January 23rd, 2014 / posted by paularath

A textile weaving by Karin Moggridge.

Karin Moggridge did not originally set out to be a textile designer, yet her path was a natural progression.

The Danish-born multi-talented artist, like so many young Scandinavian women in her day, was sent to England as a teenager to be an au pair. While attending industrial design classes at the local art school in Kent, she met Bill Moggridge, who later became a world renowned industrial designer – and her husband of 47 years until his untimely death last year.  (But more about him later.)

Like so many couples of my era, the Moggridges moved around a lot, and Karin changed careers several times. After a hitchhiking “trial honeymoon” in Europe, the Moggridges moved to Erie, PA where he got a job in technology design and she became a portrait painter. “We made enough to travel for a year through the U.S., and joined the hippie train of travelers. We bought a camper van and traveled all across the country, The van broke down in San Francisco because we couldn’t do the hills except in reverse,” Karin chuckled in a phone interview from her home in Burlingame.

A silk velvet coat.

Still in wanderlust mode, the adventurous young couple bought a motorcycle and rode down to Mexico. When it was time to get back to work, they flew back to London, where Bill got a job in a graphic design department in an art school and Karin was accepted as a student in the furniture design department. They settled in until 1980 and had two sons in Bill’s home country.

Their next move was to Northern California, where Bill taught at Stanford and Karin worked as a furniture designer and began making leather clothing for rock bands.

During this period, Bill was given the opportunity to design the GRiD Compass, the world’s first laptop computer, which made numerous trips on the Space Shuttle from 1983 on.  Through his company, IDEO, he also designed a portable heart defibrillator, as well  as the Palm V, hand-held personal digital assistant.

Was Karin married to a genius? It would seem so. Leslie Kaufman wrote Bill’s obituary last year in the New York Times: “He is widely viewed as the father of the field of interaction design, a discipline that focuses on improving the human experience of digital products.”

Karin continued to hone her textile arts skills in Palo Alto from 1998 to 2010, holding shows with the Baulinas Crafters Group and creating one-of-a-kind garments.  She had a sales rep who took her work all over the western U.S. Karin explained: “She took a big box of mainly shawls and jackets in her enormous truck and sold out of there. When she sold out, she’d ask for another box. I could make whatever I wanted.” She experimented with crushing, slashing, etching and burnout techniques, as well as weaving strips in various ways.


In 2010 Karin and Bill moved to New York City, where he got a job as director of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Karin opened a studio in Harlem and continued creating clothing and wall hangings. “My studio was small so I worked on a small scale. I made a successful line of shirts that were sold at a shop called Julie’s Artisans. She called her store a gallery and it was one of those places where you had to ring to get in.”

When it was discovered that Bill had cancer, the couple rushed back to the Bay Area. It has been a trying year for Karin since Bill died, but she said the Peninsula Art Institute has been “The most important thing for me since my husband died. To have that connection and know you can go to your studio and there will be people there. The inspiration your get from others is phenomenal.”

As she works through the grieving process, Karin’s approach to her art is changing. Her palette is traditionally dark and earthy (blacks, browns, grays, olive greens) but in recent months she is “Warming up to reds, pinks, oranges – strong colors to contrast with the darks,” she said. “I have never used patterned fabric except for tie dye or painting. The thought of buying patterned fabric was foreign to me. But now I’m beginning to warm up to it. Doing the basket weave with patterned fabric, you get the most amazing effects.”

The Peninsula Art Institute recently held its first weekend of Open Studios and the public’s response to Karin’s clothing was fabulous. She sold lots of her one-of-a-kind garments. She now has a seamstress to help her, which frees up more of her time for experimentation, which she loves.

If you are ever in the Bay Area and want to do something different, take the BART to the end of line at Millbrae and you’ll find the Peninsula Art institute within walking distance. Visit Karin Moggridge, Neil Murphy and some of the other talented artists there. You’ll be glad you did.

To see more of Karin’s work, go to www.karinm.com.

– Paula Rath

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