The Rumpl Artist Division (R.A.D.) is a collaborative program that showcases the work of accomplished and upcoming artists who use diverse mediums to inspire creativity in impassioned communities around the world. LEARN MORE >
This season, we’re proud to feature the work of award-winning digital artist and printmaker, Darby Raymond-Overstreet. Darby was born in Tuba City, Arizona and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona; she is a proud member of the Navajo Nation. Darby’s work is heavily inspired by and derived from traditional Diné/Navajo textiles woven in the late 1800s-1950s. We caught up with Darby to talk with her about her work, inspiration, and to learn more about the print she created for Rumpl - Sundown which is featured on The NanoLoft Puffy, Stash Mat, and Everywhere Towel. A portion of the sales of the products in this collection will benefit First Peoples Fund, an organization committed to honoring and supporting Indigenous artists and culture bearers.
Diving right in, tell us who you are and how you got into art.
I am a digital artist and a printmaker. I create mixed media work, but I study, work with, and create Navajo pattern designs. Art has always been a part of my life. I’ve always created, but I got into the work I am creating now in college during my undergraduate studies. I had moved across the country from the Southwest to the East Coast and was really homesick. The way that I grounded myself and stayed connected to my community and my culture was through my artwork. That’s when I began to study older Navajo textile weavings and pattern designs and to reimagine them into portraits, landscapes, and my own abstract forms and designs.
What/who are your most significant artistic influences?
Navajo weavers are my greatest influence. I tend to focus my studies on older rugs woven between the 1880s and 1950s. I am particularly inspired by weavers from that generation. My great-grandmother was a weaver herself, so I am certainly inspired by her and grew up looking up at her weaving in my family home. I am not a weaver; I am a digital artist. I work with scans of these older rugs, and that’s how I create my portraiture. My great-grandmother passed on before I could really learn from her, so my work is my own way of continuing that legacy in our family, but with my own personal twist to it.
How do you feel your Indigenous cultural background has influenced your art?
My cultural background influences the lens through which I see the world and how I experience my creative process.
How do you feel about how prevalent Native-inspired art is in fashion, design, and popular culture? Do you see a problem with that?
I think that Native style is prevalent in popular culture, whether in music, movies, literature, visual arts, or fashion trends. Unfortunately, most of the time, it’s not Native artists who are putting it out there. That’s when we start talking about appropriation. The problem is that when Native American people don’t make the designs, and non-Native people make them, it’s usually their idea of what Native American culture and Native American style and art should look like. But when they are not asking us to create the designs, they aren’t lifting our voices, and that renders us invisible to the greater society and greater culture –– that’s problematic.
Do you feel it is important for brands to work directly with native artists for those types of designs?
I think brands should embrace Native artists if they want to incorporate Native designs into their products. They should celebrate Native ideas, Native designs, Native artists, and Native voices.
Tell us about the piece that you created for Rumpl.
The design I created for Rumpl, I call it a star pattern. When I create all of my patterns, I try to evoke a sense of beauty, balance, and belonging. In particular, this design started by being inspired by the night sky and evolved to being inspired by the sun and thinking about the relationship that we have to the sun. Especially in the Southwest, we have to live in balance with the sun a lot. I oftentimes think the way the landscape is illuminated here; you can see that beauty, balance, and relationship that everything has with the sun itself. For the color scheme, I was really inspired by sunsets and traveling through the desert right when the sun crosses the sky. That’s when you see all of those hues- the reds and the browns and the warm colors shift and become more vibrant. The landscape of the Southwest definitely inspires me. I grew up in Northern Arizona, but my family is mostly from Northwestern New Mexico. On the weekends, we would travel over the state line through the reservation near the Monument Valley area. Driving after school as the sun is going down, you really see all of those colors shift, and the landscape itself is illuminated by the sun’s light- that beauty. That’s something I carry with me for sure.
"I think brands should embrace Native artists if they want to incorporate Native designs into their products. They should celebrate Native ideas, Native designs, Native artists, and Native voices."
Tell us about your relationship and work with First Peoples Fund?
First Peoples Fund supports Native American artists and cultural bearers through programs and training. They help me to grow my vision as an Indigenous artist and as an artist/entrepreneur who holds those values. I was a recipient of their Artists in Business Leadership Fellowship. It really came at the right time for me. They provided the support that I needed to realize my dreams.
Where would you like to take your art next?
I just want to keep creating. I want to create more portraits and, of course, develop my printmaking practice. I really hope that my work can grow to teach people about the community that I come from. Many times, people have an antiquated view of Native Americans, and it’s not to any fault of their own. Still, it’s my vision that my artwork can provide that perspective and be an opportunity for people to have a real connection to my people and my culture.
I hope my work reaches a wide audience. It’s not necessarily about age, but a willingness to connect to people. I hope my work inspires younger generations. I feel like I am doing something new and a lot of people haven’t seen artwork like mine, so I hope if anything, I really inspire younger artists to really step into their own vision and make the art that speaks to them.
Learn more about Darby’s work here.
Follow her @darby.r.overstreet