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In Bloom
New York textile designer turns to the garden for artistic inspiration

“Chances are if you’re a fool for flowers, you’ve admired one of Kim Parker’s designs,” reads the opening sentence of a Country Living magazine article last June. The dazzling four-page photo spread, aptly titled “Flower Power,” serves as the latest proof of Parker’s new, yet firm place among New York’s most recognized artists and designers.

So it comes as some surprise to learn that this energetic, hip, and highly sought-after Manhattan textile designer chose Oberlin not to study art, but music. “I actually took my only formal painting class at Queens College the summer after my senior year at Oberlin,” she says. “I earned six credits to send back to Oberlin so I could officially graduate!”

Raised in a family of professional musicians, among a steady stream of artistic inspiration, Parker nurtured early loves of art and music. As early as 3, she began churning out paintings and has clear memories of her parents framing her earliest works. “As a child, my passion was always right in front of me, working with color,” she says. “Color provided me with a healing force, a quiet sanctuary where I could escape into my own little world.”

At age 8 Parker joined the family’s musical quartet as a flutist. “After attending one flute recital, I knew I had found my instrument—it resembled a bird’s song,” she says. By 11, she had won several major competitions, and at 16 played principal flute at Tanglewood under conductor Leonard Bernstein.

“It was the thrill of a lifetime,” she says. “Bernstein had always been one of my heroes. We were the second orchestra ever to play his Divertimento—the Boston Symphony had premiered it the previous night—and we had to rehearse under his baton, cold! His ebullience and warmth and divine energy were greater than I’d ever imagined.”

Parker's Woodland Floral
bedding collection.

At Oberlin, where Parker studied flute with Robert Willoughby in the Conservatory, she discovered a great attraction to art history, particularly courses in modern art and German Expressionism. “I enjoyed reading more for those classes than music theory,” she says. “By the time I graduated, I was eager to spread my wings in the big city. Oberlin’s small town embrace was warm, but kind of surreal for me.”

Moving to New York after graduation, Parker gave into the nagging need to reach beyond her music. “I wanted time to experience the big city as a civilian instead of plunging into an orchestral flute career,” she says.

So for several years she bounced around, trying her hand at various jobs in New York, including posts as a music magazine editor, a music manager, and a fund-raiser for a museum. Eventually her quest led to Europe, where inspired by the beauty of her surroundings, she rediscovered a musical camaraderie and took a job teaching flute at the British School in Brussels.

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