Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Kermit Oliver - Painter and Hermes' only American scarf designer

Some of you may know that I like to collect Hermes Scarves.
I do have my favorites and I will do future posts on them.
But there is one designer that I admire and am intrigued about.


One of the few photographs of Kermit Oliver Via
His name is Kermit Oliver.
He is the only designer from the United States 
to have been hired by Hermes which is an accolade in itself.



Scarf collectors and Oliver fans are all awaiting the release of his latest design for the Spring Summer 2014 scarf collection.
This will be his 17th design for the French design house.


Some of his previoius designs.
Please click here to see his full past range.

He is known to design based on themes of "Americana."



His scarf  "Les Ameriques" featuring Christopher Columbus.
It took 6 months for the technical drawings to be finished.
The detail of his work is more intensive than most.



Pony Express combined history with horses.
As he was and is a painter, his scarves definitely lend themselves to framing exceptionally well.


Pictures above via

But he has also done an ode to Canada.

Via
The design that he is most renown for but was also a huge commercial success is Faune and Flore du Texas.



A good condition piece can sell for as much as 
the retail price of a scarf at present. 
The first issue can easily go triple the price.


My personal favorite of his designs and one I will purchase if I can get my hands on a decent, genuine issue is the Kachinas.

Via
Kachina is an American Indian concept mainly pertaining to the Southwest of spirits or personifications of spirits.
I had my own experience with kachinas in Sedona, Arizona.
Kachina woman in Boynton Canyon located by Mii Amo Enchantment Resort
This was before digital cameras were widely used but everytime my friend or I would try and take a picture of a certain famous one located in Boynton Canyon, the camera would just go blank.  Sounds weird but you had to be there.

Mr Oliver is of mixed ancestry.
He is Native American, African American, Hispanic, German and Irish blood but most importantly he considers himself Texan.
He still lives in Waco, Texas.

One of Kermit Oliver's paintings

He was discovered by Jean Louis Dumas - the legendary and hereditary creative director of Hermes and was commissioned immediately.  Mr Oliver is a formally trained painter and for a time had been successful in the art market.  Some of his paintings have been known to sell for $70,000 but he didn't and doesn't play along with the politics of art gallerists.

Via

To this day, he still does the night shift sorting mail at the local post office at Waco, Texas.
He has had personal tragedy as his son was sentenced to death after being charged for an armed robbery.  
A lot of his energy for ten years was spent in fighting to defend his son's case but lost the battle in 2009.

Via
Some of you may remember I went to the Hermes scarf printing workshop (Festival des Metiers) last May.( click here for link)



The gentleman, Kamel Hamadou, who heads the silk atelier for Hermes carried a small scarf by Kermit Oliver. 
He said that it was one of his prized possessions that 
he would have as a family heirloom. 
 I asked why him out of all the designers when he must have met and worked with over his twenty year plus career at Hermes.
And he pursed his lips and made a very latin hand gesture making up for what words failed him.
Then he said, " He is just special..."

Kamel Hamadou showing a vintage scarf at the Festival des Metiers.
I personally find this story so moving.
It seems our mindset has shifted in finding a star a la X factor, where everything seems as fleeting, temporary, and dependent on a flash of luck or whim.
But he has no ego, no entourage, no bravado.
He just works hard and nurtures his talent quietly.
It is so rare to see these days that
 I just wanted to spread the word about him.


If you are interested in reading about him further, 
please click on this link.

59 comments:

  1. I remember being blown away hearing the story in NPR. Simply amazing man.

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    1. He truly is. But parts of hist story is heartbreaking...

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  2. WOW how amazing is this story about this artist. I'll be paying closer attention and reading more, thanks Naomi. Also that Canada scarf, hmm would love to get my paws on that one.

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    1. He is quite amazing. I love reading the stories behind the artist. I think the Canada one is also highly sought after though!

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  3. Love this Naomi! I have not seen a hermes scarf I would actually want to buy, until tonight. Love these!

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    1. I can see the Canada scarf hanging in your study!

