Date of this Version
Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).
This paper traces the influence of Katherine Westphal on the developments in textile design during the years between 1965-1985. As a member of the Berkeley community and wife of UC Berkeley Professor Ed Rossbach, Katherine’s activities were key to incorporating ‘wearable art’ into the dialogue and validating it as a serious component of the ‘textile revolution’ taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area. I trace her career as a painter and free-lance textile designer to when she joined the faculty at the University of California, Davis campus. She revitalized that textile program with her emphasis on surface design and created a synergy with the costume/fashion curriculum. Her respect for all forms of visual expression prevented the lingering hierarchy of “fine arts” and “applied arts” from restricting creativity. From her vantage point, she acted as a bridge between the highly innovative graduate students in the UC Berkeley program and the opportunities for teaching and professional exposure offered by UC Davis. This paper also discusses her unique contributions to the field of surface design as she pioneered in appropriating office technologies such as the Xerox copy machine to generate new, exciting imagery that she combined with heat transfer, hand-made paper, and shibori dyeing. Her focus on surface design complemented that of Ed Rossbach’s focus on structure, yet they constantly crossed over and incorporated both into their work. Her ability to inspire creativity has had a lasting effect on many people who continue to contribute to the field of textiles.