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SWATCH OF THE MONTH INSPIRATION: EUGENE + MARIE

From top left: Fabric Swatch in Marie Natural/Carmine with Whipstitch Appliqué;  The Marie Swing Skirt Kit in White/Natural with Reverse Appliqué; Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands by Philip March Jones; “Marie”, by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein from Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands; Fabric Swatch in Daisy Carmine/White with Variegated Red Embroidery Floss with Whipstitch Appliqué; Fabric Swatch in Large Polka Dot Natural/White with Beaded Whipstitch Appliqué.  


Last week, we continued to build on February’s Swatch of the Month stencil design with the release of the new Marie DIY Kits. This week, we share an essay from Natalie about the inspiration for the stencil.  

From Natalie: 

I fell in love with the work of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein when my friend, sometimes collaborator, and well-known curator Phillip March Jones was working on an exhibition and the beautiful coinciding book, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands about the artist and his wife, muse, and collaborator Marie. Phillip is the founder of Institute 193 in Lexington, Kentucky, a 501c3 that “collaborates with artists, musicians, and writers to document the cultural landscape of the modern South.” Phillip has written for our Journal, and written, edited, and/or curated loads of books (including a favorite, Points of Departure, and catalogs (just a few of them here). In 2018, Phillip opened a satellite location, called Institute 193 (1B) in New York’s East Village, serving as a bridge between the Southeast and the art world at large.  

I remember promenading the streets of New York City late one spring afternoon when Phillip first mentioned the love/work relationship of Eugene and Marie, thinking that I would love the costumes, colors, and sets of vivid photos. What began that afternoon as a conversation about photography, art, and collaboration developed into an obsession of mine and, eventually, a collection that launched in the fall of 2014, inspired by these photographs of Marie. The Marie stencil is one of the many enduring artifacts of my decade(s) long friendship with Phillip and remains one of my all-time favorites. 

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From top left: Fabric Swatch in Marie Natural/White with Reverse AppliquéFitted Babydoll Top Kit in Paisley Carmine/Carmine Negative Reverse Appliqué; “Chair sculpture made of poultry bones” from Mythologies: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein exhibition 2017 at John Micheal Kohler Arts Center; photograph by Rich Maciejewski; Fabric Swatch in Marie Black/Black with Negative Reverse Appliqué; “Marie”, by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein from Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands; Points of Departure by Phillip March Jones. 


The Von Bruenchenheins’ photos are an explosion of pattern, color, whimsey, and beauty. They are at once pin-ups, portraits, and role-play that culminate to what I love to think of as the many lives of Marie. From our Journal:  

“In 1939, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein met a 19-year-old girl named Eveline Kalke, whom he nicknamed “Marie,” at a state fair in Wisconsin. The two married in 1943, and settled into their daily lives in Milwaukee where Eugene worked as a baker. Unlike most bakers, Eugene spent his free time composing poems on the subjects of love, nature, reincarnation and time travel. He made fantastical paintings of unknown universes, ceramic vases pieced together from dozens of hand-sculpted leaves, towers and thrones fashioned from chicken bones, concrete masks, and perhaps most importantly, elaborately-staged photographs of his wife and muse, Marie.” 

I love to see the Marie stencil both colorfully rendered and stripped of color, and combined in unexpected ways for whimsical pattern play.

I’m currently feeling inspired to play with lots of disparate and unexpected textures, stencils, threads, variegated flosses, and fabric colors. Perhaps it’s the thought of spring (and her flowers) just ahead, or of the dark days that are (hopefully) behind. Nonetheless, I can’t stop looking at these photos of Marie and dreaming in black, white, and color.  

Subscribe to February’s Swatch of the Month here—or subscribe for the entire year.  

Get the Marie Stencil here in both as a digital download or physical stencil.  

Find our new Marie Kits here on our DIY Sewing Kit page.  

Read about Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands. 


This post contains some affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, we will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting the Alabama Chanin Journal.  

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