Here is something that was published by the Bauhaus Institute
There are millions of people passing, all ages, all dressed in
khaki/pastel/neutral formulas as if the neighborhood Gap threw up on them. One by one, they march away from the concept of change; they whisk off to their respective lives like an evil khaki wave.
But riding atop this khaki wave is Nancy Schultz, textile artist and color therapist; a kamikaze surfer of sorts who cuts through the riptide. The Minneapolis-based artist creates hand made, hand printed, hand made dyed clothing and material for the colorless masses.
Amid her purple and green home decorated with smiley face collections, a bowling ball rock garden, and metal jello-molds that double as art on the exterior of her house, Schultz has created a haven where color resonates much like a 24/7 rainbow. A sign on her front porch states a mantra that suits her carefree spirit and creative surroundings: “there is no garbage here, only expression of the soul.” Clients come in to this home/studio and are greeted with boas made of plastic hair rollers, album covers that proclaim their eclectic nature with titles like “Music form a Surplus Store” and “1995 Passport to World Band Radio,” and Schultz’s racks of silk velvet scarves, sarongs, hats, silk gauze, chiffon, shirts, pants, and coats — all of various hues of the interior of a Crayola crayon box.
From head to toe, she is Rainbow Brite. Her hair in braids, intertwined with colorful ribbons. The eccentric and experimental double Aquarius was the only one in high school to don colored socks, so the extension of her color didn’t surprise reunion participants. In a world of primary colors, Schultz is intent on brightening the lives of others through her work — kind of like feng shui for your everyday life, except with colorful clothing instead of furniture.
“People are afraid of color,” says Schultz who likens the effects of the
proper use of color as little short of miraculous. “They don’t know how to
do it, or are afraid to stand out. People don’t know how much they need to
Schultz’s family expresses themselves everyday, to the point where
strangers stop them on the street, to tell them how their colorful outfits, handmade by Nancy, have brightened their day. She and her son and partner serve as walking billboards of her color-dyed creations. Not to be compared to tie-dye, she jokes about not having to worry if the colors in the wash will run together. Schultz has provided Nell Carter with her work, as well as Jimmy Buffet, his bodyguards, Prince, and Stevie Nicks.
“I had no idea how popular rainbows were when I started making them, but I tend to do things when they’re not in fashion. 15 years ago they weren’t big, but now? Style doesn’t matter so much, but I look for color. Flat colors bother me, it’s just not natural.”
Schultz has always been unconventional. At the age of 14, she had her own clothing business, sewing and making clothes for her small town near Fargo, North Dakota. After high school, she went to the University of Minnesota on a chemistry scholarship for two years. Schultz then went to Mexico for spring break, but stayed for eight months where she first caught a glimpse of her future.
“I think that is the first place I saw art as a way of life,” said Schultz, “with all the tropical color and emotional warmth of the people and infusion of art in the Mexican culture on a daily basis.”
After that she headed to Europe where she learned French; then on to Taos, New Mexico, where she made clothing to sell in stores. Careers as a florist and window dresser followed, enhancing her eye for color; as well as a stint as guitar player of the R&B group, “The Eyeliners.” Her life in Minnesota was a bevy of experiences, including a business making soft sculpture (sculpture made of fabric).
“I was more interested in learning than landing a job,” she says. “I wanted to find something that I was great at. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I used to design clothes, but then I got into fabric and never went back.”
Equipped with her knowledge in chemistry and her background in sewing, Schultz (or Fancy Nancy as her friends call her) aimed her artistic pursuits on what she knew the best — taking natural fibers and enhancing their colors with dyes. Even though there’s a lot of grunt-work involved — from buying fabric, sewing own yards, mixing the colors and working them into the fabric — the color therapist admits to be willing to spend her last money on fabric just to create with the endless resources of color.
And all for the same detailed-driven process. She orders the natural fabric, cuts it off in hunks, then washes the piece for one hour. Using the same 100 colors as tie-dye does (or cold-water dyes), she works with 15 different colors of shades when mixing. After getting the right color, she or the client wants, she lays the natural fabric out on a five yard table, to do 10 yards at a time and then squirts the dye onto the material. She works the colors into a pattern and works the colors in the material by hand and then lets it dry in the sun. The process takes about four hours for just one piece. It takes 24 hours for the chemical color to bond with the fabric. Schultz then washes and dries the excess residue off a couple of times, to set the color even further. If she likes the results, she keeps it; if not, she can redo it to perfection. The nature element also plays a role in the dyeing process.
“Each piece is unique, even the color choices come out differently on the same fabric. Even if it’s 10 degrees difference outside, it changes the whole level of intensity of the color,” she adds. “There’s supposed to be 40,000 shades of color,” said Schultz. “I’m more aware since I started doing color therapy. For instance, Socrates described rainbows without blues. But now we do. You can evolve to see more color, you just have to develop your eye.”
Schultz developed her eyes to the point where she distinguishes her dyeing work from tie-dye. According to her, tie-dye has more dramatic lines, while her paint-like dying has more smoother lines to make the color seem seamless.
“I didn’t know how to do it, so I decided I need to learn how to do it. One color is not prettier than the other, it’s all about how they relate to each other. In life, it’s all about variety. Why would you make the same things over and over — there are infinite possibilities out there.”
The numerous possibilities have gotten the ‘rainbow-chaser’ over 250 regular clients in the 17 years she’s been dying — most of them actors and wardrobe managers in traveling Broadway shows. Open houses three times a year, help to get the people involved in her world as well as her part-time job as a stagehand in theater productions. Through that she has an outlet to sell her scarves and other wares. And everyone is interested. Young boys and girls are attracted to her stuff, she says, because they’re more open emotionally. Mostly women approach her to say how she brightened their day just by her walking by with her clothing. Schultz even had a colorblind guy purchase a shirt from her.
“I think he saw the energy of the stuff. So many variances, see something so flat, it reflects it back at you,” she says matter-of-factly.
With no formal training in art, this humble Seward area resident is brightening the world, one person at a time.
“I had to be told I was an artist,” she said. “When you’re doing something by yourself, you don’t know how rare you are, you just kind of make it and people find you. Now people try to find me. If you try to please someone else, you’re just guessing, but if you stay in your field, it brings stuff out of you that you didn’t know you had. I don’t have to go away from my own style to do this at all.”
Schultz envisions her future loosely. A minimalist at heart, she dyes in her basement or outdoors when she feels like it and the weather permits. Her only goal is to get to the point where she can just sell her dyed fabric to designers. In the meantime, her work can be seen hanging as curtains in restaurants in the Minneapolis area; while her other house wares can be seen in BHAI’s Artisans’ Home in the Chicago Design Show at the Merchandise Mart in November. Her colorful scarves will be on display at the Artisans’ Gallery on Harrison Sept. 6.
“I feel like I’m providing a service,” says the somewhat shy, but aggressive artist. “Color seems to be a form of therapy. It really excites people. Color changes mood; it makes you feel more comfortable on the planet. When people read therapy, it’s like kind of understanding yourself. Color is a connection to the emotional and subconscious self so color can be a tool to identify emotional states and to balance the emotions. The lack of imagination that people have when they lead a beige life, where they weren’t really sure how to use color? That can be fixed,”
Schultz says. “In my work, I introduce people to the higher quality of textiles in life. All textiles are natural and very artistic themselves,” she says, “their presence raises the quality of life. By raising the daily level of art in your life, you become balanced and healthy.”