When textile designer Louise Russell first brought her design concepts to New York-based Carnegie Fabrics in 1997, textiles for the healthcare industry were in a rut. Colors were institutional, patterns were simplistic, and fabrics were simply viewed as decoration for a healthcare facility. Louise had a radical new approach in mind. She envisioned designing textiles that became integral to the healing process, recognizing that the patients’ surroundings were critical to their well-being and recovery process.

In recent years, more and more forward-thinking interior design firms have come to realize the importance of engaging patients in healthcare environments—an approach that clearly makes sense. When all is said and done, many of us will have spent days, weeks, or even months of our lives in hospitals and doctors’ offices—spaces that can often feel cold, clinical, or downright uncomfortable. While many talented architects and designers have dedicated themselves to revamping and reimagining these spaces, few textile designers have actively explored the direct healing properties of textiles within these settings.

Recognizing an opportunity to bring a meaningful change to the healthcare design industry, Russell set to work in creating textiles with unique healing properties. In addition to being a certified color therapist (she received her degree in 1997 from Hygeia College of Colour Therapy in England), Russell had worked extensively with some prominent textile and floorcovering companies.
Louise Russell's Fresh Air collection

Louise Russell’s Fresh Air collection

The passion Russell has for her 20-plus years of experience as a textile designer is matched only by her love for holistic health and healing—creating a dual focus that she knew put her in a unique position as a designer. In addition to her accomplishments in the field of textiles, Russell has studied with Sri S. Bhatnagar—an internationally recognized master of the ancient science of sound and developer of Depth Psychology of the Chakras—for more than 18 years and incorporated much of what she’s learned into her textile designs.

“It’s important for me to continue my education in a mix of fields and disciplines,” says Russell. “Studying sound, color, light, and homeopathy with some of the world’s foremost experts has influenced my perspective in very significant ways. Without question, my studies echo out into my textile designs and inform everything I do.”

In addition to her work with Bhatnagar, Russell researched the vibrational influence of the environment on the physical and subtle bodies from 1999 to 2003 with D.K. Klinghardt, MD, PhD, in Seattle. She has also completed a two-year certification program with S. Vazquez, PhD, for the use of the Photon light machine, a curative tool that uses color and hertz frequencies to treat both psychological and physiological maladies. It was with this unique educational and professional background that Russell designed her first collection for Carnegie, called Philosophy, in 2000.

Carnegie branded the new effort Philosophy—Fabrics for Health and Wellness. Instead of the traditional pastels and sherbet-inspired colors of healthcare’s past, the collection was characterized by soft neutrals, along with patterns emboldened by their large scale. High-sheen reflective yarns were also incorporated to add brightness and positive energy around hospital beds and other areas where patients were most in need of environmental healing properties.

“I believe textiles can have direct healing powers,” says Russell. “Everything around us emits energy—be it positive or negative. We are surrounded by energetic fields and tapping into them can have a profound effect on our health and personal sense of balance and harmony. Nowhere is this more apparent or powerful than in the healthcare environment.”

Two of the collection’s patterns in particular were groundbreaking in their approach. The first, Affirmation, took its positive energy from “Desiderata,” an inspirational prose poem by Max Ehrmann, about attaining happiness in life. The words from “Desiderata” (Latin for “desired things”) were woven into Affirmation as a graphic layout. The second, Essence, was created by incorporating the photo-essence of four healing plants—bamboo, silver dollar, eucalyptus, and jasmine—into the weave of a textile. Using a unique photo paint process in which the actual plant is exposed, Louise was able to “capture the essence” of the plants. These images where then scanned and translated to a woven fabric via computer. The scale of the plant images are life sized; an artist’s rendering would not have produced the same results nor offered the same calming energy.

As a whole, the collection explored the healing energies of light, space, dimension, texture, and color in new ways and went on to win an IIDA Acclaim Product Design Award, as well as the 2000 Best of NeoCon Gold Award in the Healthcare Fabrics category. This first collection proved popular with interior designers who were intrigued by Louise’s subtly colored and graphical approach to healthcare textiles.
Louise Russell's Philosophy collection

Louise Russell’s Philosophy collection

“Throughout my years of shaping healthcare spaces I have a few very valued friends and colleagues that I trust with my ideas, thoughts and solutions,” says Tama Duffy Day, FASID, IIDA, LEED AP, a Principal at Perkins + Will. “Louise Russell is one of my cherished friends. An innovator and researcher, she is always at the forefront of innovation that reaches toward the integration of healing and design. Her perspective is always fresh and she constantly inspires me.”

Louise recently added a new chapter to the Philosophy collection with Fresh Air, perhaps her most significant effort in integrating both the art and science of healing textiles. To create this collection, Russell worked with photographs of nature, breaking the images down into individual pixels, and then rearranging the pixels into patterns she says offer “vibrational wellness.” A pixel is one of many tiny dots that make up a picture and, according to Russell, each pixel holds the energy of that image. By working with these small pieces of “visual energy,” Russell is able to reimagine these powerful images, softening them, yet maintaining their familiarity and sense of comfort. The woven visuals of the collection (of beaches, mountains, water, sky, and flowers) are derived from actual photography, but take on a new life through Louise’s reinterpretation. The concept of increasing energy through pixilation draws on homeopathy, which believes that the dilution of remedies is most often the strongest medicine available.
Louise Russell

Louise Russell

Underlying the collection is an understanding of nature as vibration. Russell translates the essence of the photographic images into patterns later woven into the textiles that she believes contain the “prana” or “chi” energy of the natural scene itself. The embedded energetic patterns in the collection allow the subtle energy of nature to be transposed to the healthcare environment, thereby bringing their natural healing qualities to a new arena.

“I think it’s atypical for a textile company to be aware of how their fabrics influence the healing process,” says Heather Bush, Creative Director for Carnegie Fabrics. “What was so appealing to us about Russell’s work is the way that it incorporated ideas of alternative medicine, health, and nature—while still maintaining a high level of aesthetic beauty. The Fresh Air line literally translates the principles of healing into textile form.”

Louise Russell continues to study energetic healing and homeopathic medicine. She is dedicated to continuing to create textiles for interior designers and medical facilities that are as powerful and effective as the healthcare providers that work in them. HD

Cliff Goldman is the President of Carnegie Fabrics.

For further information, please visit http://www.carnegiefabrics.com.


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