Textiles: Collaborative Workshop: alphaPOLLACK Textile Collection

Mark Pollack, design director of New York-based textile manufacturer POLLACK, and Ken Wampler, executive director of Alpha Workshops—a non-profit organization that trains and employs people living with HIV/AIDS in the decorative arts—met through mutual friends more than 10 years ago. At that time, Pollack conceived the idea of translating designs by Alpha artisans into a fabric collection. Recently, Pollack again commissioned original artwork from the Alpha studios and interpreted the designs into patterns for the second alphaPOLLACK Collection, introduced this spring.

Mark Pollack is not the only one who believes in the mission of Alpha Workshops. When Steelcase decided to expand its pre-approved COM offerings by partnering with a boutique textile company, POLLACK was its first choice. Steelcase incorporated several fabrics in the alphaPOLLACK line into its Select Surfaces collection. “Launching Select Surfaces was all about enhancing the experience we offer in terms of material choices on our products,” explains Julie Daly, Steelcase director of surface materials. “The primary provider of these materials is Designtex [as a Steelcase company], but we recognize that great design is found in many places. POLLACK has beautiful textile offerings, and the alphaPOLLACK Collection has a meaningful social purpose that attracted us.”

While the whole alphaPOLLACK Collection was derived from seven pieces of art from Alpha Workshops that produced 14 fabrics, the Select Surfaces portion of the line is an edited version. “We narrowed down the line based on price, durability, scale, and the ability to meet the rigors of the Steelcase manufacturing process” says Susan Sullivan, POLLACK sales and marketing director.

.The Alpha artisans did not create this artwork as textile designs. “They designed the patterns; we designed the fabric,” Pollack recalls. “And in many cases we had to radically adapt the pattern for textiles.” But what Pollack finds refreshing is that these artisans are “not confined by ‘rules’ of design,” he says. “We always like their enthusiastic embracing of pattern and materials and the vitality and energy of the drawings. That’s something that we try so hard to carry across to textiles.” For example, a puff paint drawing yielded two patterns in this collection—Glyph Velvet and the smaller scale Glyph Matelasse (shown above). Pollack maintained the original liquid doodle quality of the art by playing with color, pile height, and yarn luster.

Wampler says that Alpha artists always take pride when their designs are converted to textiles. “Seeing it turned into fabric is gratifying and then used on a piece of furniture even more so,” he says, adding, “The royalty income is a big help when trying to maintain a staff of 28 with hopes to grow and employ more people. That’s our mission.”

Select Surfaces (shown at top, left to right): Quarry Stones, Rewrite, Volute, Beadwork, Microcosm

Click here to view a video of Mark Pollack and Ken Wampler discussing the creation of this collection.


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