For Calgary-based textile artist Natalie Gerber, there is a magic to creating beautiful fabrics. Utilizing screen-printing, Gerber creates stunning textile pieces featuring bright, bold and colourful designs, inspired by her South African heritage and various design movements. Below, Gerber shares her creative process, how screen printing works and the value of giving back through workshops.
Tell us about yourself and your work!
As an artist, designer and maker, I am inspired to create functional design for everyday living. I combine my love for surface design, clean lines and hand printed fabrics with conscious material choices and in-studio practices.
My South African background definitely influences my aesthetic. From a detailed sketch, mark or line drawing, I explore colour and pattern, then apply the outcomes of these explorations to cloth through the process of silkscreen printing.
My studio practice is focused on boutique small-scale production and hand printed textiles. I am further motivated by meaningful partnerships which have led me to explore cross-cultural fair-trade opportunities and interdisciplinary collaborations over the years.
For those who might be unfamiliar, how does screen-printing work?
My process usually begins with a detailed sketch, mark or line drawing. The artwork is then transferred to the computer to be engineered into a continuous pattern. Before printing to transparency, art work is separated into multiple layers, one for each colour, and each layer is applied to a single screen.
The studio uses silkscreens that are custom made in Canada from a polyester mesh stretched onto an aluminum frame, a light sensitive photo emulsion liquid is placed on the screens. When this emulsion is exposed to UV light, it hardens onto the screen and becomes water-resistant.
During UV exposure, the transparency, which is placed against the emulsion, blocks out the light preventing the unexposed areas from hardening. These unhardened areas will eventually wash out, leaving a stencil on the screen through which the ink will pass and create a print on fabric.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My aesthetic is rooted in my South African background and inspired by various design movements.
What do you love most about working with textiles?
It’s hard to pin point! The textures, mixing colour and seeing my imagery come to life in so many different ways, whether through drapes, upholstery, bedding or fashion. I never stop feeling inspired!
Could you describe your creative process? What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
I break my week into administration, printing, custom orders and teaching. A day of printing would consist of colour mixing, prepping the printing table, laying out fabrics and printing limited runs of yardage. From design to ready-to-use meterage, the studio provides complete boutique textile printing services. Currently, we have the operating ability to print three meter runs at a time, so we often have printing on the table from our in-studio collection and for other clients.
Is there a particular piece of your work that is especially meaningful to you? If so, why?
Peoniez is part of the Natalie Gerber ‘FLORALZ’ series, which is inspired by the ornate. This three-colour print was added to my textile collection in 2018. The print is a homage to a friend who believed in me and my creative practice. A spirited, creative soul who was elegant to the end. His life was short lived, like the flowering time of the peony bloom, his favourite flower.
When did you decide to start teaching workshops? What has that experience been like?
I relocated my home-based studio to cSpace King Edward in 2017. Having a public space has allowed me to open my studio to others and share my love for surface design, through a range of workshops that explore fibre based arts. It’s important to me to help build awareness around our creative community and I believe knowledge sharing is the best way to do this! Hosting workshops in my studio continues to add to my experience as an artist and designer – and endlessly inspires me!
Do you have any exciting projects or pieces coming up that you would like to share?
I am currently working on a collaboration with designer Anneke Forbes https://www.annekeforbes.com/, we are currently printing a new floral pattern for her ‘Bluff Pocket Blazer’. It’s inspiring to work with someone as committed to detail and craftsmanship as I am. I can’t wait to see these fabrics take shape through her hands.