Born in California on December 25, 1896, Marion Dorn was a textile designer who made a grand name for herself during lifetime and remains a veritable icon until this day. In 1916, she graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphics. First, Marion tried her luck in San Francisco, later in New York, where she gained recognition as a designer of batiks.
However, it wasn’t until 1923 that she realized her true vocation. That year she took a trip to Paris, which has changed her life forever, giving Dorn a chance to meet influential designers such as Raoul Dufy, and most importantly – a man of her dreams, the poster designer Edward McKnight Kauffer, with whom she continued to work and live until his death in 1954. This trip seemed to be the harbinger of her total departure from graphics to textile design.
Shortly after the meeting, the couple subsequently resided together to London, where Marion’s career took off. At the time, she was creating batik textiles, as well as printing on silk, linen and velvet. In 1925, May, five of her batiks were featured in Vogue, which directly contributed to her success and showed the intensiveness of her work. Soon, her fabrics arrived on London specialty store shelves and, since they were considered “modern textiles”, they even started to be exhibited in galleries and museums. One might say she became a living legend. In 1934, she founded her own company, Marion Dorn LTD, and began to receive prestigious commissions from major clients. Luxury hotels such as The Berkeley, London’s Claridges or the Savoy tapped her for floor coverings, the London Tube proudly wears her upholstery and Syrie Maugham’s famous “white room” is adorned with a carpet of Dorn’s design. Thanks to her unmeasurable contribution to the textile design, she received an honorary fellowship of the British Society of Industrial Artists in 1957. After years of success, Marion retired to Morocco, where she died in 1964 in Tangier.
Although made in the past century, her works still look fresh today. Sometimes she collaborated with Kauffer, like in the case of the book of carpet designs published in 1928. While Edward ultimately made projects of less than two dozen rugs, deciding to stick with poster design, she would go on to produce hundreds, some of them being the most beautiful Art Deco rug designs ever created. Her artistry was characterized by bold, strong lines and exuded geometric elegance. Nevertheless, nature was more than frequently present as an inspiration – shells, birds and foliage are Dorn’s constantly recurring motifs. Due to her vast imagination and brave use of colors she has forever inscribed her name in the canon of the paramount designers.