Photographs courtesy Maharam.
For textile designer Sonnhild Kestler, tradition isn’t something to be left in the past—it’s inspiration for today. Using imagery from folklore and children’s books around the globe, Kestler’s textiles merge history and contemporary aesthetics with vibrant primary colorways and bold block-print patterns. This summer, the designer—to date known mostly in her native Zürich—is making her US debut in a collaboration with the textile brand Maharam.
The collection will feature three cotton-yarn upholstery textiles and two rugs in patterns such as Amulet, updated from an alpine teardrop motif Kestler discovered on a vintage silk scarf, and Mela, an ornate blend of geometric shapes and flowers. Kestler’s textiles are not only aesthetically traditional; her printing techniques are old-school, too. Instead of using computer-generated graphics, Kestler hand-paints her designs onto paper cutouts before transferring them to silkscreen. She also uses mirrors to guide repetitions in her patterns rather than digitally designing them.
“I prefer a hands-on approach, and I love the improvisational element,” she says. “The process of translating hand-cut paper to silkscreen, and of passing shapes gathered from diverse sources through a singular filter of scale and simplicity, has become a stylized iconography. I refer to it as my handwriting. Each design is less a formulaic application of shape and composition than a means of intricate expression.”