Whenever I walk into Maeve Broome’s studio, I prepare to be transported. Maeve’s work often employs techniques that evoke otherworldliness. Most recently, she has experimented with mono-print marbling to create prints that evoke the night sky or a trippy moonscape. Maeve runs a small fashion company, Myfawnwy, that proposes a small-scale, super hands-on approach to fashion design, and the hand-dyed, hand-sewn garments she produces convey specialness and spirituality to the wearer. I sat down with Maeve to discuss running a sustainable fashion business, the role of her Maine roots in her art, and her love of marbling.
On her artistic roots: "My grandmother on my dad’s side and my mom both sewed all their own clothes, so I guess I grew up around the knowledge that you could make whatever you wanted or needed yourself. Whenever I’d go to stores, I’d never choose anything because it was never what I had imagined. So I started making my own things. As a teenager I was embellishing everything: putting tassels on my bell-bottoms and painting my Doc Martens, making my own clothes with scrap fabrics, and then I started manipulating fabrics more, and it was just a long natural process to where I am now. I never considered myself a textile artist and I still wouldn’t define myself as that, but it’s always been part of my creative history."
On building a sustainable fashion business: "I want to challenge the commercial fashion world and find my own path, blurring the lines between fashion and art. So maybe instead of responding to seasons, I’ll be responding to environments or situations; instead of following trends I'll follow collective emotion. I think that as a business owner, if you are going to be producing things to sell, you have a responsibility to do it sustainably, so that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. When I take my business to the next level, how will I outsource in the best way to have a pure and positive impact on people’s lives and economies? And choosing materials wisely, I think that’s really important. I think people want to wear special things and are attracted to something that’s unique and has a story, and there’s a definite market out there for it. I make everything by hand, so I’m trying to find that balance once I’m outsourcing some of the work, of how to maintain that specialness. And I think part of that is going to be in the transparent sustainability and creativity of the business model, working with specific communities and traditions, and having the transparency of the story be part of what people are drawn to."
On being a nomadic artist: "I’ve always been a very transient person, and responding to different landscapes and environments has become a big part of my work. I'd like to continue this pattern but I do want to find a place to have my headquarters, where I have a base, without ever feeling stuck to one place. Maine is definitely a place where my heart and soul will always be tied, and that’s because growing up there I was so connected and in such deep conversation with nature. When I go back there I immediately reconnect to that conversation which has always been a huge influence in my work and life. The landscape there, the materials there, the people, the ocean, the islands. It’s a very rugged place, battered and worn, and there is such beauty in that. It feels rough, so when I’m there I feel strong. Maine will always be a home for me, but I don’t feel like that’s my whole world. Everywhere I’ve gone has its own message."
On living and working in New York: "I think I subconsciously responded to being in New York by stripping all color from my work. Winter here felt so black and white, so gray, so I removed all the color from my work to merge with the city, to see what I can learn from this place, it's palette. These walls, the sky, this sidewalk. It feels refreshing to get back to the basics and strip elements away, and then to be really intentional about what colors I choose to introduce and why."
On her love of marbling: "I started playing around with marbling four or five years ago. There's a scientific precision to get everything set up and then its such a freeing and playful medium. Before you even print anything you’re just throwing inks down and watching how they move and flow. You have very little control. When I first started marbling I had this tiny cramped studio and I was being really tight and specific with my work. Then to have a process that’s so messy and so free, and also really trippy and wild, just staying up until four in the morning playing with these crazy patterns that feel super psychedelic and spacey… It just sucked me in completely. And then it was exciting to take these marbled fabrics and sew special garments with them. People were really into it, so I got busy with that process and I’m still doing it today, although now I’m trying to push the technique further. I’m trying to take it to a different place by making mono-prints on paper and using movement to create optical illusion. I want to see what the limitations are, how far you can push something until it’s a whole new art form."
On her project of creating spiritual garments: "There’s a long and ancient history of ritual garments, these special costumes and objects that you’d wear for certain ceremonies, that would allow you to embody a different spirit or to leave the body, to alter the human form enough to allow for transformation. I love this idea of clothing the spirit, wrapping the unconscious, and what my interpretation of that could look like. I think that we’ve lost touch with this sense of ritual as costume in our current culture. With the movement of fast fashion everything’s a throwaway. Where are these special pieces that allow us to transcend our normal routine? That offer us something more? I’m researching a lot about this, looking at West African, Siberian and Native American shamanic clothing, as well as artists interpretations of this idea such as the Chasubles designed by Matisse. I'd like to bring a sense of meaning and power back into our clothing. Maybe part of that comes from living in New York and being affected by so many energies. I want to have something like an invisibility cloak or a shaman's mask, something sacred and protective that gives me a new perspective or experience."
On her experience at TAC: "The residency has been life-changing so far, having time to really focus on what I'm trying to say with my work, what my work means. It’s been invaluable. Especially with this incredible community of creative, talented, beautiful people that push me and test me and support me. I’ve learned so many new things through our seminars and workshops, and it's been so rejuvenating to let go and just play; experiment and explore and not worry about one specific vision, just to let it naturally materialize. It's an immersive experience. This is a community that we’re part of for life now. We’re a family."