Tie-Dye Revolutionary

Over the years, Tie-Dye has embellished everything from people to buildings to jewelry and even food!  It is truly an art form that is limited only to ones imagination.  The beautiful colors mingled together in twists and spirals and a variety of shapes, makes tie-dye the one style that can be loved by all. 

Maya Romanoff - 1969

Meet Maya Romanoff – a Wall Covering Revolutionary who let his creativity flow!

What Maya Romanoff puts on walls has long turned heads.  Since long before he tie-dyed his first T- shirt, he has been a revolutionary, all right. Tie-dyed his way right into the Smithsonian's permanent collection, and onto the cover of House & Garden. Sold a tie-dye leather vest to Roger Daltrey of The Who, a caftan to Cheryl Tiegs. And that was back in the 1970s when tie-dye, Tiegs and Daltrey were hot as the lit-up end of whatever everyone was smoking back at Woodstock.

Romanoff's psychedelic wraps — an opera coat, a backless ribbon dress — were hung above the grand staircase at Ultimo in Chicago's Gold Coast, flew off the racks at Henri Bendel in New York, I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.

But then, unwilling to put up with the ephemeral whims of now-it's-in-oops-it's-out fashion, Romanoff turned his tie-dye attention to outdoor art, draping Belvedere Castle in New York's Central Park with 150 yards of tie-dye panels and unrolling 48,000 square feet of hand-dyed canvas strips off the side of the Sun-Times building in Chicago.

Somehow, Romanoff found his way into interior design and started slapping tie-dye on the walls. Didn't stop at twisted, knotted, dyed cloth or paper either, once he discovered the canvas that is the wall.

He has put up mother-of-pearl, crushed granite and marble, and Swarovski crystals. He has papered walls in 18-karat gold. And braided hemp. And razor-thin slices of Paulownia wood, from the Chinese fig tree. And glass beads that shimmer like a lake at twilight.

"Extraordinary surfaces. Since 1969," goes the inscription of Maya Romanoff, the corporation, known in chic design circles around the globe for the last four decades for what it has done to the vertical planes that delineate our lives. Its logo, of two entwined lotus blossoms, is a touch of Zen that goes back to the beginning of this free-flowing enterprise.

Maya Romanoff remembers finger-painting as a little boy, growing up in a somewhat gilded childhood, in the Belmont Hotel on the North Side. His father was a metallurgist by training, made plumbing fixtures for a living. His mother, "brilliant, crazy," her son calls her, was a socialite, a philanthropist, once had been a model. His bedroom walls, he recalls, were covered in toile; the floor, a checkerboard of simple squares in blue and red linoleum.

He studied anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley — fell in love with a painter and fellow student named Becky. They graduated in 1965, heady times indeed. Self-avowed searchers, the pair took off, traveled through Europe, India and North Africa.

It was in the marketplace at Gabes in Tunisia that Maya was transfixed by the ancient art of tie-dyeing, the swirl of kaleidoscopic color and unpredictable pattern that emerged from all the dipping of hand-spun cloth.

"It was like walking into the astroplane," the young Romanoff was quoted as saying at the time.  By then he'd dropped his birth name, Richard, and taken on the name Multifarious Maya, given to him by a Punjab holy man during travels through India; Maya, taken from Sanskrit, means "doer of many things."

This article contains excerpts from February 21, 2010 By Barbara Mahany, Tribune Newspapers

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