David P. Littlewood, the representative to Structure and Surface from G.J. Littlewood & Son Dyers, was unable to attend the project’s meet-and-greet on June 19 because, as artist Susie Brandt put it, “they have more work than they know what to do with.” This is, undoubtedly, a good thing, and Brandt got to spend half of the day on-site with the dying company, reporting back to the group at night.
Littlewood has been owned by the same family for five generations, and was established in 1869, Brandt said. They work in raw stock – not yet yarn, not yet fabric, but rather fiber – coloring materials that wind up being used as fabric for paint rollers, carpets inside of cars, and wares for reenactor industry.
Brandt told the group she was taken with Littlewood’s process of pressure dying.
“It has to cook,” Brandt explained. “It’s like a Thanksgiving turkey in there for processes to happen. It’s amazing for me, who only had experience dying in a bucket, that the whole process takes place under pressure.”
Brandt described herself as a “crazy kid sewer…and then I found out you could go to art school and do something related to that.”
She studied fabrics under Claire Zeisler at The Art Institute of Chicago, and muses that her deep interest in process is borne out of extremes. She said she comes from a family of engineers who also worked in the ski industry. They bought land, installed lifts, and waited for winter.
“They invented their own lifestyle,” Brandt said. “It was extremely precarious incredibly interesting, which is the perfect training ground for being an artist. Your life is precarious, but you don’t care.”