Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Born in Hungary and "discovered" in New York's Greenwich Village, Ilonka Karasz (1896-1981) brought a unique and remarkable talent to early American modem textile design. Though little known today, her contemporaries described her as "one of the best designers of modem textiles," and noted the "widespread influence among textile manufacturers" of her modem textile designs. Her exploration of textile design from 1915 to 1935 contributed to an exciting time in the history of American textiles when American manufacturers used American designs, experimented with new uses for textiles, and developed new textile materials. Karasz's textile designs from the 1910s reveal her artistic influences and illustrate her role as both a designer and an artist. Her work from the late 1920s and early 1930s indicates her innovativeness and renown. Karasz's textiles from both periods reflect her devotion to modem design.

Before moving to America in 1913, Karasz studied at the Royal School of Arts and Crafts in Budapest, where she was one of the first females admitted. Since Hungary was part of the Austrio-Hungarian empire when she studied in Budapest, modem Viennese design influenced Karasz. Her early work reflected the folk-inspired stylized floral motifs and modem geometric patterns of the Wiener Werkstatte. Examples of Karasz's first textile designs in America appeared in an avant-garde Greenwich Village publication called the Modern Art Collector, or M.A.C. published from September 1915 to May 1918. Her contributions to the M.A.C. fulfilled the journal's goal of enabling America "to keep in touch with modem artistic European tendencies at a date when traveling to Europe [was] freighted with difficulties, and thereby [encouraging] the development of the Modem Movement in this country."