For Santa Barbara native Taiana Giefer, the access to top designers provided by her early career as a fashion model led to an abrupt but lasting shift from making clothes look good to making good-looking clothes. In 2009, Calvin Klein and his head designer, Francisco Costa, saw a small swatch of hand-crafted fabric that Giefer had made in a felting workshop while visiting relatives in Germany. With less than a week before his upcoming runway show, Klein decided that he would use Giefer’s felting as a featured element in that season’s collection. This spur-of-the-moment decision would have a profound impact on the young woman’s life, both in the short and the long run. Several sleepless nights of hard work later, the material was on the models, the models were on the 2009 fall CK RTW runway, and soon the photos of Giefer’s work were in top fashion magazines and on influential social media sites. Within a month, she was flooded with orders from high-end boutiques and luxury department stores for what would become her line of scarves. Other high-profile collaborations would follow, including collections with Helmut Lang and Rick Owens.
Since all of her pieces are completely handmade by the artist, Giefer needs a comfortable studio in an inspiring location. At first, she managed by shuttling back and forth between New York City, where the deals are made, and Santa Barbara, where she found adequate room to create her work. Gradually, the balance shifted more in favor of our city, with its easy access to nature, including the ocean, where Giefer likes to unwind by surfing with her friends. In 2014, empowered by the continuing success of the scarves, shawls, and blankets she had been making, Giefer chose to take a further step out of the fashion market and into the world of fine arts and interior design.
The result is a collection of wall hangings and tapestries crafted by hand from fine Merino wool. This Saturday, May 11, Giefer will preview the collection, which is called Conception, at an unusual and highly imaginative pop-up event that will take place in the Santa Barbara Presidio. Giefer expressed her enthusiasm for the location on a recent studio visit, saying that she was delighted to learn that the entire site could be rented by the day and that she would be able to show her work, some of which is quite large, on some of the oldest white adobe walls in California. The viewing begins promptly at 1 p.m. and continues until 7 p.m. There will be a reception at 5 featuring soup and pizza from the Organic Soup Kitchen. Part of the proceeds from any sales will go to that organization, which provides meals for people experiencing homelessness and hunger.
As a local and an avid participant in Santa Barbara’s surf and art scene, Giefer has a lot of cool friends, many of whom will be contributing to the day’s activities. Le Picnic will bring its delicious shaved ice; the Apiary will be serving cider, mead, and hard kombucha; and TW Hollister will provide samples of its artisanal vermouth. The Brothers Gerhart and Miles Napier will be playing live music, and there’s even a surprise performance that will go off right as the reception gets going.
The fabric works, which were in part inspired by natural forms and native vegetation, are unlike anything I have seen. Using only carefully sourced Merino from humanely raised sheep in such locations as Ashland, Oregon, and Yorkshire, England, Giefer applies boiling water and olive oil soap to prep the fiber. Once it has been rendered moldable by this elixir, Giefer agitates the material by hand using a variety of small tools and techniques. No two pieces are alike, and all have an aura of alchemical wizardry that clings to them even after the leave the studio. To experience them in person, get to the Presidio on Saturday. If you can’t make it, or just want to see more, check out the work at taiana.com.