Amy Rice, one of Minnesota’s most beloved artists and artisans, has long delighted her fans with wistful, nostalgia-infused and richly imagined imagery. She uses cut stencils, antique papers (from love letters to maps) and a Japanese screen-printing toy called a Gocco printer to create her original mixed-media pieces.
Over time, she’s created lines of home décor inspired by her art, including a new series of wallpapers she’s offering on Society 6. Here’s how her work in “surface design” (the coloring, patterning, and structuring of fiber and fabric using processes including dyeing, painting, printing, stitching, embellishing, quilting, weaving, knitting, felting, and papermaking) came about.
Several years ago, Midwest CBK approached her about initiating a signature line of home décor. “At the time, I didn’t even realize how fortunate I was. I am an artist, not a designer or illustrator,” Rice recalls. “I didn’t even know the term ‘surface design’ at the time. They sent professional art movers to my studio, picked up original art, had the art photographed and returned the art to me. Six months later I had a signature home interior line (pillows, furniture, lamps, tea towels). It went very well, but was a one-time thing. I loved how my art looked on products and wanted more.”
In 2014, Rice was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Initiative Grant to create a body of work that, in part, would involve creating patterns suitable for surface-design licensing. “It was a steep learning curve but I did create a portfolio of designs,” she says. She began selling her work on Society 6, “a self-publishing site that makes it fairly easy to put my art and designs on products,” she says.
The wallpaper line is new, “and I was really excited as I had designed wallpaper for my grant that was never published,” Rice says. “They are all patterns made from either an element of my paintings or wallpaper I designed for the interior wall of a painting—the background to a still-life for example.” The wallpapers are printed on self-adhesive, woven-polyester-fabric panels, are easy to stick on and off, have a matte finish and texture, and feature vibrant, water-based, non-toxic inks.
The patterns include lovely repeating patterns of cakes, hollyhocks, milkweed, a number of butterfly damask variations, and even a blue-delft pattern. At the same time, Rice is creating art for her upcoming Groveland Gallery solo exhibition in December. “There is a lot of wallpaper in the background of the pieces,” she says. “Making those patterns for ‘real life’ is motivating and exciting. I am also honing my design skills.”
Rice explains that much of her art is “narrative and emotive, but much of it is just decorative. In a different era, I would have been a tole painter and just painted folk flowers on every single surface. Now I can just upload my flowers on stuff on the internet,” including pillows, cell-phone cases, T-shirts, backpacks, travel mugs and totes. In seeking new opportunities to make her designs real, Rice says, she’s created affordable décor for people to have art in their homes while supporting artists.