Studio Tour with Kathryn Wieldraayer
Chattanooga is a special place, with a rich art culture and an obvious enthusiasm for local businesses—in fact, Cultivations is proud to feature a number of makers from the Chattanooga artisan community.
Today, we will visit one in particular: Kathryn Wieldraayer of Rangemark Textiles.
Before the time came for us to meet, we spend the day wandering through Chattanooga’s many shops. One of our favorite spots is a local tea shop, Wildflower Tea & Apothecary. The tea shop is one of those places that you enter as a stranger and leave as a friend, and we were happy to learn that the shop supports local makers.
Wildflower’s owner is friendly, and quickly impresses us with her knowledge of her tea—she gives us suggestions as to what teas to try according to how we are feeling. We talk with her about what brings us to Chattanooga, and then about the artisans we are visiting. She knows so much about all of them and we find much to talk about. It’s lovely to connect with like-minded people in a place that values community and creativity.
After this lovely introduction to Chattanooga, we couldn’t wait to visit Kathryn Wieldraayer of Rangemark Textiles. Kathryn is kind enough to welcome us into her home on a late Friday afternoon. She has some printing to do, so she invites us into her studio to watch and observe.
Kathryn is recently married and has just moved with her husband into a new home, yet she already has her textile printing studio set up in the basement. Here, Kathryn creates one-of-a-kind block printed textiles by hand, using quality materials and her own careful and methodical process.
Kathryn designs and carves linoleum print blocks to create her patterns. Even the process just to make the block is painstaking and detailed, involving sketching, editing, tracing and carefully carving her pattern into the block with special tools. When we visit, Kathryn is working from already complete blocks—they are beautifully crafted in their own right, and ready for printing. We notice how careful she is with the blocks—they are the essence of her prints, after all.
Today she is printing a new batch of her arrow dishtowels—a pattern we are already happily familiar with, since Cultivations carries this pattern printed on natural linen fabric. Despite its familiarity, we still can’t help but appreciate the pattern all over again: it effortlessly combines a classic, almost rustic quality with a modern, timeless feel. This is the quality and simple beauty of design we have come to expect from Kathryn.
Kathryn selects the block with which she will print, and then selects the color. She uses special fabric ink that will permanently stay on the fabric even through washes, taking care to apply iot evenly across her ink roller. Once she is satisfied, she carefully rolls the ink over the carved block, making sure the color covers every line that will show up on the fabric.
The next step seems the trickiest. She lays the textile over the block, starting a the upper left hand corner—she will have to continue the pattern down and to the right with more blocks after making a print with this one—and delicately smooths the textile over the woodblock, making sure there are no creases or folds. Then, folding the fabric around the block to secure it in place she takes the bundle to her press and places it carefully between its. She cranks down on a lever and the press comes tight down on the block, ensuring the impression is strong and deep.
Once the pressing is finished, Kathryn brings the wrapped block back to her worktable and carefully peels the fabric away from the block to reveal a beautifully printed arrow pattern. But she’s not done—now, she must set up her process again and repeat it until the towel is finished.
For other products like her pillows, Kathryn prints before the sewing of the pillow takes place, and then a whole new process begins. When we first received her samples, we fell in love with the weight and quality of the pillows, the perfect seams and the careful construction.
Kathryn tells us about the talented seamstresses who help her. She works hard to employ local women from the Chattanooga community who are unable to leave the house for work; she provides the fabric and patterns, and they transform them into the gorgeous goods we see. Having already gotten a glimpse of Chattanooga’s arts community and speaking with Kathryn, we cannot help but be inspired by such a close-knit and supportive group.
While Kathryn continues to print, we discuss the Chattanooga arts community, the challenges of being a maker, and her hopes for making meaningful pieces that deserve to be in people’s homes. She puts a high importance on creating things that will last and that more than meet people’s expectations; she holds herself to a high standard because she wants more people to realize the value in supporting artisans and buying handmade goods. By creating quality pieces, she hopes her customers will realize their value and better understand the benefits of buying products made one at a time with care.
We spend about an hour talking as Kathryn works. I walk around her studio to capture the little corners and charming personal details of her carefully organized studio. She has carefully decorated her studio with inspiration for her work, and just looking around we learn so much about what is important to her and how she approaches her craft.
As we leave to continue our tour through Chattanooga, Kathryn makes sure we know how to get to our next stop and thanks us for coming. Even this simple gesture speaks volumes; she approaches everything with care and consideration, and is so invested in her community.
As we say our last goodbye and walk away, we cannot help but reflect on her pieces, how special they are, and how much more special they’ve become to us after we get to know her better. It’s nice to know what inspires her as she works tirelessly to inspire us with her beautiful prints.