Banner-making is a very old tradition, dating back to the festivals of ancient times. These great colorful graphics have always helped to herald festivities such as World's Fairs and Olympic competitions, as well as lesser announcements of good news such as store openings, sales, and museum events.
Banners have also become an important amateur craft, practiced often in the form of "banner bees" held for children in city parks and Y's, for adults at community centers, and for senior citizens in their own craft sessions. Participants are furnished "the makings"; the banners that come forth, though sometimes crude, are always personal and richly expressive. They are usually displayed with pride as home decoration. Handmade banners have been used increasingly as room dividers, in front of windows, or anyplace else in a room where there is enough movement of air to give them motion.(Anyone interested in a banner bee as a community project might suggest it to his local parks department, community center, or Y.)
"The banners I make are intended to be a celebration of color and movement," says Louise Kodis, a Northwestern artist, who for the past seven years has practiced her craft under the title of the Standard Banner Company of Spokane, Wash. For the past 18 months, she says, she has been able to make a complete living at her craft, selling her banners at prices that range from $100 for one to $2,500 for a small group. The four banners she has just finished on commission are 15 by 20 feet in size, although she has made banners to hang in immense public lobbies that are 35 feet long.Most of her work is commissioned, although she also shows at several major craft fairs and galleries each year. She exhibited this summer for the first time at the country's largest craft fair at Rhinebeck, N.Y., an annual event sponsored by American Craft Enterprises Inc.
In July, Louise Kodis was one of five banner-makers chosen by Deborah Farber-Isaacson for the "Flying Colors" exhibition at her Mindscape Gallery in Evanston, Ill. There, Mrs. Kodis's own abstract, free-form, and geometric pieces contrasted strongly with Carter Smith's unique tie-dyed banners, Sara Drower's banners with their flowing linear drawings on silk, Doreen Lah's partly embroidered and stuffed banner constructions made of elegant satins and velvets, and Joanne States' batik banners and those made with photo-image transfers. Most of the banners were designed in silk or nylon, to be seen in motion, rippling gently in the air.
Mrs. Kodis has a degree in fine arts from Washington State University, where her specialization was graphic design, and, before she became enthralled with textiles, she worked as a graphic designer. She says she has sewn everything there is to sew, including the "funky" recycled clothing which, for a time, she sold on commission through several shops. And before banners, she was doing appliqued wall hangings.
When she graduated to interpreting her designs with single weight fabrics she does not quite know, but she began to work with lightweight cotton and polyester mixtures, the thin nylon used for outdoor gear, and the Dacron cloth used for sails.
To make a banner, she first makes lots of drawings. When she decides one is right, she draws it onto gridded paper as a cartoon miniature. After perfecting it, she transfers the design to tracing paper with a large grid and makes a full-size cartoon, which she then uses as a pattern to cut her fabric.
Yes, she says, anyone can make a banner, particularly if they respond to fabric and if they can use a sewing machine. First efforts may not resemble her very professional output, but they will be fun to do and delightful to display.
Half the banners Mrs. Kodis makes now are bought for homes, she says, and are not only hung at windows, but to the side of large doorways, in deep stairwells, from ceiling beams, at the foot of beds, behind chairs, or anyplace else where they stand out from the wall and catch air currents. Some owners light their banners from behind, or spotlight them, and that highlights their decorative value even more.