This exclusive interview with Jack Lenor Larsen was conducted by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in East Hampton, New York during May 2011
Interview with Jack Lenor Larsen
To what do you attribute your life-long dedication to fabric and textile history and design?
My best friend in school was an over achiever, who inspired me because of the many things he did very well. As I couldn’t do these things, I had to do something else, creating a considerable drive, which hastened my career. (Being an “Early bloomer” has merit but all merit) As geography and history were always my favorite subjects, international textile history tied into my weaving. Good!
You are a legendary genius and scholar of great integrity in the field. How do you describe yourself?
I am not a genius but do persevere. I learned not to attempt perfection. Because I was principal of my company I didn’t have to design “last year bestseller.”
I am craftsmaker and a gardener. I’ve written 12 books, am a lecturer and a chairman. It’s been a very rich life but the best of my time is now. I’m grateful for it, more humble and compassionate, friendly – finally!
You have been quoted as saying, “Of all the hues, reds have the most potency. If there is one electric blue, a dozen reds are so charged. Use them to punctuate white, burn into bronzes, or dynamite black.” How does such color energy play into your design decisions?
Color is dessert – available in all fields yet un-fathomable. I learn all the time. I don’t draw well. I never really did, as drawing is not my talent, becoming a weaver was key. Color was available to me from four years of age and I used it. It has always been about expanding and discovery. Most important is the value or relative darkness of color, but most people don’t realize that. For this same reason the French painter, Bonnard used color mostly in the middle value ranges precisely and beautifully.
How in your personal view does the world’s rich fabric and textile history enhance our human experience?
Textiles are close to our skin. We are born into them and die in them. Without being aware of them, people relate to textiles. They are also classless. People may not know art, but they respond to textiles positively or negatively. They have structure in how the materials are put together, but even anthropologists look at their patterns and symbols, not how a textile is constructed.
What are your long-term goals for LongHouse Reserve?
I would like to get beyond just our visitors to have LongHouse serve as Case Study of lifestyle. I want LongHouse to be a place for discovery to express life, but to a much wider audience. It is important to think beyond convention. The worst thing is people being overly concerned with doing things the “right way” as opposed to their own way. I believe in learning, I lead because of failing as follower. I enjoy making something out of nothing, because it’s much more interesting that way.
The above interview with Jack Lenor Larsen 2011 © Manner of Man Magazine/Welldressed. All rights reserved. Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.