting and lovely looking volumes. I’ve begun keeping track of the ones I’m most interested in seeing in person here. Enjoy!

11 Responses to “Six Inspiring Design Books”

  1. Jacquelyn Marie

    Ah, a Goddess daughter after my own heart—A Book Lover
    and these are gorgeous books.

  2. Norman Ross Powers

    Something in the four pictures of gentlemen’s coat sleeves makes me think of music . The ideas in them are rich, intricate, fluid, surprising, even moving. We see each sleeve out of context, without knowing about the “school” it was part of, yet there seems to be elemental creativity within them all and a kind of genius. I’m, like….completely WOW!

    • oami powers

      Wow is right! I love Vivienne Westwood, and a lot of her work in the recent past mines just this kind of thing, really interesting and moving structured elements. I like that it reminded you of music, that seems right to me.

  3. ruchapowers

    Wow. The Galliano Japonism piece is hot and the sleeve from Pattern Magic brought a tear to my eye for it’s pure fabulousness! Thanks for taking the time to share these with us. I know I have some treasures on my book shelves that remain out of sight too often in this instant-imagery, digital age. Must pull them out and peruse for inspiration. And p.s I remember those days of you laying on the couch reading, seemingly for eternity!

    • oami powers

      Sometimes I get so incredibly tired of looking at things on a screen, there really is no substitute for seeing a printed image, or looking at a real object. I remember you trying to get me to put the damn book down and come play!

  4. frances Newcross

    Hello Oami. I was sharing your blogs with friends, Donna buck and her sister, Betty. They love your house and blogs. Donna wants me to tell you you could write books i the style of your blogs. They’re good stuff.


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