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Turning Patagonia into Collectible Art: Fred White

Brooklyn based BKB member Fred White is a Maryland native and artist who found his way to Brooklyn in an ‘86 Chevette Hatchback called “The Brown Hornet”.

He spends his days working at the 14th street Patagonia store, climbing at BKB, and also is a self-taught painter. He hand paints directly onto old Patagucci threads – effectively turning them into insanely beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art.

Fred White, modeling his 70s Vintage Patagonia Canvas Workshirt
Fred White, modeling his 70s Vintage Patagonia Canvas Workshirt

Meet Fred White, Brooklyn Boulders climber and artist. Photos by Koji Ishibashi.

What does climbing mean to you?
Climbing allows me to be present. It brings together the physical and the mental. In a creative way too – it challenges me to adapt. I have to be right there. It’s most fun when my mind is present and enjoying the moment of climbing.

Brooklyn Boulders is down home to me. The amalgamation of so many different people, friends I never knew climbed I’d end up meeting there.

Patagonia Reclaimed Cotton Hoodie. name: kush Acrylic on recycled and organic cotton
Patagonia Reclaimed Cotton Hoodie. name: kush
Acrylic on recycled and organic cotton. Photo by: Koji Ishibashi

So how did you get started painting on clothing?
Music was my first passion – I went to school for audio-engineering. Later, I took a painting class at the Art Students League of New York about twelve years ago during a transition in my life. I’d always considered myself an artist, but I never gave myself the chance to fully immerse myself into it. While painting I would use my shirts as a smock to clean my brushes, and someone told me that they liked the effect.

So I got some old tees and sweatshirts and started painting. I fell in love with the shape of clothing, and it’s extremely special to be able to share my work with people in an entirely different way.

Patagonia Chambray Workshirt. Name: colorfall, acrylic wash on organic cotton chambray.
Patagonia Chambray Workshirt. Name: colorfall, acrylic wash on organic cotton chambray. Photo by: Koji Ishibashi
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Photo by: Koji Ishibashi http://www.kojiishibashi.com/

What inspires your work?
I leave it to change. Early on, I was studying the I-Ching (the ancient Chinese book of changes). I still look at is as a source of understanding. I love going to museums to soak in indigenous culture and art, arabic script, patterns…when I paint – I’m not a trained artist – I just go with my gut instinct. I leave change, and chance to guide my paintbrush.

Wow – so you don’t plan out any of your pieces ahead of time?
I never know what it’s gonna look like in the end [laughs]. I just sort of a meditative process, of discovering what’s next. Kind of like climbing – I don’t usually project or think about what I’m gonna do. I just do it.

To see more of Fred’s work, commission or buy a piece, check out his website, http://www.change49.com.