Bright colors, tactile joys loom about her Textiles: Ellen Morriss of North Baltimore loves the way her creations look, but the way they feel is even more important.

Candid Closet

October 08, 1998|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

In a world where gray is the new black, Ellen Morriss is a bold champion of color.

It's a cause that goes way back: During her senior year at art school, Morriss, 38, made a "coat of many colors" from more than 100 knitted and crocheted patches. Tall and lanky, Morriss wears her own loom-knitted sweater coats, sweaters, vests and jackets with elegant ease.

But the North Baltimore mother of two boys also designs with women of all shapes and sizes in mind, as will be colorfully clear at her booth (#82) at this weekend's Sugarloaf Crafts Festival. (For more information about the festival, which takes place at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, call 800-210-9900.)

When you work with textiles, it seems that touch is as important as vision.

The visual, of course, is great, but the tactile is a more sculptural concept. When you can feel a work of art, it moves from two to three dimensions. I've always liked fibers that feel wonderful and I tend to go toward natural fibers, like mohair, which take colors beautifully and with such clarity.

What else contributes to the tactile joys of your clothing?

Some people are sensitive to mohair, so I'll put in a nice, smooth silky lining. And I make pockets with ultra suede, which offers more stability than knitted pockets.

How do you design your work?

I read a lot of magazines, including knitting magazines and a couple of craft magazines. I keep my eyes open, but don't follow trends per se. I notice proportions, what looks good, what would be flattering with a skirt, for example.

What is your guiding philosophy in your work?

It is certainly a reflection of me, no doubt about it. I am

fascinated with color and my work is also a reaction against mass merchandising. Mall sweaters and other garments are generally very bland. I'm sick to death of black anything. There's nothing wrong with it, but there is so much color in nature. I like timeless, simple lines, and something you could wear no matter what you're doing and not feel constricted; not something tight and tailored, but something that flows on the body.

Do you ever buy clothes?

I've learned to stop listening to that voice that says, "You can make it, you can make it." With kids, a husband and house, I don't think so.

What clothing have you bought from other artists?

I bought a burgundy silk dress from a man named Carter Smith who comes to the ACC show. It is just a gorgeous piece. And I bought a beautiful, easy cotton jacket from Pam Bennett.

Do you ever make clothing for men?

I made a vest for my husband. It turned out really nicely. It is paisley patterned in brown and black.

Where do you buy your supplies?

I buy them from Leslye Solomon, who has a business called Fiber Fantasy. She just opened up a store in Reisterstown called Woolstock.

What did you wear to your recent high school reunion?

Oh, I did not knit anything, if you want to know that. It was hot! I wore a very colorful, sheath dress that's long with big flowers that I got at Nordstrom Rack. It was very colorful, definitely my look.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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