Featured Artist: Molly Gorlick

Credit: Samantha Rae

Here to share some of her creations, inspirations, and musings is Molly Gorlick, a textiles major
at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She primarily makes apparel, woven tapestries,
and, more recently, transformed objects. Through the interplay of illustration, color, and
structure, her textiles convey narratives based on both personal and historical events. Gorlick
pushes material boundaries by incorporating non­traditional elements like vinyl, dyed plastics,
and encased flowers, which infuse each piece with playful creativity.
Now a senior, she is working on her thesis project, which explores the topic of love astrology
through bathtub interviews. In collaboration with a film student, she is creating a video project
wherein people divulge their views on romance and love astrology while sitting in a bathtub set
decorated with dozens of colorful, embellished props. The project also includes material and
image studies of love keepsakes, romantic imagery, and love nostalgia (the supposed notion
that the Venus retrograde ignites love­related memories). She will be exhibiting her thesis work
at RISD in May 2016.
Follow her @mogor_ on Instagram to see more of her creations. If you would like to contact her
or learn more about her work, she can be reached at mschlyte@risd.edu.

Why do textiles speak to you as a medium?
Textiles is such a multifaceted medium, it serves as a drawing, painting and sculpting tool to
me. I easily become restless when using one medium for a project, so I love step­by­step
processes, which are usually required for any textile making.

Could you tell me about your process?
It depends on what I am working on (knitting, weaving, print, etcetera) but there is always an
initial moment of sketching, painting, and idea development, which happens outside of the
“machine realm.” For example, if I am starting up a knitting project, which usually results in a
garment, I’ll need to figure out the measurements and the yarns or materials I want to use. That
needs to happen before I get on the machine because, as charming as it feels to “knit with the
heart,” it tends to result in a pretty strange product.

How is your work created?
Again it depends on what I am working on, most of my work happens on some type of
machinery, since that is what I am most fascinated by. My knitted garments are made on a
knitting machine. My jacquard fabric is designed in a CAD program and woven on a jacquard
loom. And my larger photographic prints are printed on an inkjet fabric digital printer. My
installation work has a more personal touch, of course, where I dye objects and fabrics myself.

Credit: Molly Gorlick

Credit: Molly Gorlick

Could you explain how you made your jacquard? What was the concept behind it?
The jacquard loom is basically a mechanized weaving tool and you use a digital program called
PointCarré to scan in artwork, or photographs—or you can even design pieces in the program.
You can assign different weave structures through color separation in your image, which then
gets translated into the jacquard. The jacquard I made started off as my own narrative drawings,
which were informed by the concept of snake charmer’s wives, who are traditionally in charge of
taking care of snakes. It started with one motif and then I started layering it by scanning different
drawings into the program. I depicted women interacting with snakes to represent the intimate
bonds that women have to form with the snakes in order for them to be included in the family
dynamic. My own narrative comes through in portraying this relationship with the snake as a
romantic one.

How do you feel about designing so much of your work digitally? How does this impact
your process?
I think it has enhanced my work enormously. Although I have an interest in material processes,
my work is often very narrative and I like to use drawings that I either scan into a program or
develop directly on the computer. I also have a tendency to bounce from one idea to another
and digital working helps me develop these ideas with a sense of instant gratification and
organize these thoughts quickly.

Do you see different value in handiwork versus digitally produced/designed textiles?
Not at all, as long as there is a clear sense of care and intent presented in the works. I do think,
however, that the works I create that have a bit of both incorporated tend to be particularly
successful. Especially in textiles, you want people to look at your work and think: “How did she
do that?” Since textiles is such a tangible medium, you want people to touch, see, and find
conceptual intent in both characteristics.

How are your articles of clothing different from products found in stores?
Well, first of all, they are still deemed as one­of­a­kind handicrafts, regardless of whether I’ve
made them on machines. The machines I have access to at RISD always reacquire a personal
touch. Products in stores have gone through several hands and machines, which sort of strips
the clothing of any uniqueness.

The apparel you create is really fun and unconventional. What’s going through your head
when coming up with ideas for wearable pieces?
To be honest it has a lot to do with considering the fabric before the garment, so if I’m
developing a knit technique I begin by thinking more about the fabric structure or materials I
want to use. Sometimes this makes my clothing look a little kooky because it’s kind of a
backwards process. Usually people consider the shape of a garment first because they’re trying
to evoke a style, whereas I’m trying to evoke more of a feeling and emphasize the materiality of
the fabric.

