Collecting with Intention

by Beth Weimer
Photos by Skyler J. Edwards, Liz Gunty and Maris Mednis

By transforming the work of local artists into textiles, Collecture brings art and interior design together.

That’s the piece that really launched our art-buying journey,” says Abby Gettys, referring to a collograph and watercolor by Peoria-based artist Alexander Martin that hangs in her kitchen. When the designer and her husband Randon decided to only purchase original works of art a few years ago, neither of them realized how impactful that intention would be. With the recent launch of Collecture’s second product line, The Collecture x Allison Walsh Collection, Gettys’ passion for art is not only building a brand—it’s altering her career, as well as those of the artists with whom she works.

Designs with Impact
The initial concept for the company evolved from Gettys' desire to support artists in a meaningful way while promoting the value of intentionally integrating art into the home. After establishing her own interior design firm several years ago, she noticed a disproportionate amount of mass-produced art in some of her clients’ homes and began encouraging them to purchase original artwork from local artists instead. Moving beyond interior design to focus on producing functional art objects, her entrepreneurial vision started to come together in January of 2017.

As she and Randon explored possible names by combining words, the couple came up with “collecture.” A quick search revealed a Latin root for the word, meaning to collect or acquire with intention—which aligned with her concept perfectly. “The intention is what sums it up so well for me,” Gettys explains. “I’m not just collecting…” By collaborating with artists through Collecture, she intends to provide them with exposure and a new medium of expression, while offering consumers an innovative and accessible way to bring original art into their homes.

Collecture’s textiles are manufactured by a small fabric company in Pennsylvania that uses a sustainable pigment printing process on 100% Belgian linen. The fabric is available by the yard for an array of possibilities: reupholstering furniture or creating duvet covers, drapery, or anything else imaginable. Collecture also sells throw pillow covers (and feather pillow inserts) available in three different sizes. Each piece is made to order, and the products are shipped directly to clients. The combination of craftsmanship and original artwork results in an “heirloom-quality” product that will last for generations.

The idea that a painting can be transformed into bedding or a piece of furniture is meant to be a more approachable way to incorporate art into the home. “Buying art is a slow play and can be so expensive,” Gettys explains. “The fabric encourages people to be creative and make something of their own, but having a finished object in the form of pillows reaches a wider audience.”

For Allison Walsh, who works primarily as a painter and filmmaker, the project presented a new and refreshing opportunity. “Textiles are something I would have never been able to do by myself,” she notes. “I think that says something about the nature of collaboration and the mutual trust necessary for artists to work together. We both depended on each other's artistic abilities to make this happen.”

Locally Sourced Artistry
Peoria’s artistic community provides many talented collaboratorsfor Gettys and Collecture to work with. Leslie Becker of Ephemera Studio designed the logo and generates the different scales and repeating patterns for the fabric, while artist Jeremy Berkley hand-printed the brand labels for the pillow covers. In addition, Gettys works with area shops to reupholster furniture, providing referrals for customers who purchase fabric for that purpose.

Last summer, she enlisted her friend and neighbor Alexander Martin to develop the first product line for her new venture, releasing The Collecture x Alexander Martin Collection in October. Their collaboration came naturally, although the two have vastly different aesthetics. Gettys gravitates toward bold but simple forms and detailed accents, referring to her style as “Modern French Art Deco.” The emphasis on the relationship between artwork and its surrounding space “really speaks to me,” she notes—an approach her own home renders beautifully.

Martin uses mixed media to explore the parallels of masculinity and femininity and the stereotypes associated with gender and race. He describes his energetic style as “a clean mess… soft, queer and crusty.” He appreciates art that is minimal and crisp, so his own work balances and contrasts those elements with touches that are delicate, textured and loose. “We both worked within the same mindset,” he adds, “but with our own aesthetic vocabulary.”

The two had previously discussed the idea of designing fabric, so when Martin returned from a residency in London last spring, Gettys immediately commissioned three paintings from him. For this series, Martin juxtaposed structural rigidity with vibrant whirls and dabs of rose and gold, inspired by the stone architecture and blooming flora of London’s streets. Gettys says one of her favorite uses of the Collecture fabric is the kimono he made from the “Soft Views” print.

