What makes an aesthetic distinctive? Perhaps one may call this a style; a range of aesthetic elements that form a coherent whole. But what are the origins of a style? Tracing back, one will find at its heart imitation and experimentation. Always involving elements that have come before, thereof comes structure; always deviating from these elements, thereof comes variation. Through variation one may find elements that have come before, and thus similarities and coherencies take shape.
It is the exploration of the mystery, the experimentation, the untaken paths taken that have informed Pennsylvanian fiber artist K. Riley’s artistic evolution. With that came a very sound structure, as from the beginning Riley had a natural affinity with textiles. Originally from England, Riley’s father was recruited by Boeing, which resulted in the family moving to the United States in 1968. Her mother was a dressmaker, and Riley moved from making clothes for her dolls to making her own clothes as a teenager. This organic process led to her participation in fiber retail, also at a young age. “I took a year off after high school, before I went to college, and I started a retail business with my mother and my sister, where we made clothing and sold it,” Riley explains.
Riley mentions the flutters of trepidation she had when choosing the motifs to decorate her clothing. Detailing the beginnings of the Botanical Collection, she opines, “I’ve always been influenced by nature. As a textile designer, I love the patterns on butterflies. It started with that. So I got books on butterflies, looked at all the different patterns on them, and thought, well, everyone does butterflies. So I decided, I’ll do moths!, because I think moths are just as beautiful.” Utilizing insects, particularly ones with negative connotations like moths, was felt to be slightly risqué. “In general, if you tell someone that you’re drawing a moth and you’re going to print it on clothing, they’re going to be horrified,” Riley explains. “I like to find beauty in those things that others don’t find beauty in. And they don’t find beauty only because they’re not really looking.”