One weaves the fabric, the other makes the clothes

Randy Darwall and Brian Murphy are a collaborative pair that create functional textiles and apparel. Randy weaves fabric which Brian then uses to make clothing. They have a studio sale in Harwich Center four times a year that serves as both exhibition and storefront for their well-crafted pieces; the next sale dates are Sept. 5-6 and Nov. 28-29. They live in Harwich.

What does your artmaking history look like?

Randy: When I was a grad student at the Rhode Island School of Design, I really focused on studio courses. I stumbled into the weaving area by following my nose and I fell in love with the people, the equipment, the yarns, and the ability to work with color in a very different way. Once I started, I never really stopped.

Brian: Randy is the weaver and the colorist. I take what he weaves and I make clothing. He makes scarves and shawls. He also makes enough cloth [to] use as yardage and I do jackets from that. We met 30 years ago and we were married 11 years ago. It’s an amazing collaboration. Our tastes are similar yet different enough that we stimulate that creative process in each other.

Do you have a favorite material to use?


Randy: We both love silk. It just takes the dye.

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Brian: He loves dyeing it himself. We stumbled across wonderful silks in Rhode Island, it was the find of a lifetime. So everything we’re weaving now is with silk.

Functionality is key in your work. What is the value behind creating usable pieces of art rather than something you can just hang on a wall?

Randy: I had learned a lot about nonfuctional, purely visual fine arts in college and I think it was a reaction against all of that. There are few artists in the world that are really worth looking at. The rest of us are craftsmen. I think that as an educator, a crasftsman, and an artist myself, there’s art in each of us, and for me, making functional items puts art into the context of daily use. I don’t feel like my cloth becomes fully alive until it gets purchased and becomes part of a life. We spend a lot of time finding the right people for the cloth.

So you seek out the people who will wear these pieces?

Randy: We have clients all over the country. We’ve done craft shows together over the last 30 years and we have developed relationships with people who understand and collect our work.

If you hit a roadblock while you’re working, how do you work past it?

Randy: We pass it back and forth. I’ll get to a place where I don’t know what to do and Brian comes in with fresh eyes.


Brian: We’ve built up trust over the years, of liking what [the] other does, and we can be critical of each other’s work. We have a way of helping each other so that each day is a productive day.

What’s your relationship with color? How do you decide which colors to use?

Randy: It’s what drives the whole machine. It’s the first thing we think about and it’s the last think we think about. And it’s an active use of color, trying to get the color to move, to change, to suggest a sense of depth and atmosphere in the cloth. [It] comes from an artistic standpoint and focuses on humanity’s ability to make changes, and grow, and learn, and be actively involved in production, rather than just turning it over to a machine to make.

Do you have a favorite piece that you have collaborated on?

Randy: He’s done a series of quilts that I’ve been absolutely astounded by. He keeps finding a different kind of context for handwoven cloth, [putting] it out into the world in useful ways.

Brian: Because Randy has been weaving for 42 years, he’s [made] samples, set them aside, and used them as a teaching tool. A couple years ago, I started taking those pieces and combining them into quilts, [which] are a combination of both of our work. It’s my ability to put together pieces of Randy’s work. The colors still combine beautifully.

How does being on Cape Cod impact your work?

Randy: It is strange, there are definitely seasons down here that change the population. We’re really happy to see excitement come this summer, and we’re really happy to see it disappear after Labor Day.


Brian: Living on the Cape, it’s a place where we are able to be quiet, hide in our studios, and work. There’s a serenity that inspires both of us; it allows us to be creative, have time to ourselves, look at the nature around us. It allows us to be the people that we are.

This interview has been edited and condensed.