Other Investigations: Kayla Mattes

I am excited to support designer and artist, Kayla Mattes in creating her first jewelry line SUMMER CAMP, which will hopefully lead to the production of other products. Many emerging artists and designers are bridging the worlds of fine arts and design to create really fresh and thoughtful everyday products. Kayla Mattes is creating a line with depth and feeling and I am really excited for this jewelry line for many reasons. Personally, I have a hard time finding jewelry that is interesting and versatile. I can’t afford designer jewelry, therefore anything within my price range is really generic. It’s either way too feminine, way too vintage, or way too graphic. It feels like I have to fit a specific type of woman to wear jewelry. Kayla Mattes jewelry line is the right amount of all of these things and I can imagine wearing these pieces in a range of outfits. I imagine I will be wearing my Kickstarter reward piece every day.

Kayla has already been contacted by several shops, such as Anthropologie who are interested in possibly stocking the collection in their stores for Spring. With your help she will be able to finance materials, marketing, graphic design fees, trade show costs, among other odds and ends to be able to fully launch the line and put the collection into production. I took some time to talk to Kayla about the development and intention behind her collection, SUMMER CAMP, as well as discussing the multiple hats she wears as an emerging designer and artist.


In your previous collection NEO-90ies, nostalgia is obviously present but it is a different kind than the nostalgia in SUMMER CAMP. For example, I’ve never been to summer camp but I remember watching “Salute your shorts” and making these kinds of crafts all the time, and it brings back a feeling of adventure, innocence and a naive sense of autonomy. Maybe it is a more romantic nostalgia? Can you elaborate on your use of nostalgia in this line?

The nostalgia felt in the SUMMER CAMP collection was definitely derived from the adventure and naive autonomy of childhood. The first day of summer meant something different as a kid. It was a time when essentially your only obligation was to keep yourself from getting bored. Lanyard braiding was something fun I would do with my friends to carelessly pass the time. The methodical and meditative process of lanyarding these pieces and designing the collection teleported me back to those days, which I think contributed to such a distinct sense of nostalgia. At the same time I sought to infuse these childhood sentiments with my textiles sensibilities, in order to translate the craft into something a bit more contemporary.

Although, I am a huge fan of NEO-90ies, SUMMER CAMP is a more accessible line that still retains a distinct design and perspective. When making design choices, did you have a customer in mind and who would that be?

Creating the SUMMER CAMP collection was really the first time I had to factor in marketability into my design decisions. It was definitely a bit of a struggle for me since my work tends to be questionably unmarketable to the masses. When thinking about the consumer I sought to create balance with the color schemes, by pairing neons with pastels, browns and blues. The colors are obviously still bold, but work together in a harmonious way that makes neon more accessible. In terms of the lanyard constructions I definitely played around with scale and shapes, in a way that created variety for both the consumer and the collection as a whole. So far I’ve gotten positive responses from a wide range of people including fellow textile enthusiasts, moms, sorority sisters, and rave girls! I suppose in my mind the consumer who wears SUMMER CAMP embraces color, pattern, and the unusual. They get that “KITSCH IS RICH”.


Art and design are sometimes defined very separately. Artists and designers know that art and design work symbiotically to create fresh ideas. In your Patternbase Discussion interview with Kristi O’Meara, (January 2012) you talked about what it means to be a textile artist within a gallery setting. When looking at your new jewelry line, I feel like I could wear art daily. It’s not “couture” but it’s not conventional. What does it mean to be a textile artist working in fashion design?

“I think that the fact that textiles have a possibility of functionality often blurs the line between whether the textile is a piece of art or merely an object for use, making it less common to see in a gallery setting. I often find myself conflicted whether it’s necessary for me to make things that are functional or something that’s existence is influential and worthwhile because of its concept.” – Kayla Mattes

I think that fashion designers who have a distinct background in textiles, intrinsically produce more interesting work, since they have the ability to actually invent and physically make their own fabric. For example, the SUMMER CAMP collection is definitely strengthened by my machine knitting capabilities in terms of knitting the cords and creating unique stripe compositions. Personally as a ‘textile artist’ I actually have the desire to work in so many different realms, not just textile or fashion design. The parallels between textiles and fashion often influence me to work with fashion, but I would get bored trapping myself in that world. In the past few months I have worked on all kinds of collaborations from making screen printed editions, to designing printed tapestries for mass production, to making a digital series for an online and printed magazine. I would never call myself a jewelry designer, but I just designed this jewelry collection which I suppose is really more of a conceptual and material exploration than anything.


Through Make Space, I’ve met so many emerging artists trying to make a living from their art beyond traditionally selling work through a gallery, but instead selling through the internet. Personally, I love the accessibility of the internet and buying edition works, books, jewelry, t-shirts, and so forth, by emerging artists. What do you think about this notion of D.I.Y. one day replacing the gallery system?

I see nothing negative about net galleries and D.I.Y. shops becoming prevalent, and I think that the traditional gallery system will always in some way exist. The internet provides a place for art to be seen globally and in a different context and format. Personally I find more work that interests me on net based galleries and almost all of my opportunities and connections over the past year have been made through the web. The gallery system can be pretty arbitrary, so I think that having access to an outlet that functions differently is refreshing. Without access to an internet funding platform like Kickstarter, following through with the SUMMER CAMP collection on a large scale wouldn’t be financially tangible for me without acquiring some very particular grant. Relying on the old system is just limiting.


Launched on July 23rd, the Kickstarter for Kayla Mattes’ SUMMER CAMP Collection was created to help fund the launch of her new necklace collection based on the lanyard braiding phenomenon. The necklaces are constructed solely from machine-knit cords, and traditional lanyard stitching (remember the box stitch?) . You can order pieces from the collection a season early and at a discounted price, while also helping her to fund the launch of the line! She will be approaching boutiques and shops throughout the US and internationally in the Fall about stocking the collection in their stores for Spring 2013. She has only 10 days to go and is 43% funded so she needs as much support as possible with backing the project, and spreading the word before the midnight on August 26 deadline!