Silk screening used to imprint designs that depict a story

Imagine attending daycare at five years old with pieces of fabric hanging from your backpack and a stapler in tow. For fibre artist Ashley Quan, that was her everyday norm.

“At daycare I would always be making dresses by using a stapler to attach material together. I knew very early on that this is what I wanted to do,” Quan said.

Quan, 23, is a fashion designer who not only creates dresses, but also specializes in painting hand-drawn designs onto her fabric of choice.

Apiana Que is the name of her fashion label, which she started in April 2007.

“I created the name Apiana because of the month April and added Que so that it would have my first and last initials,” she said.

Quan divulged that while her dad encouraged her to stay on the artsy side of things, he also tried to push her toward something more stable.

“I was pretty much groomed my whole life for computer design, but I fell in love with fibre art when I attended post secondary at Alberta College of Art and Design.”

Quan said that fibre art is usually anything you can think of around fabric and materials.

“What I do is I paint silk and I print designs on fabric.”

What sets her apart?

When it comes to her collections, aside from making her own fabric – each pattern created also depicts a story with personal meaning. Quan’s designs include hand-painted leather gloves, when placed side-by-side the graphics form another picture.
Photo courtesy of: Ashley Quan

She said that often her pieces will look “pretty” and “feminine” from afar, but once you get closer the patterns show and tell something different.

For instance, past collections have featured stories about a woman staying at home while her lover goes off to war, a twist on the story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and even subjects like rape.

Quan also designs leather gloves and leather shoes. Many of her creations, such as her glove line, feature graphics that form a picture when placed with another design.

She showed a picture of an elephant-themed line as an example. “Like this hand-painted female elephant featured on the left glove: it joins with the tusk of the male elephant on the right glove when your hands meet,” she said.

While some may have fallen for her glove line, others like photographer Fela Delas said that it was the mood and colors of Quan’s designs that captivated her.

“We created an editorial called ‘Believe in Fairies’ together and it was published in a fashion magazine called OnMag in Argentina last year,” Delas said.

Lynda Phounsavath, a customer of Quan’s, said that the first Apiana Que piece she owned was a one-shoulder dress with an elephant theme.

“Her stories are what set her apart from other designers because her fashion shows give the audience a chance to engage in the tale,” Phounsavath added.

The process

Quan explained that silk painting starts with her stretching out a large piece of silk on a worktable – then applying layers of dye with wax in between so that the colours blend properly.

Quan hand draws all designs and said that you can print on just about any fabric. She uses the process of silk-screening to imprint her drawings onto material. “My three favourite textiles to work with are cotton, linen and silk.” Ashley Quan, 23, working at her studio. The silk screening process starts with stretching out your material of choice on a large worktable.
Photo courtesy of: Ashley Quan

The artist said that she went through a period where she tried to find different ways of displaying her fabric.

“I tried everything from installations to hanging pieces; eventually I started making dresses to show my fabrics.”

As a result, she fell in love with garment making and debuted her first collection in the summer of 2010.

Since then, Quan has continued to gain recognition within the fashion industry – her collections have been shown in numerous well-known Calgary fashion shows, including Parkshow and Fabricated.

Up next

Her newest collection is set to debut at this year’s Parkshow on March 10.

The fashion show will be held at Palliser South Tower on 10 Avenue S.E.

“This collection is of chameleons that interlock with each other all through the design,” Quan said. “I was trying to challenge myself more technique-wise because I wanted something with lots of different colors.”

Quan said that in printing, every colour you make is with a different silk screen – meaning the more colours you have, the more you have to line up. It becomes a lot more difficult to ensure that your pattern comes out accurately.

“The chameleon dress collection is also larger than prints I usually do, the colours cover the whole background so it’s like a solid fabric,” she said.

Currently Quan’s glove and wallet line are sold at The Art Gallery of Calgary, and full collections can be viewed here.

aip@cjournal.ca