Bonnie Saland, the founder and designer behind Philomela, has a talent for bringing the spirit of California to her work. The artist calls two distinctly different places home — Pasadena (which is just northeast of downtown Los Angeles) and Sea Ranch (an unincorporated community on the Sonoma Coast). We spent some time browsing Bonnie’s beautiful collection of textiles and wallpapers, and quickly realized that the patterns visually ebb and flow between the urban pulse of the city and the restful elements of nature. This really piqued our interest, as did the unique name, and we wanted to know more. Needless to say, our conversation with Bonnie left us inspired:
First, we’d love to know more about the name of your company Could you tell us a bit?
Philomela is a heroine in Greek mythology. She is abducted and raped by her brother in law (the king), who then cuts out her tongue so that she cannot speak about what has taken place. She weaves a tapestry, telling her story, to get word to her sister about what has happened.
How did you first get started in design? Have you always been an artist?
I’ve always been interested in design. I grew up in a home where my parents were always renovating and moving, and I had dominion over my own room. For most of my professional life (with the exception of a nine year stint designing and selling hand made clothing and toys for children) I confined my creative practice to the domestic realm, operating professionally in other arenas — initially as a labor organizer/ negotiator and most recently as a psychoanalyst. A combination of events including the sale my house, my children launching and some historic unfinished business about art school compelled me to take art training and ultimately do an MFA. I went in to the master’s program with representational work from the unconscious, and some where along the critique process, moved toward abstract patterning. I finished with a master’s thesis titled “No Trace Left” which was the body of patterning that became the basis for the Philomela textile line.
You’ve had a fascinating journey so far! Tell us a bit about your creative process. What is the first step in designing a new pattern?
I will typically be in the grip of some thematic body of work – triggered by my internal landscape, external travel or an immersion in study of some sort. The work will happen some place along the fine art/ craft continuum, originating with a painting, visual journal, print or hand printed/ dyed textile. For the individual patterns, some section of the original artwork is extrapolated, digitalized in a traditional textile format, and digitally printed.
You’re based in both Los Angeles and the Sea Ranch. How do these two locations differ when it comes to your inspiration?
I like to think I’ve got the best of both worlds with an urban Los Angeles experience, and an immersion in a wild Northern California Coastline at The Sea Ranch. I tend to spend more time collaborating in LA, distracted by all there is to see and do, and have more uninterrupted studio time when up North.
We’d love to know more about the new Waxed collection.
In the last couple of years, I find myself studying different traditional textile methods. The “WAX” collection came out of a class I did on batiks.
How are these patterns made?
The originals were hand stamped using rope stamps and hot wax. The stamped design resists the paint/ dye that colors the original fabric, creating the pattern. The original designs were then scanned, and digitally manipulated and printed on to a new ground cloth.
Finally, we have to ask — do you have an all-time favorite pattern?
I definitely have favorites, but couldn’t boil it down to “one” favorite. I’d say though, that our signature pattern is bird by bird. It is neutral and works well with all designs, derives from a linoleum cut (and I started my art training as a printmaker), and carries the spirit and ultimate fate of our namesake, Philomela who was turned into a swallow at myth’s end.
See a few of our favorite Philomela patterns and products in the slideshow.