Artists Rachel Blodgett and Julian Farmar-Bowers share a deep appreciation for quality handmade items, which is a passion that fuels their unique brand, Serpent & Bow. Together, they lovingly produce Indigo, batik and naturally dyed handmade garments intended to stand the test of time. Their work, along with contributions from other artists, has developed into Serpent & Bow, an artisan home business turning out a compelling collection of stunning shirts, handkerchiefs, and lingerie.
Learn more about Serpent & Bow and their handcrafted clothing below!
R: My name is Rachel Blodgett, and I am the seamstress and dyer who started Serpent & Bow which functions as a collective platform for artists who are interested in using indigo and natural dyes. I make primarily lingerie, clothing, and textiles from USA sourced cloth and materials. Currently, Serpent & Bow includes designs by myself and Julian Farmar-Bowers, and our designs can be found in the Etsy shop that we opened in January.
J: I’m Julian Farmar-Bowers. I’m a visual artist and I love making pictures. I have a lot more to learn about fiber arts, but I believe in the wholeness of textiles. Natural fibers entwine to become cloth, plant dyes alchemically bind with fabric, and someone’s hands unite all of these things into a piece of clothing that can adorn a body or a home. If all of these things can be done in a healthy sustainable way I cannot think of a more pure beauty!
How did you get started?
R: I fell in love with indigo while I was a student at California College of the Arts. Indigo is a really magical natural dye because it requires a constant relationship of care-taking. The vat must be checked on daily in order to maintain it’s delicate anaerobic balance- but what is amazing is that it can be kept “alive” indefinitely. For me, Indigo became a studio companion that kept me enchanted and curious about everything that it could offer. Right now I am obsessed with batik (a hot-wax resist method). Unlike a reproducible screenprint, all of the surface designs that are available in our shop right now are hand painted batik resists, which makes each item unique. Serpent & Bow was an idea that was hatched between my brother, Roy, and I (S&B also stands for Sister & Brother). We envisioned the snake and the ribbon as personal symbols for each of us, and also as these forms that were full of flexibility and motion.
J: I became interested in textiles and dye when I took a pattern making class in school. I was coming from a printmaking background and was looking to expand my art beyond paper. I was keen to make art with a utilitarian common use value. Textiles seemed perfect because you could make a beautiful piece of art and then blow your nose with it or wipe your face and then you could wash and iron it and it would be like new! That’s what I think art should be.
What’s inspiring you right now?
R: Firstly I am infinitely inspired by the legacy of Indigo as one of the oldest and most special dyes. But I have been realizing that much of what I make lately reminds of of the dream-clothing I wished I could have made when I was 12 or 13. I am inspired by ballerinas, cowgirls, art-nouveau era burlesque, and especially the idea of a garment as a good-luck talisman. I want to make underwear that functions as a secret magical empowerment spell for its wearer. With the moon-phase underwear, I wanted to express how amazing it is that menstruation can be linked to the cycle of the moon.
J: I really love Mexican weavings, folk weavings, pictorial navajo weavings, and african textiles right now. Naive or primitive (meant as not formally taught) imagery is straightforward, sincere, and lively in a way that I find so beautiful. It cuts through issues of class and more homogenous trends to really get at who we are and what we are about. These works seem of-this-world with mistakes and I can actually imagine them being made by someone’s hand. I tend to find this most in folk weavings and patterned textiles as well as comics and even some strange graffiti I see sometimes. I like old blues music too, because it does the same thing for me. That tradition informs my imagery as well and fits with my use of indigo blues.
Any advice for those starting out in the handmade industry?
R: The best advice I could give would be to follow your heart. I have been making art and clothing since I was a child, and I made a lot of one-of-a-kind underwear “sculptures” while I was in school, but it was only in the last couple of years that I realized that every drawing or design becomes infinitely more interesting to me when it is on a pair of underwear! It is so exciting that the thing I am doing as my “job” is the thing I would most want to be doing anyway as an artist and as one human in the world. It matters to me because lucky underwear really does make me feel more empowered, and I love the idea that I might be making something that is empowering others as they are doing whatever their mission is in this world of ours.
J: Follow your passion! That’s the only way to do good. The world could do without more consumerist tendencies so if you want something never consume it, produce it! Really get to know it, do it well, love it and live it. Chances are if you can really do that, other people will be into it too. We all have our funny particular talents and interests so if we share them and connect we can support each other and meet more of our needs in the best way. Lets do it!
What are you most looking forward to at BUST Craftacular’s Primped?
R: I have been a fan of Bust for a long time, so I am really grateful to be a part of this event and to meet everyone else who will be coming out! May 4th is my birthday, so I am hoping to slip away from my booth at some point during the day for a special birthday hair-braid and tarot reading! I cannot wait. Also super excited to hear Jolie Holland!
J: I must say I am so glad to be a part of this! Mostly I want to see what everyone else made! I am excited for Jolie Holland and tarot readings. Hopefully I can grab a swag bag and get a little rave ready hair chalk streak.
Can’t wait to get your hands on Serpent & Bow lingerie? Get yourself to BUST Craftacular’s Primped, a brand-new fashion and beauty fair featuring Rachel, Julian and over 85 other vintage and handmade vendors.
It’s happening THIS SUNDAY, May 4th, from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
In addition to the crazy shopping, don’t miss out on complimentary salon treatments and makeup applications, a bangin’ braid bar, DIY nail art, free make-and-take crafts, and much, much more. Admission is only $3. Click here for more info!
Images via Mona Varichon, Rachel Blodgett, Julian Farmar Bowers