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“Sea Things” Tray

Consolidated Molded Products Corporation — Waverly Products


Ray designed this lively pattern of marine plants, animals, and other organisms in 1945. Here, it’s used to animate a serving tray, a common use for textile designs in the period. “Sea Things” is one of four patterns she designed around this time, and while the others are geometric abstractions, this one stands out for its figurative quality. Lobsters, starfish, coral, and other creatures are easily recognized and accompanied by an array of stars and dots that bring greater density to the composition. Two years later, Ray submitted the design to the Museum of Modern Art’s “Competition for Printed Fabrics.” The pattern was awarded an honorable mention and exhibited alongside other prize-winners at the museum, as well as at department stores across the country as part of an accompanying retail promotion. The design’s alternative title, “Brown and Black Free Shapes on a White Ground,” emphasizes its “free” or hand-drawn quality and also describes one of several colorways that Ray created. This example clearly departs from that palette, instead rendering the forms in a uniform golden hue that creates high-contrast with the aquamarine background. One of the most difficult challenges facing textile designers is hiding the repeat. “Sea Things” is very accomplished in regard to this: the pattern is designed in such a way that it is very difficult to see the repeats.

  • Medium:Molded plastic
  • Dimensions:1 x 14 x 14 in. (2.5 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm)
  • Item:2019.2.215