Credit: Molly Gorlick

Credit: Molly Gorlick

Your textiles are full of vibrant color. Could you talk a bit about your aesthetic and how it
illuminates the concepts behind your work?
I think my color choices stem from me having a confident sense of color. I’m oftentimes more
inspired by innovative color matching, while a lot of other people take an approach that’s more
driven by structural integrity. Not that my work lacks structural integrity, but I think you can find a
lot of structure in color, as well. I’ve also always been really inspired by textile houses and
designers that use bold color. For instance, Joseph Frank was one of the first people who
allowed me to see the narrative aspect of textiles. In this age of fast­fashion focused on quick
results that narrative element has kind of died down and I think a really good way to articulate
narrative in fabric is through color and color separation.

Who are some of your biggest influences?
Lindsay Degen is a big one. I love her innovative designs and knit practices. Prada and Gucci
designs have always made me drool. And, as I said, I am forever a massive Joseph Frank fan.
To be honest, I’m also inspired by some very recent RISD grads whose work just gets better
and better, like Zoe Kestan, Amber Day, and Robert Hurlbut—check them out, you won’t be

Tell me about the bathtub.
The bathtub is a setting for a video in which I am interviewing 20-­25 year­olds on their ideas
about astrology and love at this still young stage of our lives. I’m interested in finding out about
people’s personal belief systems in ideals of love and relationships, which are sometimes
guided or just subconsciously realized by phrases and forecasts we find in horoscope texts,
tarot reading, or just generally in different media outlets.

Credit: Molly Gorlick

Credit: Molly Gorlick

Why a bathtub as the setting?
It creates a sense of awkwardness, which I think is already pretty apparent in the dialogue I’m
trying to have with people. At first I was nervous to put people in a setting like that because it
does have certain connotations, but in the end I decided that was OK—it helped crack people’s
shells right off the bat and helped them share more about their intimate lives and thoughts in
this obviously intimate setting. I was just looking at the videos today and people were saying
things to me that I realized they wouldn’t have said in a different context. In the end, I think the
bathtub setting was really comfortable—people are in warm water with bath bombs, sipping on
boxed wine—which I think helped people let go of their inhibitions.

How do textiles play into this piece?
I have been longing to use my textiles in application, but then I’ve also been really interested in
forming a space through the means of material, which to my mind can also happen through the
use of props. I included embellished sponges, which are meant to represent emotional
sponges—something my own zodiac sign is sometimes described as. I consider this a form of
prop development. The wine, the fake flowers, and the candles are all based around the idea of
materiality and allowing materials to interact with a space, which I feel like textiles do all the
time. For instance, you consider a textile in a room and the ambiance it creates. I think you can
get that through the use of props, as well, so I allowed them to act as the building blocks of
structure in the setting. I also used lighting to reflect people’s auras, which I began to consider a
kind of metaphor for textiles because I was playing with different color waves in the way that I
would play with color in fabric. I needed to use my textiles in terms of a narrative that I’ve
created…In a way I’m indulging these people by speaking about their lives in the tub, but I’m
also indulging myself in trying to place people in my work, in my aesthetic, answering questions
that I’m directing.

Credit: Samantha Rae

Credit: Samantha Rae

Do you see your pieces purely as art or do you also envision them as commercial products? How did you arrive at that decision?
It depends on the project. Commissioned works are often products I make specifically for a paying client, but if it’s one of my original designs, the idea behind the product will always be derived from an original artistic concept.

What is the overall message of your work?

My concepts are usually backed up by a sense of body positivity (the right to feel sexy on your own terms), as well as promoting an open dialogue about maturing into a woman in the digital age.

You’ve mentioned before that your peers and people you have worked with in textiles are

predominantly women. What are your thoughts on working in a female­dominated field of

It’s wonderful. The sense of solidarity and support from my peers is extremely strong and I think
we find comfort in consulting each other on our projects and ideas. It’s interesting really,
because women historically took on the role as textile maker in domestic spheres and the textile
tradition in female spheres is still pretty strong. However, in contrast to domestic textile making
of clothes, interior fabrics, etcetera, our practice is transformed, as we take extreme artistic
agency and persistently invent new fabric aesthetics and material uses.
What are some of the challenges you face as a student­artist?
Well, I know that after graduating, my independent ideas and artistic pursuits may have to be
put aside for a while. I see myself probably working with and for a textile house or company in
which designs are directed by a head designer. It’s not likely that I will have the resources to
jump into my own practice and that’s something I have to accept initially or maybe for a longer
period. I am a young person with a fine arts degree which makes me able, knowledgeable,
adaptable but also a little unseasoned and clueless. I imagine that I’ll have several ongoing
projects alongside a job, since commissioned work and independent ventures are my main
forms of networking.

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