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How April Cornell Brings Linens to Life with Artistry and Technique

By Claudia Marshall

ARTIST April Cornell takes inspiration from her surroundings here in Vermont — as does Donna Larabee, who designs all the linens for April Cornell's eponymous business, which is known worldwide for its richly hued textiles, apparel and home accents.

“April is a big lover of nature and natural beauty,” says Donna. “Just appreciating all the different seasons and what Mother Nature has to offer is one of the key drivers here.”

April Cornell

April Cornell

April Cornell started her business in Montreal in 1975, inspired by her travels to India and Afghanistan. The colors and patterns she saw in those far-flung places continue to inform her clothing and linen designs to this day.

Donna Larabee admits that you can buy cheaper products. “It’s much less expensive just to print a piece of fabric and hem it. But we print it and we print the border. Then we miter the border and it’s all engineered. We use top-quality cotton."

Artisan in India

An artisan at April Cornell's factory in India.

Many April Cornell prints involve a process called discharge printing. The fabric is dyed, and then, using a special technique, the dark color is pulled and another color is added. "It’s a blind printing process and you have to be a skilled artisan to print this way,” notes Donna.

That printing is primarily done in Cornell’s own factory in New Delhi, India, where she employs 250 workers. India is also where Cornell has focused her charitable efforts, starting a fund to “give a hand up — not a hand-out — to people in need.” The stated mission of the Giving World Foundation is to “help the disadvantaged in India become self-reliant.”

Meantime, back home in Vermont, April and Donna are excited about their holiday offerings. “Because our printing process is so complex, we don’t make oodles and oodles of this stuff. It’s all limited edition and limited quantity. It’s not like there’s a whole boatful. It is special and unique in the marketplace. You’re not going to find us in every store — and that’s part of the beauty,” Donna adds.

Close-up of Applicious print

A close-up of the Applicious print, with vivid hues that are achieved by a traditional hand-screening process.

Last updated: 10/24/15