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  4. Extraordinary designs ..would love to see them in the flesh so to speak, come to think of it on my flesh too

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    1. Smr, it feels amazing as well but for his designs I would be afraid of spilling stuff on it!

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  5. They would deffo lend themselves to framing. I would never tie something with that detail around my waist or neck!
    Those texans and their death penalty.... Gaaaarrrrgggghhh,

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    1. I know - I havent looked that closely at the case but the penalties were varied - some got ten years but for some reason his son got life. But to prevent getting pissed off to no avail I would rather not delve...

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  6. Great post on Kermit. I am not very much into his designs, but I only lived in Texas for 3 years. Maybe if I'd stayed longer they would've grown on me. I love that he still sorts mail and lives in Waco. It probably keeps him inspired. I will keep my eye out re Kachinas, that must go for so much money now. I have a list of scarves I look for now and again since you never know what will come up for auction. No pillow making out of Kachinas for you though, young lady! XO, Jill

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    1. If I am honest, it took a while to get into them. At first, I just didn't get it as I found them a little too one dimensional but actually now that I know his history I see that he treats the scarves as paintings so it makes sense. It is astonishing that he still does the night shift at his post office...If I got the Kachinas I would frame it straight away - I wouldn't even dare stroke it too much Jil! xx

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  7. Thank you Naomi! Such an interesting artist. I personally find the vapid cult of celebrity worship to be abhorrent, and delight in reading about people like Kermit who quietly make the world a more intriguing place. Great!

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed it - these types of posts are not very popular but I am glad that there are people who like reading about people like him. He is one of those quiet heroes and I just don't think he gets the credit he deserves.

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  8. What an interesting post and reading about this designer makes the scarves even more special. His background as an artist is certainly evident in his intricate and colourful designs. He still sorts mail at his local post office too!

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    1. Yes it is true - the art makes more sense knowing his background and I just can't get over someone of his stature still sorting out the post in the night shift!

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    2. I can understand it ..his work colleagues may be his friends by now , it also gives his life balance a change from solitary work designing those beauties.

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    3. In a way I was thinking about this SMR and i think that he must train his brain to do safe repetitive work that balances all his creativity his brain must be teeming with!

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  9. I have only recently discovered Hermes...I know, a bit slow down here. His scarves are lovely paintings and very Native American.

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    1. Better late than never. His paintings are also fabulous and is in the permanent art collections of some museums in Houston if you ever go there?

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  10. After reading this, I immediately placed a bid on a hermes scarf on ebay that I have since won. My first! Have been putting off investing thinking they were too mature for me, but it's my 32nd birthday next week- I've finally come of age x

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    1. OMG! So happy for you - lucky you! Which one is it? Please model for us in your next post?? How exciting :) xx

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  11. Wow, what a wonderful story and how uplifting and yet so terribly sad, would make a lovely documentary. "To this day, he still does the night shift sorting mail at the local post office at Waco, Texas.
    He has had personal tragedy as his son was sentenced to death after being charged for an armed robbery.
    A lot of his energy for ten years was spent in fighting to defend his son's case but lost the battle in 2009." That is just so tragic. I love scarves but do not suit them, my neck is too short - how do you wear them, would love to see a post on them (or maybe you've linked, will read again)

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    1. I haven't modeled any but I have just written about it - I think there is only one pic but you know I am still shy!! But his story is intense and it is not of our times. But he is inspirational because he just continues to work both in art and general so he is a personal fave of mine.

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  12. You are quite right that we do not bring these 'special' people to the forefront of more people's minds often enough. I guess the media moguls don't believe anyone would be interested, but there is always a way to make something relevant and thus interesting, Every sane woman/girl wants a Hermes piece and therefore to have a background story about the coveted brand such as this would draw a lot of people in I'm sure. I'll be honest I knew nothing of him, but he seems to be a very inspirational, humble and modest man xx

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    1. I think that it is funny that he is part of a design house that people go gaga over and he is in the middle of Texas doing his own thing. He isn't famous but just has a cult following but I did want people to know about him and his art. xx

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    1. Just like the artist himself though apparently he doesn't like crowds or needless chatting.

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  14. Moved to tears by this story and the beauty and artistry and care that goes in to a Hermes scarf.

