California girl Mara Penny is exploring the United States…in fabric.
Moda’s newest designer was born in Lake Tahoe, lived briefly in San Diego, and today makes her home in the San Francisco Bay area. But her new line for Moda, Desert Song, is taking her out of state. First up is a visit to the Southwestern states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arizona.
Each state will be featured in a panel that illustrates the state shape, state bird, and appropriate place names and iconography (oil wells and guitars for Oklahoma, hot air balloons for New Mexico, cowboy boots and rocket ships for Texas).
An art project with her son was the genesis of Mara’s interest in representing the states. Inspired by a children’s book of facts about the U.S., the pair started creating illustrations, state-by-state. Mara’s son completed four, but Mara kept going. The resulting images are featured on panels that are perfect for quilts, pillows, wall hangings, and bags. The accompanying fabrics feature geographically appropriate images of cacti, wildlife, and more and work well on their own (think skirts, totes, and home décor) or combine perfectly with the panels for quilts, wall hangings, and more.
Mara’s love of art began when she was young. “I was a creative kid, that square peg in the round hole,” she says. Days with her grandmother, an artist and astrologer, further fueled her artistic leanings. “I spent all my time with her—she was my person,” says Mara.
Nature, fairy tales, and the stars figure prominently in Mara’s work.
The balcony of her Oakland home looks out into tree tops, and her love of the heavens includes both the astrology of her grandmother and an affinity for science. “I love the tension between the two,” she says and admits to having a crush on astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson. “I see the stars as symbolic—they can be romantic, or scientific, or astrological.”
Where will Mara’s explorations via fabric take her next? Let’s see—with four states down she’s got plenty to choose from—stay tuned!
Desert Song will be in stores in September. For more about Mara, visit her website.