Q+A: Dale Kaplan

"They call me the Queen of 68 Jay," says Brooklyn native Dale Kaplan as she excitedly lays out all of her textiles. Dale has been running Dale Kaplan Designs in from the DUMBO building since 1994 and has definitely left a mark on the now tech-filled office building. The textile designer has gained great exposure over the years for her method of design and ability to transform clothing, bedding, and accessories. We sat down with Dale Kaplan to learn more about her unique techniques and plans for the future.

How did Dale Kaplan Designs start?

I created my business in September of 1994. I was working in the field of architecture and design, and when I was working with these design firms I began to really fall in love with color. I used to paint a lot and one day I just decided to put together a portfolio of my work on heat transfer paper. As I was sitting in a coffee shop one day a man behind the counter saw my work and said, "You should put your work on linens." I remember thinking how great of an idea that was, and since that day I have been working with linens.

You also call your business "Hi from Brooklyn" and it is seen on a lot of your work. What is the story behind this name?

I am a Brooklyn native, second generation. Many of my cousins and I grew up in the same neighborhood and many of them moved away; I didn't. This isn't the reason, but my mother, Pearl Kaplan, would always say "If you leave Brooklyn, you will never be happy."

Whenever I would send an e-mail to my cousins in California I would always put "Hi From Brooklyn" as the subject and that's how I came up with the name.

What inspires your textiles?

Nature has always inspired my work. When I first began creating textiles I would go to different parks around NYC and collect leaves and flowers. I used to transfer them to bed linens and it was supposed to look as if leaves and flowers went through your window and fell onto your covers. Before I started my own business I was working with Garnett Hill and they really enjoyed my concept, and it became a huge success. I continue to use nature throughout a majority of my work. I also love working with photographic thread, words, and anything that sparkles!

I am a native Brooklynite and I always think it's funny how Brooklyn has now become the cool spot to be... [when I started out] it was just a great atmosphere to be in and it still is.

Dale Kaplan

Why did you decide to bring your designs to DUMBO?

Well, I used to work in the back of a t-shirt company. When Garnett Hill first bought some of my designs, I got a studio in DUMBO. I am a native Brooklynite and I always think it's funny how Brooklyn has now become the cool spot to be. At that time, the neighborhood was full of artists and everyone knew each other. It was fabulous. I always like to say that by the time I even reached my studio I got four good morning kisses everyday. There were amazing people from all over. It was just a great atmosphere to be in and it still is.

You use a different technique than most designers. Can you tell us a little about the process?

I think one thing people will find interesting is that I have never used computers when creating my work. I always use scissors, heat transfer paper, and a color copier. I also use the dip-dye technique in a lot of my products.

Where has your art been featured?

My textiles have been featured in The Brooklyn Museum, YU Interiors, and The Queens Museum of Art.

My work has also been in businesses around Dumbo stores like Mel en Stel and Stewart/Stand. In a few weeks I will be featuring my work at Mark Jupiter which is very exciting.

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments when it comes to your textiles?

I actually taught a class for six months at LAND Gallery where I helped young people with disabilities learn how to transform art into product design. It gave me so much pleasure to work with these individuals, and they inspired me in so many ways.

Are there any upcoming events or projects you would like individuals to know about?

Yes! I will be in the Dumbo Art Festival and my higher-end work will be at Mark Jupiter Showroom in a few weeks.

Where do you see your business in the future?

I really see my company changing for the best in the future. I definitely want to do more custom work and fine art. I also want to do a lot more teaching to pass my knowledge on to younger generations. I enjoy being around people and it is always fulfilling to help those who have a passion for art. I also look forward to more collaborations and maybe even opening up my own art gallery.

Mentioned in this article

Mark Jupiter Showroom