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Artist Profile: An Interview With Kathe Fraga

Bainbridge Island-based artist Kathe Fraga has been on our radar for years. Her gorgeous Chinoiserie-inspired paintings can be found in a number of art galleries here in the Pacific Northwest, as well as in public and private collections all over the US. Kathe Fraga in her studioRecently we have added Kathe’s new collection of decorative pillows to our showroom in Langley, Washington, as well as to our website. These handcrafted silk or linen pillows are inspired by Kathe’s original paintings in Chinoiserie style that combines the visual appeal of Asian hand-painted silk art with the look of vintage frescoes from grand old Parisian mansions.

Today we are excited to interview Kathe about her creative process, her inspirations, and her new KF Home Pillow Collection.

Tell us about your background as an artist. Have you tried your hand at any other mediums besides painting?

I come from a long line of creative women. My great grandmother knit, crocheted, quilted, tatted; my grandmother had a keen eye for color and design, as did my mother and aunt. Painting, drawing and creating is something I’ve always loved. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed making quite a diverse collection of art - everything from beaded doll jewelry to custom ordered fabric mache dog sculptures to brightly colored cat paintings! My husband Jeff and I owned Gallery Fraga on Bainbridge Island for many years.  It was an absolute delight to work with so many different artists and be surrounded by paintings and sculptures, artists and collectors on a daily basis! It was here that I first introduced my Chinoiserie-inspired paintings, the series born out of, again, my color DNA, love of pattern and all things pretty.

How did you develop your interest in Chinoiserie-style painting?

Growing up, I had the opportunity to live in a variety of places that have influenced my inspiration and the direction of my art. From a young age, I have lived in South America, both coasts of the U.S. and in Europe. The stained glass and gilded interiors of old world Quito, the pinks and golds and pastels of Paris, the bright reds of Copenhagen, the easygoing style of beach towns in California and the buttoned up vibe of New York have all been a part of my direction. But there was one moment that had an enormous impact - when my father returned from an overseas trip to Japan. He surprised my mother with the most beautiful dark green silk kimono jacket with the most exquisite Chinoiserie patterns in bright orange, red, pink, blue - an unexpected pairing of hues and motifs and I was in love! It opened the door to the joy of combining lovely dense patterns and blocks of colors, which you’ll see in many of my paintings.

Kathe Fraga paintings at Museo Gallery in Langley WA

Original paintings by Kathe Fraga on display at Museo Art Gallery in Langley, WA

Tell us about your creative process. How do you draw inspiration for your paintings? Does your home base in the Pacific Northwest influence your art?

Color reacting to color is a big influence for me. It’s exciting, for example, to paint a bold wide swath of red and then layer it with bright orange and then add a subdued branch of soft little pink blossoms to create a surprising mix of modern and sweet small detail. Nature inspires me. From the overwhelming beauty of the blooming Yoshino cherry trees at the University of Washington, to the multi-colored little forest mushrooms that spring up along our wooded trails in the fall, the colors of the Pacific Northwest are wonderful inspirations. (That green moss in our Island forests is the most spectacular green ever!) Our Island beaches, rich with oyster and clam and mussel shells, also hold hidden treasures. Soft and gently sea-washed china shards reflecting our history and the many generations that have come before: we find blue and white Chinoiserie patterned pieces, pastel glass in light blue, purple and pink, white china with little blooms. I bring these pieces back to the studio, study their pattern, think of their history. And then I paint, layer upon layer of color, story, wee little florals.

Why did you decide to create pillows with your painting designs?

I love to share my art in a variety of ways, and the new pillow collection is just the beginning. Greeting cards, based on my paintings, are available at a variety of locations. Calypso cards, Papyrus cards, Trader Joes and Graphique de France also offer my card designs. We’re looking forward to wallpapers, bedding, fabrics - stay tuned!

Kathe Fraga pillow collection

What's next for you - any upcoming art shows, new product designs, etc.?

2017 will be exciting! I’ve been working on a major collaboration with an international cosmetic firm, developing their holiday packaging/color palette featuring my paintings. I’m also looking forward to my solo show with Roby King Galleries (Bainbridge Island), in July 2017. And I’m especially excited to have the new pillow collection at Artisan Crafted Home! It’s an honor to have my work featured with so many incredibly talented artisans.

In addition to Kathe Fraga’s pillow collection we feature at ArtisanCraftedHome.com, her Chinoiserie-inspired paintings can be seen in a number of private and public collections including Swedish Hospital, Island Hospital and Group Health. Museo Gallery (Langley, WA) Roby King Galleries (Bainbridge Island, WA) and Ann Connelly Fine Art (Baton Rouge, LA) currently represent Kathe’s art. The Inn at Langley recently commissioned Kathe to design fine wine list books for their world renowned dining room.

Find out more about Kathe’s art on her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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