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Finding an Intersection Between Art and Business

Colorful scarves mark the way for an art-school grad

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The question is: Does Michele Oberdieck make scarves or art?

Her work is finding its way into stores as well as art galleries. Some people drape it round their necks. Others hang it on their walls.

In London's Harvey Nicholls department store, her first batch of more than 30 swishy scarves in rich strong colors and bold "devore" technique designs sold very well at 125 ($193) apiece in just a few pre-Christmas weeks. In Glasgow's Compass Gallery, Oberdieck's scarves, dropped into a basket near the reception desk, have been going not unlike hot cakes, given their 99 price tag ($153).

Oberdieck finished her degree in printed textiles at Glasgow School of Art about a year and half ago. Talking to her, it soon becomes clear that she is first an artist and second someone now having to face the often harsh realities of the commercial world. Her hope, like that of many an art-school graduate, is to be able to remain an artist while still earning her bread - not always an easy trick.

Since each scarf is individually made, her painting and drawing have taken something of a back seat. "Because I do everything myself," she says, "I have to keep on producing them." Only with the rushed order for Harvey Nicholls did she have some help with sewing. "I had to do 34 scarves in 2-1/2 weeks!"

"Devore," she explains, is a substance that she silkscreen-prints onto the velvet fabric (a silk-viscose mix) and that "burns out the pile of the velvet. The pile falls out, leaving the silk behind." So her designs have two distinct layers; they are "embossed, slightly sculptured." The pile is washed and rubbed out - an exhausting process.

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