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    1. Yes and the artist himself makes me look and appreciate the work even more!

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  15. Thank you for this post, Naomi, this is fascinating and so sad about his son. His story reminds me of the last line in the movie "Babette's Feast": "An artist is never poor."

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    1. SO true Louise - I think I need to watch that movie again!

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    2. One of my all time favourite movies! Pamela

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  16. You might think I'm an idiot, but the first thing I thought when I read the title was: "Kermit! That's Jenna Marbles' dog's name!!":D He's really talented, the person, not the dog, all of the scarves could basically be framed and hanged as paintings... And he still works at a post office?? That to me is beyond remarkable.

    P. S.: As soon as I saw your first post without comments, I thought I need to do that too. I 100 % get it why you did it, I also need a break from my computer.

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    1. No - that is actually the first natural reaction Peet!! He is remarkable - and yes I love to comment and read comments but I just wanted that once in a while the reader also to be able to just read and move on without any sort of doubt whether one should bother commenting. I don't want to burn out :)

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  17. Thank you for this post - so fascinating! So wonderful to really learn things from blogs and have horizons extended.
    Another Hermes scarf fanatic, have a little Hermes scarf collection that I wear (carefully) and the coffee table Hermes scarf book - also visited the Hermes Festival des Metiers in London last year and loved. Had studied the American Indian scarves etc (in illustrations) but while admiring the artistry was never drawn, probably because I'm an Aussie and they're so North American in feeling which I hadn't immediately related to - but love Australian aboriginal art. Now thanks to you I look at them with new eyes. What an amazing story, sad but uplifting too.
    It also adds to my admiration for Hermes creative management - that they found and developed such a rare and otherwise obscure talent. Have one or two from their Indian (South Asia) collection some years ago, one of which is the image of a mandala, most of the profits were going to charity, aids in India I think, again kudos to Hermes. Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. Hello Pamela! It is good to share these things to a fellow scarf collector. As I want to be serious and knowledgeable about it I try and do a lot of research as it makes a difference in perspective. I adore aboriginal art and to this day regret not getting something back when it was still affordable. But I do have the hermes scarf called Gloria. Have you heard of it? She is an aboriginal artist that got commissioned and i got it for sentimental reasons. Shall post it when I get my boxes back! All the best, naomi

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    2. Hi Naomi! Yes, only another scarf collector would understand! Clever you to get the Hermes by Gloria. Think it was by Gloria Petyarre. Does that sound right? Haven't seen that one but did find another scarf designed by her, though it's not Hermes. Look forward to your post with her H scarf. I also collect scarves by artists who aren't regular scarf designers, favourites include a silk scarf designed by Niki de St Phalle with the designs for her Stravinsky fountain near the Pompidou Centre (bought from the Modern Art Museum in Nice) and a cotton square designed by Alexander Calder (from the Maeght Museum in St Paul de Vence). Also a gorgeous old black opal design by Jenny Kee which I adore (from National Gallery Oz years ago). I should stop collecting because I have at least enough to wear a different one every day for over a year. When I read Janet's blog I feel kind of embarrassed. But somehow I enjoy collecting them so much (not all Hermes of course, also other French - FF helped me choose one at Chanel in Paris - and Italian designers plus others) - love vintage shops and flea markets for same reason, Op Shops too (one of my Hermes came from an Op. Shop, probably never worn and cost $5). And there are worse bad habits I suppose. I don't smoke and don't drink to excess or consort with wild men. Just hope my grand-daughters will grow up to like scarves because they're going to inherit my collection! They enjoy playing dress-ups with them now anyway. Cheers, Pamela

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    3. Well Pamela, you sure know your stuff!! Yes it was indeed Gloria Petyarre and you are right that she did another special scarf but not for Hermes. If you feel you have so many I suggest you get the contraption Hermes sell in the States and perhaps Australia where you can display it on your walls like they do in the stores as I sometimes feel guilty looking at them in the drawers. I would love to branch out like you have and get some other brands but I am trying to follow strict rules of collecting. But what lucky granddaughters! But I mentioned this once to Heidi but you really should be blogging!! Please do consider it.

