Pattern by Proxy

Isa Catto Translates Her Nature-Inspired Watercolors into Sunny Fabrics

This Aspen painter has found new ways to share her beloved prints.

By Meredith Carroll November 27, 2019 Published in the Holiday 2019–2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Pillows from Isa Catto's new fabric collection


Conservation advocate and artist Isa Catto is infatuated with her e-bike. From her farm in Woody Creek, she regularly rides to Aspen and Basalt—although never in Lycra or other standard exercise attire. She attributes her aversion to the “Aspen uniform” (i.e., jeans and Lululemon) to her late mother, whom Catto describes as a “Southern woman and real powerhouse, who never would have left the house without looking accessorized.”

So when Catto couldn’t find a cycling garment that both looked good and performed, she created her own. “I needed longer, attractive skirts—not skorts—to wear from garden to walking trail to bike path to meetings and into the evening so I wasn’t constantly changing outfits,” she says. 

Catto models the e-bike skirt.

Initially, she rummaged through consignment shops for jersey skirts to experiment with; she ultimately fashioned a knee-length, versatile skirt with stretch. For the fabric print, she looked closer to home. For years, Catto has painted with watercolors, making quick color studies that effectively serve as notes from her travels. Her studio houses hundreds of these pieces, including one inspired by a stack of bowls in a Moroccan souk, now re-created on one of the biking skirts.

From a few scarves, sarongs, and an e-bike skirt, Catto then recently launched a line of tablecloths and pillows. All of the fabric is printed in North Carolina—using ecologically safe ink—and sewn in the US. Finding affordable seamstresses has been a challenge, but Catto feels strongly about weaving local industry and makers into her production process—especially since as a small-scale producer, she can emphasize not just the art, but the craft, too. 

“Design is another way to flex that creative imperative, to explore,” she says. “I’m always thinking about translating what I see.” 

You may never know where a bike ride will take you, but at least now a few more wardrobe options are available along the way.

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