“I think Frida’s [Kahlo] work is so in demand at the moment because it chimes with so many things in the zeitgeist right now. She was a strong independent woman in the years before feminism was ever recognised as a movement, and her work is beautiful, bright and summery and aligns with a lot of commercial trends we see, such as tropical, but takes them further and into the realm of fine art! All these things coming together in 2018 have made her work a perfect embodiment of the times,” believes U Studio’s range Cut and Paste’s designer, Katy Welsh.
And with a plethora of Frida inspired product awash in the market, recently, even PM Teresa May was spotted wearing a bracelet with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s face on.
With a recent surge in the radical Mexican artist’s popularity, accelerated by the V&A’s recent exhibition ‘Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up’, showcasing her clothing and personal artefacts, it is no surprise that Frida Kahlo is a potent muse for artists and card designers alike.
Much like Che Guevara, Frida Kahlo has become an icon. In Mexico, where Kahlo is known as la heroína del dolor, “the heroine of pain,” the artist is a national idol, and her imaginative, often surreal, artwork not only captures herself but also the Mexican natural world and traditional crafts which celebrate her mixed heritage as mestizaje (mixed European and Mexican). She also wore traditional garments, making the Tehuana dress, which comes from a matriarchal culture of Oaxaca, her signature style.
The Este Macleod range from Cinnamon Aitch is licensed from the beautiful paintings by the esteemed artist who, as a trained textile designer, has always been influenced by folk art and craft styles: “The bold patterns and symbols of Mexican folk art, and the way Frida Kahlo adapted it to create her very unique art, continues to inspire the flower, bird and botanical shapes that appear in different guises in my art and surface pattern design,” Este explains.
“Frida Kahlo captures the imagination. Her life was intriguing, her art truly unique and beguiling. I am drawn to Frida Kahlo’s expressive personal style as well. Mexican folk images and symbolism are used effectively in her art to tell her story,” says Este, adding, “As a colourist, bold strong colours resonate with me, and I find the way she dressed, often in traditional costume, with flowers as part of her headdress, as well as her colourful home, inspiring on different levels.”
Jane Tattersfield’s bold, highly decorative designs, natural forms and use of oil paints to give the brightest of bright colours, is reminiscent of Mexican folk art, and, in succession, Frida’s work. As Jane (who publishes her work on cards, prints and cushions under Jane Tattersfield Designs) says, “Bright, clashing colours and vibrant patterns are very fashionable at the moment – but I’ve always loved them! I’ve been to Mexico and would say it’s the folk art and crafts of the country, rather than Frida Kahlo herself, that has inspired my work. I visited the villages in the south, where the indigenous people live, and saw stunning textiles being produced. In Oaxaca beautifully carved wooden animals are intricately decorated with colours and symbols that derive from images and methods dating back hundreds of years.”
Bex Parkin, whose designs are published on cards by Early Bird, feels connected to Frida artistically, her imaginary tropical landscapes usually include lots of big leaves, exotic flowers and characterful animals, and she loves the combinations of clashing patterns and colours in the textiles and floral headdresses she can be seen wearing in her portraits. However, she’s inspired by Frida personally too: “I am drawn to Frida’s work, not just because of our shared love of wildly exotic colours and animals, but the spirit and rebelliousness of Frida herself that is evident in every brushstroke. Despite the difficulties Frida faced, she never limited herself and faced the obstacles in her life with incredible strength and bravery. She developed a unique style all of her own that reflected her emotions and struggles and gave women the go ahead to really express themselves through their work. Her artwork is incredibly relevant to women today and I think the popularity of her painted ‘selfies’ is partly due to their raw honesty.”
Top: Mexican artist Frida Kahlo holding an Olmec figurine.