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Cora Ginsburg - Costume, Textiles & Needlework
pages 26-27 pages 30-31 

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WALL HANGING BY MARIA KIPP
American, ca. 1960

The arrival of European émigrés trained as architects and designers to the United States in the early decades of the twentieth century had a profound impact on the dissemination of the Modernist aesthetic. While some of these figures were already leading proponents of the avant-garde style in their native countries, others—particularly those of the younger generation—would make their most important contribution in their adopted home. Among the latter, the German-born textile designer and weaver Maria Kipp (1900–1988) is noteworthy as the first woman in the United States to develop a commercially successful enterprise that specialized in hand-woven furnishing textiles of modern design.

Kipp attended both the renowned Kunstgewebschule (School of Art and Design) in Munich (1918–1920) and the Staatliche Höhere Fachschule für Textilindustrie (State Higher Technical School for the Textile Industry) in Münchberg, Bavaria (1920–1922), where she was the first female student since its founding in 1854. Her education exposed her to the contemporary design reform movements in Germany, Austria and Britain, and provided her with a thorough grounding in textile design, the translation of designs into woven fabrics and expertise in the workings of both mechanical and hand looms. In 1924, the year following her marriage to Ernst Haeckel, whom she had met at the Kunstgewebschule, the couple decided to move to Los Angeles, California, where they soon established Maria Haeckel Handweaves.

Both the timing of the couple’s move and their destination were fortuitous. As a rapidly expanding city of increasing importance on the West Coast, Los Angeles was receptive to new ideas in architecture and interior design and already home to a creative artistic community that included other European émigrés. Following Kipp’s divorce from Haeckel in 1931, she renamed her company Maria Kipp Handweaves. Although her textiles were marketed and distributed throughout the United States, her work was extensively used and best known in Southern California. Kipp’s studio remained in operation until 1977, demonstrating the longevity of her signature style.

 
         
 

Throughout her long career, Kipp worked for a diverse clientele, both commercial and private, including Modernist architects R. M. Schindler (1887–1953) and Richard Neutra (1892–1970); the interior designer Frances Elkins (1888–1953); the high-end Los Angeles department store Bullocks; the renowned Beverly Hills Hotel; and many Hollywood film celebrities. By keeping her output limited, Kipp was able to maintain strict control over her designs, their production and quality. The impressive and sustained success of her business depended entirely on word-of-mouth referrals, as she did not advertise. However, interviews with Kipp that appeared in the trade journals Western Fabrics, Curtains and Drapes (1949), Handweaverand Craftsmen (1951–52) and CreativeCrafts (1961) brought attention to her unique textiles.

This striking wall hanging exemplifies her sophisticated handling of color and texture. Kipp interlaces natural and synthetic yarns—lush cotton chenille, glossy rayon and reflective lurex—of various weights in vivid shades of coral, red, plum, fuchsia, peach, and copper, all achieved through in-house dyeing. In multiple bands of different widths, Kipp explores the juxtaposition of color, dense and open areas, matte and shiny surfaces, and other textural effects. Characteristic of many of Kipp’s hangings is the long, thick fringe that finishes the lower edge. Overall, the panel conveys a rich visual and tactile complexity, belied by its plain weave structure.

Kipp felt strongly that furnishing textiles should complement the environments for which they were designed, and she produced drapery and upholstery fabrics that suited a wide range of interior schemes. Kipp herself best defined her legacy to twentieth-century modern design in her unpublished autobiography—she wrote that she wished “to produce and fabricate durable, well-constructed and beautiful textiles.”

Maria Kipp textiles are in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Bernardino County Museum, California; and the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas.

84” H x 51” W
pages 26-27 pages 30-31  
 

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