It’s been 25 years since Randy Rubin of Crypton and Susan Lyons of DesignTex started working together. Crypton makes “intelligent fabrics” and DesignTex, a company that designs and manufactures applied materials, was an early adopter of Crypton fabrics for their designs.
Theirs was a natural partnership. According to Lyons, printing on textiles was not widely done when they first started their collaboration. “They were too boardy,” Lyons said about printing on other fabrics, because the heat transfer prints would make usual fabric underneath turn hard and inflexible.
Crypton fabrics don’t do that. Rubin says that they are as easy to print on as polyester fabric, the fabric of choice for heat transfer printing. They are water, stain and microbe resistant, and have been widely used in healthcare facilities, pediatric wards, restaurants, hotels and family homes. You’ve probably come across Crypton before; you just didn’t know it.
This upcoming year, they are launching 5×5, a collection that features work by 5 contemporary artists from around the world. “At DesignTex, we have a running log of people that we like. We chose our group of artists based on gender, age diversity,” Susan Lyons told us. Each piece of artists’ work is first translated by a Crypton designer or colorist into a Crypton print, and this is then printed in 5 colorways at DesignTex’s digital printing plant in Maine, to celebrate 25 years of the 2 companies working together.
Susan Lyons recounts the first time she was introduced to the Crypton fabric. Randy Rubin told a meeting room full of people: “We have a new invention. It is easy to clean. It has a moisture barrier.”
Rubin’s husband was selling materials then. Back then, to protect fabrics from water and stains, you would use vinyl, Lyons explained. However, at trade shows, the vinyl would crack and the product would fail. Randy Rubin brainstormed with her husband and together, they came up with a fabric which makes use of the moisture barrier material in children’s diapers. It is is soft, comfortable on the skin, flexible, and stands up to use. They invented this from their bedrooms and took it to companies to introduce them to their new product.
Lyons, who was then the creative director at DesignTex, said to Design Milk, “We (Rubin and I) were the sole women in the room and immediately we could see the main application in the marketplace.”
“DesignTex brings aesthetic possibility; Crypton brings performance,” Susan Lyons added.
One such artist tapped to design for this collection is Melbourne-based Ellie Malin. Malin works in relief woodblock printing and her colorful, bold prints are a reflection of her process of playing with simple wood block shapes to construct a coherent landscape. Each artwork is “simple” and “captures the painting of the block,” Lyons told us.
Elizabeth Atterbury, who lives and works in Maine, works with monoprints and individual shapes.
Arturo Guerrero, a painter from Madrid currently based in New York, created calm, muted designs inspired by rice paper flooded with water and oil paints.
On the other hand, Phillip David Stearns’ designs are driven by the opposite process: to turn digital into tactile material. His “Glitch textiles” are inspired by abstract, pixelated digital landscapes. Yet these pixels, when observed from afar, look like Asian watercolor paintings, Susan Lyons told us.
Kapitza, led by sisters Petra and Nicola Kapitza, has worked with the likes of Commedes Garçons, Gucci, Clinique, USPS, TeNeues and IKEA. Their artworks experiment with geometric shapes, mathematic formulas and organic structures found in nature and mark making, and they’ve gained a global following for their art books. For 5×5, they use this same concept and color language to design for fabrics.
For the collection, Crypton and Designtex are partnering with RxArt, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to help children heal through the extraordinary power of visual art.” According to the RxArt website, they “commission exceptional contemporary artists to transform sterile healthcare facilities into engaging and inspiring environments full of beauty, humor and comfort.” A portion of the proceeds will benefit this organization dedicated to enhancing healing spaces with the power of art.
The other goal is that these colorful 5×5 will make their way into children’s hospitals, because they believe that art is a big part of healing and feeling better. When children are in the hospital, art can soothe them and make them feel more comfortable.
Julia Gillespie from Crypton further explains why 5×5 is very special: “Its very genesis is about bringing art into a space – and because it is Crypton, the barriers that surround art are removed. This collection is about art – and color, life, expression and more – it allows the designer to bring art into any environment and the art is ‘bullet proof.’ Lastly, because 5×5 is bleach cleanable, it can easily go into any healthcare environment – pediatric or otherwise. It is a collection that will work in almost any environment – has a large repeat that allows each piece it is upholstered on to be unique and distinct.”