Academy grad is making art (and scarves) in Austin.
Paige Russell, a 2004 alumna of The Grosse Pointe Academy, graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design and now operates a studio and business in Austin, Texas.
It’s likely no one yet has pondered how to combine the Fauvist vision of Henri Matisse, the psychedelia of Peter Max and the ambiguous Gothic realism of Sandro Botticelli into one piece of art.
Well, wait a minute. . . maybe we did find that one person. And she’s not only creating such art suitable for some of the world’s premier galleries, she’s turning it into something you can wear.
Paige Russell, a 2004 graduate of The Grosse Pointe Academy, is making waves in both the art and fashion worlds with her collection of vibrant-colored scarves inspired by, she says, “strange dichotomies of pop-art patterns influenced by day-to-day life.”
Calling what she does “transcending the two-dimensional,” Russell’s scarf-making process begins with large, hand-cut pieces of brightly colored paper that she uses to create roughly two-ft.-by-two-ft. 2D fantasies of shape and color that are both beautiful and compelling. But, it’s what she does with many of those 2D fantasies that is drawing so much interest from the fashion world.
After a painstaking and labor-intensive process of digitizing her paper “paintings,” Russell turns the art into luxurious printed silk scarves, the likes of which have been garnering favorable comparisons with those sold by the famous Paris-based Hermès House of Scarves.
But what got her to what she calls her “deranged technicolor ramblings on silk” is a study in hard work, perseverance and, yes, an excellent academic beginning at The Grosse Pointe Academy.
Going against the grain
“I feel grateful that at the Academy we were all pushed to do a bit of everything — academics, sports, chorus, art, drama, etc.,” Russell said. “I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but now as an adult, I still meet people and notice how integral those small things are that contribute to making a person so well-rounded.”
She said she often thinks about former Academy teachers Mr. [Mike] Fultz and Mr. [Bob] Lapadot. “Both were great teachers and a bit eccentric, which made going against the grain seem like a really smart thing to do,” she added.
Russell attended GPA from Early School through eighth grade: “Did the long haul,” she said — after which high school followed at Grosse Pointe South. The transition to high school went well for her as it included a heavy dose of art and design from the start.
“I really didn’t do many extracurriculars at South, but I was in the art building any chance I got,” she said. “Art has always been on my agenda. I don’t recall ever wanting to do anything else.”
After high school, Russell matriculated to the Savannah College of Art and Design, a well-respected art college in Savannah, Georgia. She majored in graphic design because she figured it was the most “marketable” major in terms of making a living.
Russell calls her scarves “deranged technicolor ramblings on silk.”
“I also thought graphic design was open enough that if I were to change my mind, it would still apply to most anything else I wanted to do in the art world,” she said.
And what she is actually doing in the art world now is certainly gathering media attention. Russell already has been featured in U.K.’s The Sunday Times, Huffington Post, Style Bubble, Cool Hunting, the Bulletin and in Austin Monthly, which is published in Austin, Texas, Russell’s new adopted hometown.
“I was on my way to San Francisco to make my life there, and by a twist of fate I got the flu in Austin and ended up staying,” she said. “I’m so glad I did.”
Matisse and ‘happy accidents’
Operating out of a small studio just east of the University of Texas at Austin in a business called “ELOI,” Russell says colors, sometimes many colors, are always on her mind.
“Color is such a huge part of what I do,” she said. “I usually have an idea brewing as I come up with a palette that really gets me excited. Once I begin, and after any planning I’ve done ahead of time is thrown out, it sometimes can become a mess. But then everything changes, I play some more, and lots of happy accidents occur.”
Originally, the idea of printing her work onto scarves, she said, seemed like a good way of reproducing her original paper cutout pieces. She loved the idea of putting her art on an object so simple, and on one that can be used all the time in a lot of different ways.
And about a major art inspiration: “I have always loved Matisse, but at first I didn’t realize he did paper cutouts until I’d been doing this for a couple of years,” she said. “But it’s not just his cutouts. It’s his regular paintings also that are a huge influence for me!”
About The Grosse Pointe Academy
The Grosse Pointe Academy is an independent, coeducational day school serving children age 2-1/2 through Grade 8. We foster an inclusive environment that respects all cultures and religious beliefs. We seek to remain faithful to our heritage as a former Academy of the Sacred Heart and to those who through their Catholic faith and perseverance sought to preserve and enhance the legacy of this past for generations. Incorporated as a non-profit institution, The Grosse Pointe Academy is directed by a Board of Trustees working together to serve the Southeastern Michigan community.