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Meet Ira Kennedy, Moda's Newest Designer

Meet Ira Kennedy, Moda's Newest Designer

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

Though Moda’s newest designer Ira Kennedy is a painter, he can “follow the threads” of fabric throughout his life.

Ira Kennedy with Anchor outside studio

From babyhood, when his Grandma Rosa made him a beloved scrappy blanket, to New York in 1966 when he worked as a fabric cutter for Kristina Gorby Apparel, to his painter’s easel constructed from pieces of an old quilting frame, textiles and the memories they evoke loom large in Ira’s life.  “Age has a way of clarifying events,” he says. “Seemingly insignificant threads become woven into a tapestry which combines all of the aspects of a life.”

Dreamscapes quilt by Kathy Kennedy

The latest thread in that tapestry is Dreamscapes, his first line of fabric for Moda. Dreamscapes includes two panels inspired by his home and environs in Texas Hill Country, along with florals and blenders. Each piece shimmers with the myriad dots that Ira employs to create landscapes in jewel-like tones, a technique that pays homage to Vincent Van Gogh and Aboriginal art. Ira’s sister emigrated to Australia some 20 years ago and his visit there shifted his focus from the realistic landscapes he had been painting. Back in Texas he was asked to paint a life-sized fiberglass deer as part of a community arts project and realism didn’t seem quite right. “I thought dots might work and two hours later I thought, ‘Now I know how I was supposed to be doing this my entire life,’ he says. “Those dots just fascinated me.”

Ira Kennedy paint brush handles to create dots

He uses the "handles" of old paintbrushes to create them.

CT Ira Painting Close-Up

Ira’s painting style also draws on a life that’s taken him from Texas to Japan, Virginia, New York, San Francisco, and back to Texas again. His first drawings were copies of the Japanese scrolls in his family home and then he moved on to replicating comics and cartoons. Over the years he’s supported himself and his family setting type, subcontracting remodeling projects (including a loft for Bette Midler’s and Diane Keaton’s apartments), and as an art director and freelance writer. Here's the studio where he paints today.

Ira Kennedy studio and rainbow

Today, his paintings are largely commissioned pieces—when we talked he was completing one of the largest pieces he’s ever done, a 3’ x 6.5’ painting that will take about six months to complete.

Ira Kennedy large painting in studio

He and his wife Kathy live in the Texas Hill Country, where Ira paints in his studio and Kathy, an avid quilter, stitches and handles the business side of life.

Kathy Kennedy with quilt

“Kathy and I have become an ‘art couple,’” says Ira. “We are very busy, but at 5 p.m. we quit work and in the evening our time is devoted to each other. There is no place like home, and no feeling like knowing you are sharing it with the love of your life.” 

CT Ira Painting with Grandson Tyler

Art is in the family, as Ira paints with his grandson, Tyler.

Welcome, Ira! We look forward to Dreamscapes!

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