Misplaced by History: Artists Worth Knowing, No.1
Tammis Keefe (1913-1960) was an American textile designer best known for her playful and innovative graphic designs on handkerchiefs, kitchen towels and scarves.
Born in Los Angeles, Keefe originally studied mathematics. She shifted her focus to art after visiting Chicago’s Art Institute while on a trip to the 1933-34 World’s Fair. Returning to Los Angeles she studied painting at the Chouinard Art School. During WWII, Keefe created advertising design and packaging as the Art Director of Arts & Architecture magazine.
Keefe’s whimsical designs were often inspired by her travels. Many were mini travel guides, showing highlights of attractions not to be missed. Her work also celebrated a love of nature and animals, antique furniture, weather vanes, and holidays. Her exuberant imagination knew no bounds. She also produced designs for home furnishing textiles, glassware, sportswear shirts, shower curtains, and much more.
Keefe was one of the first women to sign her name conspicuously on her work and to achieve name recognition. Before her death at age forty-six, she produced approximately four hundred designs for handkerchiefs and at least one hundred for dishtowels, all featuring her trademark unexpected color and subtle wit.
Keefe’s works, which are prized by collectors, can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,the Cooper Hewitt and the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.