May 1 - August 24, 2020
This collection comes from California-based writer Sarah Horowitz, who saw in a single kitchen towel something worthy of study. She purchased a vintage Martex “Dry-Me-Dry” towel online and was amazed at how well it functioned: Soft and absorbent yet quick-drying and lint-free, it became her go-to kitchen tool. It was, in other words, a good design.
Horowitz decided to investigate this everyday object. She sought out former West Point Manufacturing Company mill workers whose families had produced kitchen towels for generations in Alabama. She scoured historic newspaper advertisements to put names to unidentified designs. She located exhibition records from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, where in 1953 a Martex “Terazzo” pattern became the first towel of any kind to appear in the iconic Good Design exhibitions between 1950 and 1955. The towels presented here are featured in her resulting book Dry-Me-Dry: The Untold Story of the “Amazing 3 Fibre Towel.”
This is also a story of home furnishing designers John and Earline Kimbrell Brice, whose dish towel designs helped “this business to skyrocket” in the 1950s. Earline Brice (1914–1972) was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, and joined forces with John Brice (1921–1965) when the two young designers met while on staff at Macy’s in New York City. Marrying in 1946, the couple ran an independent design studio where their clients included Dow Chemical Company, Lightolier, and Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation.