Chulabird is the alter-ego of Irina Chulanova-Kurtz, and is responsible for some completely beautiful fabric designs. Characterised by rich, harmonious colours, flowing lines and organically styled shapes, Irina’s work is inspired by many artists and illustrators, especially from her home country of Russia. She loves folk art of all countries, and has a collection of many beautiful things from her travels. She also admits “I have the biggest crush on Central America. The beauty of its nature and the authenticity of its indigenous people and their craft influence my art and design greatly.”
She works quite spontaneously, often just drawing without having any clear idea of the end result. She rarely plans her designs or uses mood boards, and works in a wide range of mediums and techniques.
Growing up in Russia, she was lucky to have a wonderful uncle who was a painter. “He would often come visit us from out of town and bring his easel. I was absolutely fascinated watching him paint portraits of my great-grandparents and other family members. I thought that the smell of oil paint was the best smell in the world. I wanted to try its taste. I was probably around 5 years old when I announced that I was going to be an artist.
She moved to the US during the difficult period of Perestroika in the 1990s. It was a time of major political and economic restructuring in the Soviet, resulting in a good deal of social unrest. Irina describes, “Jobs were scarce and disappearing, especially for creative people.” But then she had a lucky break. ” We started looking for opportunities abroad and found the chance finally with an art job here in New York. There were thousands of fashion, home-furnishings companies and textile design studios and I ended up right in the center of the Fashion District with my first textile design job. I had studied fine art and industrial design in college, but had no experience in textile design or fashion, so I had to learn on the spot.” She recounts feeling utterly challenged by rendering designs in colour, sometimes spending “more time on preparing the colors than actually painting. I soon learned that you just need to know the formulas and of course, having good color sense helps too.”Having licensed her designs out through various agencies has resulted in some lovely experiences spotting her own designs out and about. “I have a story: when my father died, I had to go to Russia for the funeral. Before my trip, I ran to Target to buy a few things including tissues, and to my surprise I found that the package of Target brand tissues was designed by me. If I only knew when designing…..!”
written by Julie Gibbons of tractorgirl.com