Moonfire Textiles
The Creations of Melanie Hofmann

by Randy Peyser

Recently, Melanie Hofmann hired a contractor to finish some construction on her home. By the time the contractor had completed the project, he had hired Hofmann to design a logo for his business and reproduce his image on T-shirts.

It’s easy to understand why Melanie Hofmann, a digital artist specializing in textiles, is discovering great demand for her work. Hofmann, who has a degree in Fine Arts from the California College of Arts and Crafts, produces absolutely stunning, high contrast images in print as well as unique screen prints and transfers on fabric which are in a class by themselves. 

Using state-of-the-art digital equipment, Hofmann employs a variety of techniques to achieve the special effects which are fast becoming her trademark. Placing objects such as rocks or crumpled up pieces of fabric upon a scanner, Hofmann goes to work to create her masterpieces. Programs such as PhotoShop™, enable her to manipulate the images once they are scanned. An ordinary eucalyptus leaf is transformed into a fluourescent frond of glowing blue-purple. A rock takes on an otherworldly transparent appearance. 

Says Hofmann, “My new work is from the realm of imagination rather than from the realm of reality. Although there are elements of reality in my pictures, such as the images of leaves or flowers, the final images that I create from them are not images that you would find in reality.” By inverting or intensifying colors, applying various filters, or layering objects, Hofmann is able to achieve a final product which suggests little-to-no evidence of what the original object might have been. Each piece has a mystique all its own, at once drawing the observer in, while also leaving the viewer to question what it is exactly that they are looking at.

This outcome delights Hofmann who firmly believes that art is about the joy of discovery. She loves for her viewers to explore each of her images with the same kind of wonder that a young child might feel upon discovering their first flower or insect. One piece might suggest the movement of wind, another possibly suggests a road, perhaps representing the journey of life. Ultimately, each vibrant image is open to the interpretation of the viewer.

It excites Hofmann to explore the unknown and to interact with the unpredictable in her creative process. For example, while scanning rocks, Hofmann discovered that the top of the scanner couldn’t be closed. The partially open scanner created a stunning rainbow in the final picture. “I love starting something, then being surprised by it, then taking that surprise even further and developing something new. Sometimes incredibly beautiful colors, textures, ridges and edges result. It’s always an unknown.”

“The quality of the dye sublimation prints are stunning,” says Hofmann. Although she has the capability to produce countless numbers of her digitalized images, Hofmann prefers to keep press runs small, limiting each piece to fifty high contrast prints.

Hofmann has also developed a unique series of pieces which she reproduces on high quality printing paper as well as on t-shirts by using a special heat press. The final outcome closely resembles a cross-stitched pattern or piece of embroidery. To create this special effect digitally, Hofmann takes an image such as a flower, then drastically lowers the image’s resolution, until the image is abstracted. From this pixilated image, she’ll create screens for the four-color separations which isolate the cyan, magenta, yellow and black colors. By screen printing each of these colors, one on top of the other, numerous secondary colors are formed. 

Hofmann creates numerous pieces by interchanging the four screens. The screen that was used for cyan in one piece, might be used for magenta the next time. The screen that was used for yellow might next be used for cyan. The result is a smorgasboard of color possibilities and final outcomes. 

Hofmann’s work ranges from images on glossy paper to massive works in fabric which run floor-to-ceiling. No matter what the size, each piece has its own striking presence, demanding the viewer’s attention. The large fabric pieces, which look somewhat quilt-like, are designed in Photoshop™ then screen printed with dyes and textile inks. 

The work that Hofmann produces is purely about the joy of creation and the process of playful imagination. This wasn’t always the case. At age nineteen, the artist was raped at gunpoint while studying weaving in Mexico. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Hofmann forgot about art. But after fifteen years, art eventually became a way for Hofmann to put the pieces of her life back together. 

“All the years of artistic deprivation led me to realize that doing my art was what I wanted more than anything. When I started at the College of Arts and Crafts, I was thirty-five-years-old and had just gotten pregnant. My daughter, Emily, was born at the end of my second semester. Less than a year later, my husband, who was disabled with cerebral palsy, fell in love with his attendant. We separated. I was a single mother as well as an art student. I had to rely on State support and wondered how I was going to survive.”

An inheritance from her mother enabled Hofmann to fund her dream. “Initially I was excited about the process of job hunting after I graduated from school. I thought I would do textile or graphic design for some company. But I discovered that in order for me to do the kind of work I really wanted to do, I had to start my own business. I decided to just go for it. It seemed like a risk that could potentially be a good one to take.”

The name, “Moonfire Textiles,” was inspired by Emily, now seven-years-old. One day, Emily who had attended some Native American gatherings with her father, declared to her mother, “You’ve got to have a Medicine name. How about Moonfire?” At the time, Hofmann had just located the space to set up her high-tech art studio. “Moonfire Textiles” was born. 

It’s no wonder that Melanie Hofmann’s business is unfolding rapidly through word of mouth. If Hofmann continues to produce work at the caliber of quality she is producing at present, she should have no problems attracting the clientele she rightly deserves. 

To view her work, check out the Surface Design Association web site, or Moonfire Digital Art

The artist can be reached at (510) 524-4966. 

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