Lori Weitzner Shares Her Secrets to Beautiful Designs
When American designer Lori Weitzner first travelled to India, she was mesmerized by the local artisans’ skills. “I admired their patience and the beauty of the fabrics,” she says.
Weitzner’s eponymous brand designs beautiful textiles, and today she collaborates with artisans around the world to help preserve their traditions and bring their products to international markets.
I know you’ve worked with artisans from many parts of Asia. What is most memorable about these trips?
When I visited Thailand for the first time, I discovered the locals made a very unique Thai silk. You can’t find this type of silk anywhere else in the world. Its special properties come from the silkworms’ diet and the high levels of humidity in their habitat.
I later went to a small artisan mill where the mother and daughter did hand-weaving. At one point, the daughter surprised me with a piece of yarn they had made from leftover pieces. I fell in love with it and added it to our collection.
In Indonesia, I had another wonderful experience. We worked with a very special group of women designers to make wall coverings. They were wearing burkas, and it was very difficult to communicate. They didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak their language, but we found a way to communicate through the medium of our artistry.
For three days, I would draw something and pass it to them. They then drew something and showed me the yarn. We also played together with colour. We worked with an amazing synergy without ever speaking the same language.
How do these artisans react to having their fabrics displayed via Weitzner Studio to the world?
There is an island in the Philippines, home to a group of women hand-weavers. These Filipino weavers stay present in the moment, focused on their work, which is something I really admire about artisans. They’re happy and content. Their craft is like meditation. They weave all day, but they don’t think about where the product is going or what someone is going to do with it.
These artisans had never seen what happens to their fabrics, so when I returned there I brought many photographs of the spectacular interiors high-end designers had created using their products. The women all started crying. They were so amazed and proud of their work.
When people typically think of sustainability, they think of making materials sustainable. What’s missing from that conversation?
I believe humans are missing from the equation. Of course, it’s important to use materials that are better for our earth whenever possible, but artisans whose families pass down skills, techniques, and crafts from generation to generation need to be cared for as an endangered species. We have to find ways to keep them going and allow them to make a living from their craft. They can then sustain their family’s livelihood so that their traditions aren’t lost.
What makes something beautiful?
Many people want to define beauty as something limited to the surface-level. When they do that, they miss what I believe to be its true definition. I don’t think beauty is merely visual. It comes from within. It comes from the feeling you have when you’re experiencing something that’s absolutely perfect. It’s perfect in that it centres you.
True beauty is the synesthesia of all five senses coming together. It’s when the experience of something ignites several senses at the same time. We all have this ability when we’re born, but we learn to separate our senses at about six months of age. But Mozart, for example, saw colours when he composed music. When I hear certain words or think about the days of the week, I also see certain colours. You can also taste something you hear. The more we tap into synesthesia, the more we experience beauty.
How has your study of painting influenced your work as a designer?
The painter is still in me. My approach to design, especially with textiles, is different from that of other textile designers who are trained as weavers. They start with the structure and then apply a pattern to it.
I look at it from another point of view, more like a painter. I start with the big picture—what it looks like, the patterns, the colours—and then I figure out how to weave, embroider, sew, or print it.
What role does composition play in beauty?
I just know when the balance is right in a design—not too much, not too little. It’s that something special, that extra detail, which can transform something ordinary into something extraordinary. It could be as simple as a special trim on a pillow, a handmade wallcovering, or a black sheath dress with a fabulous necklace. Less is more. However, being too minimalist isn’t special either. Getting the right balance is the challenge. But when it’s achieved, that’s a beautiful composition.
Colours are a big part of what you do. What are your colours for the holidays?
Amber lighting is my mood for the holiday. Our Christmas tree has amber lights. We don’t have white lights or multi-coloured lights. Everything is really warm.