Originally from West Virginia, Martin came to Peoria to complete his MFA at Bradley University. He’s found a home here in the arts community, working as an adjunct professor at his alma mater and as print shop program and gallery manager at the Prairie Center of the Arts. Establishing a career as an artist is a quintessential struggle, but Martin says there is plenty of opportunity in the area.

“I tell my students: find things that inform your practice. Working with other artists gives me the energy to make my work,” he says. “To engage with something like Collecture, it does have an impact. You feel like you’re a part of something and it propels you to do more.”

Voice and Visualization
Allison Walsh covers large canvases with thick, pulsating textures and swirling colors that invoke physical sensations. “I paint viscerally with lots of volume and athletic, bold brush strokes,” she says, admitting the boldness of her work may contrast with her personality (“I tend to use a lot of color, which is funny because most of my clothes are gray,” she laughs.) She feels fortunate to work closely with Gettys and other collaborators who genuinely seem to understand her work: “They see a side of me that can only be communicated through my art.”

While her paintings are visualizations of a more personal nature, Walsh’s film work allows her to explore and amplify the experiences of others. In her recent documentary, Parallel Lines, she examines the symbiotic connections between the communities of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, shining light on the people who share “one big city”—in a region where issues are too often politicized. Documenting the lives of others, like her partnership with Collecture, has expanded her work to new territory.

“I now try to find ways to make my art more accessible,” she explains. “I’ve collaborated a lot in the past year and tried to share more voices than my own.”

Walsh, like Martin, came to Peoria by way of Bradley’s Fine Arts program and proceeded to fall in the love with the community. “Getting involved with the people in Peoria has shown me that art is more powerful when I invite others to be part of the experience,” she confirms. Both artists are also involved with Yaku, the nonprofit arts organization working to provide community art experiences and repurpose a historic church on Main Street as a cultural arts center.

Gettys loves the color and composition of Walsh’s paintingsand is excited to share the new line of fabric. “The visible detail of the paint is really wild,” she says. Collecture will soon celebrate the release of the collection with an event in partnership with Soulside Healing Arts, a new yoga studio opening in Peoria's Warehouse District.

Threading the Way
Meanwhile, Gettys is using the connections and business skills learned from her interior design experience to continue Collecture’s growth. She’s savvy with digital marketing and branding, honing in on Instagram as a tool for connection, discovery and sales in the art world. She plans to expand her online sales and partner with interior designers and shop owners to carry limited quantities of the collections. She also hopes to produce new collections seasonally and add wallpaper designs to the product line.

Gettys’ I Buy Art promotional campaign, which she created in conjunction with Collecture, further advocates for supporting artists. She has sent buttons stamped with this message across the country in an effort to spread awareness, and would like to establish regular tours of private art collections as part of the campaign. In June, she and her husband will exhibit local artwork from their own collection at Project 1612, an independent gallery space in Peoria which Martin co-founded and helps run.

For those who want to support the arts locally but are unsure where to start, Gettys suggests attending First Friday events, university galleries and MFA exhibits to discover new artists, converse with them about their work, and build an affordable collection. Each purchase helps enable their practice, and if there’s hesitation in buying a particular piece, she recommends talking to the artist about taking it on loan, so you can live with it for a week or so before making a decision. Getting to know other collectors may also help you learn their process for finding and obtaining new pieces.

A thriving, supportive arts scene is critical to young artists developing their careers—but it’s also valuable to the larger community. “Art is a connecting force, a transmission of energy,” Walsh says. “It does so much good for the community and the individual.”

Here in the Peoria area, Gettys intends for Collecture to be a growing part of that connecting force. She encourages everyone to find inspiration within their own community. “There’s always art,” she emphasizes. “Sometimes it feels like art only happens on the weekends here, but art should happen on Tuesdays and every other day… I want to influence and encourage that.” a&s

For more information, visit collecture.co or follow Collecture on Instagram.

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