Spotted: Photo-Realism in Textiles


Driven by digital technologies and specifically the  growing sophistication of digital printing, photo realistic textiles are popping up all over the place. Photo-realism, defined as a detailed visual representation, like that obtained in a photograph, in a nonphotographic medium, brings a haunting depth to surfaces and it seems even more surreal when done on fabrics or carpets.


Bold and beautiful, there is an undeniable allure to the bloom-festooned Dark Floral fabrics from the Rhode Island raised Amsterdam-based artist Ellie Cashman. Set against a striking black background, the lush life-like flowers seem to pulsate with a highly dimensional, almost 3-D impact. Cashman’s paper was the motif-of-the moment at High Point this Spring. We spotted it all over Market on showroom walls, upholstery  and vignettes.

darkfloral2solidblacksaturateddetail4 EllieCashmanDarkFloralCurtainsPhotoStylingEllenMesuthmb


Italian luxury fabric house, Decobel,  introduced Bella, a digitally printed velvet at Heimtextil this past January – it’s a stunner.

art.bella decobel

Design geniuses Marcel Wanders, Studio Job and others launched a new brand- Moooi Carpets at Milan. The photo realistic carpets are mind blowing!  Each designer brings their own style and design sensibility to the collection.



“They convey a sense of depth, intensity and motion, engaging the enchanted spectator in their endless story.”

Moooi Carpets uses advanced technology to print designs directly onto carpet at a higher definition than has been possible before. Its printing plant can print everything from rugs to full-width fitted carpet and can produce one-off designs and sizes.



Yes, These are Carpets!

Inspired by the beauty and complexity of life, this design captures a 3D generated network of trees that envelop you in their endless growth. How many trees are there?


Ross Lovgrove’s Seaweed feels like you are looking into a crystal clear  pool of water.



Guildery, co-founded by Shane Reilly (founder of Decorati, acquired by Gilt Groupe), and Kelly Berger (co-founder of Tiny Prints, acquired by Shutterfly), have combined their knowledge of digital printing, technology and design, they set out to create a simple solution to get a color-coordinated look. They have also started to play with photo realism in soft furnishings and textiles with their Villandry Collection. You can also custom “colorize” the patterns by working with a Guildery design manager and choosing your own color scheme to print.





Finally, Carol Shinn it up a notch with her photo realistic embroidery.


Her process begins with photography.  She alters images on the computer, and transfers them to fabric. Then the piece is stitched with a basic sewing machine. None of the stitching process is computerized. The stitches, which completely cover the canvas, are like pencil hatching. Different colours of thread are layered throughout each piece to enrich the colours. The stitching is so dense that none of the original image or fabric shows. The fine scale of thread is an extraordinary tool for describing detail.



Where will photo-realism go next?

Images courtesy of Ellie Cashman, Carol Shinn, Decobel, Mooi, Guildery

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