Art for Anywhere
Author Kit Wohl is one of scarf designer Ray Cole’s biggest fans.
“Ray Cole’s wearable art can make something very ordinary quite extraordinary,” says Kit Wohl, author and artist, referring to her extensive collection of Cole’s hand-screened scarves. “They are sumptuous silk charmeuse, crepe de chine and double georgette, and they range from scarves to full evening shawls or throws that are more of a flowing duster for more formal occasions, depending on the length and how they are combined.”
Kit smiles and adds, “I love to toss Ray’s original art over me, over chairs and hang them as tapestries on the wall.”
You don’t have to look far in her fashionable home to see colorful examples of Cole’s work. “Everything he does is aglow with color and there is a never-ending versatility in his work, not to mention that there is a bit of fun in each one. I also like that there is a unique artfulness in everything he does.”
Kit explains that most of her wardrobe is simple. “It’s in black, ivory or red, and when I add one of Ray’s pieces it wakes everything up,” she says. “The long shawls are designed to wear over silk tunics and palazzo pants or long skirts. Ray’s work ranges from whimsical, colorful patterns and funny to stunning, or simply elegant. When I need a little ‘zippity-doo-dah,’ it’s the ticket.”
The owner of almost 100 Cole pieces, Kit usually purchases everything directly from the artist. “It starts with a notion in my head, we get together and throw around ideas and the next thing I know, he’s created magic,” she says. “He has a large local following, as well as collectors all over the country, including many international celebrities, and a least one occupant of the White House who I am not allowed to mention by name. You can always find Ray’s wearable art at Ballin’s Uptown and Wise Buys in the French Quarter.”
You never know who owns a Ray Cole work of art. “Leah Chase, the iconic chef who owns Dooky Chase, noticed that I was wearing one of Ray’s scarves and she told me she was still mourning the loss of a blue shawl many years ago. Ray has an astonishing visual memory, and he replicated it exactly. Ray, Poppy Tooker and I gave Leah the new one for her 90th birthday.”
The unique scarves come in many sizes. “My smallest is about 12 inches,” she says. “It’s the perfect size to tie to a purse or a camera bag. My largest treasure is 10-feet tall It is a fish with the head almost reaching to the floor in the front and the tail nearly touching the floor in the back, and, oh I don’t want to forget to mention that it has scales. Needless to say it is very dramatic.”
She still loves her first acquisition of Cole’s wearable art. “It was a magnificent cream silk shawl that he did for me to wear when I was named one of the ‘10 Best Dressed Women in New Orleans’ years ago. It still makes me feel glamorous.”
No need to worry about where Kit keeps her collection. “Ray’s work is everywhere in my home, from the dressing room where a mannequin wears different pieces, to the living room, and in my studio for inspiration.”
Today, Cole is teaching Kit silk painting. “He even helped me to make a frame for stretching silk. I love to go to his workshop in his home. It’s a tiny space filled with glorious silks, French dyes, brushes and magical dust.”
Does she have a favorite item?
“Yes,” she quickly answers. “It’s a signature angle-length black silk shawl with gold silicone scrollwork that he did for the 25th Anniversary James Beard Award ceremonies in New York when my book was published. I loved it so that he also did another one exactly like it in ivory silk, and he’s working on a cayenne red one now. They are grand formal pieces, easily packed, wonderfully comfortable and different. In a shorter length they are perfect for dinner parties.” (Kit’s book is titled, “The James Beard Foundation’s Best of the Best: A 25th Anniversary Celebration of American’s Outstanding Chefs.)
The author of 11 cookbooks, Kit has the perfect way to celebrate the publication of each one. “Ray is working on the cayenne red shawl for my next book,” she says. “It’s my reward for ‘New Orleans Classic Creole,’ the eighth in my Classic series for Pelican Publishing Company.”