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  18. fascinating!!!! love this story. I don't know my scarf designers!! must find out x

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    1. Please post on your favorite scarf and your fave designer! Would love to see xx

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  19. quelle thought-provoking post!

    *clicking* onwards to read more about Mr. K

    in t r i g u e d...

    *wavingfromlosangeles*

    _tg xx

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    1. He might be sorting through your amazon orders!xx

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  20. I didn't know anything about him ! Nice post !
    http://www.melolimparfaite.com

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  21. I thought I posted a comment during the week, but it mustn't have made it (bad internet reception on KI).

    Fascinating story - although I have to say, I'm not that fond of the designs. Much like Pamela has said they're very American, I remember reading about how collectable the doll one was in Bringing home the Birkin.

    Just finished clearing out my Mum's things today (with my sisters, so it took a while...) and I've brought home another Hermes scarf for my scarf drawer (plus a few others). Mum loved a scarf, and I have to say, it's taken me a while, but I think I've got the bug too. I have my eye on the new season Licorne GM...

    I think you tend to be drawn to certain styles of designs - I like the floral/ gardenesque/ natural elements ones, along with geometrics and don't particularly love the ones with human figures and faces on them. Also not that fond of the horsey ones (although that is the mainstay of Hermes traditionally, and the one that was my Mum's is horsey, but then she loved horses). xx

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    1. Hope you had a great time in KI!

      I know what you mean about his designs - it is more for looking displayed out or it is an emotive thing - that Texas scarf sold out first in which locale? Yes it was Texas...Funny enough his actual paintings are a lot less intricate and I like his paintings a lot. But yes I have certain favourites designs and designers that I tend to go for too. Funny enough in Asia they don't like human figures or body parts on items at all! I once gave my mum a scarf with an American Indian chief head on it( mistakenly assuming it was KOliver) and when she opened the box she screamed saying she couldn't wear something with someone looking down her neck so now I wear it...I would love to see some of your Mum's stuff - what a lovely heirloom to have xx

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    2. I'll do a scarf post during the week I think. I have a lot of posts in my mind now... and fortunately School Holidays are over this week!! Hooray! I'll finally have time to do a bit of writing etc. I have a few of mum's scarves that I've put in the dress up box as well - mum loved a scarf and Dad was cringing about how much money she'd likely spent on them when he looked at the enormous pile my sisters and I were sorting through. I did point out to him that her bags were dreadful though, so he saved himself some money there!!!
      Hilarious about your mum and the scarf- I heard that Cest La Fete was one that didn't do well in South America and Asia for the superstition reason too, and had heard that the Asians don't like the figures.

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  22. You totally know your scarves! Thx for sharing, very interesting read. xo Caroline

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    1. Not an expert but love learning about them! Xx

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  23. Like some of the others posting here this is new to me but very interesting. I am going to do some more looking as well.

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  24. http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/portrait-artist-postman

    The fascinating article above is well worth your time.
    Sunshine&Smooches
    Houston

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    1. Thank you so much for the link! and for the sunshine ;)

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  25. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Oliver last week in Houston. What an unassuming, lovely gentleman.

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    1. Wow! Lucky you! I think he is also designing a scarf for the AW season as well. He is unassuming for sure.. I am glad to hear that everyone who meets him says nice things about him.

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  26. Thanks for all the great info on Mr. Oliver. I have an original Kachina scarf in white and haven't found any other like it on the web. I'm interested to know if you know if the white scarfs are more valuable. It was purchased around 1976-1977 and has been in my drawer in the box since then. I'd love for a collector to have it in their collection. Thanks for any info you can share on this white version.

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    1. Good point about the colorway bc with most scarves some colorways are more popular than others. I would say that the kachina in white would be rather wearable and great for framing so I would say on gut instinct that it would be quite valuable or at least very sellable. If I were you do not sell it on ebay though. I would go to either an auction house or a well known hermes scarf seller. Good luck with it and how very lucky of you to own such an item!!

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    2. Thank you for your helpful and quick reply!

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    3. More than welcome and please let us know how you go with it!

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