A few years ago I was introduced to these lovely tea towel designs by Kei & Molly at the Farm Shop and I've started collecting them ever since. I do occasionally use them, but they are so pretty I hate to get them dirty. While visiting New Mexico this last time I had the opportunity to visit and meet Kei Tsuzuki and Molly Leuthi at their studio, Kei is Japanese and Molly is Swiss German. I must add how gracious these women were to let my mom and I visit the studio, watch a printing of two of their designs, ask a lot of questions and do a little shopping.
They opened up this light filled studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2010. Everything they do is very manual, no fancy machines that automatically to do the printing, drawings, mixing of paints or drying of the product.
Their esthetic is simple design. They are obviously inspired by New Mexico with scenes of the Bosque, Red & Green Chili's, and the Big Satellite dishes from Socorro to name a few of my favorites. They also use their own Japanese and Swiss-German backgrounds as an inspiration. Their designs remind me of wood cuts and folk art, both of which they pay tribute to.
Everything is hand drawn and the stencils are printed on acetate sheets, then they use a enlarger in the photo studio to print the designs on nylon screens.
Kei is showing the aluminum frames they had custom made with one of their designs. You'll see below in their inventory of supplies they have a bright beautiful color palate. The best part, if you've ever silk screened in the past, is that all their inks are water based and non-toxic. Yay for the environment. I told them that this was the one thing that made me quit my college silk screening classes, the plastisol nearly killed me in that class.
Every season they introduce a new color, for Fall they were using an Olive ink I hadn't seen yet and making a lovely print of the Bosque, which is indigenous to New Mexico. It's an area alongside the Rio Grande with trails for people, bikes and horse. The Rio Grande is lined with Cottonwood Trees and wetlands for ducks, geese and other wild life. This design reflects them all.
As mentioned before they do everything by hand. Pinning all the flour sack material, they purchase from a distributor in Pakistan, onto the long printing table. Then they unpin them from the table and hang them on the clothes line to dry. After this they send them out to a place that has a drying systems to keep the inks from bleeding.
One the many things that make these two ladies endearing is they LOVE what they are doing. Imagine going to work everyday and loving everything about it. These two met thru their kids and hit it off. They came together to form this company, Kei taught Molly how to silk screen and with both their backgrounds in business and arts they create some amazing designs. The other amazing thing is that they are involved with helping low-income, immigrant women in the Albuquerque area. They provide great training and work for these women. That day the studio artist was Jenny a fellow Cuban, such a coincident. She did all the printing while we talked, it was great to watch her and catch-up on Cuban life.
After all the questions, we got to shopping. I bought a nice blend of tea towels, napkins, aprons and oven mitts. They even started printing scarfs. I am convinced they need to sell these towels at a few places in L.A., They are ready to expand and mostly it's a word of mouth that get's them into places. So start speaking about these ladies. I bought one of the beach scenes designs to shop around in LA and chatted with them about new designs that were uniquely LA from food trucks to flowers and fauna. So we'll see soon what they come up with.
I was drawn to so many of the designs I couldn't help myself, buying a few for friends, me and YOU. My bag was full. So I'm offering to send you one of these lovely tea towels. All you have to do Like my itsweetandsavory and Kei & Molly's Facebook page and leave a comment below. A winner will be picked at random. Ends Wednesday Nov. 13.