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Natural Awakenings Boston

Dahlia Popovits: Weaving a Beautiful Career

Apr 30, 2011 02:00AM ● By Kim Childs

Just below street level on Union Street in Newton Centre sits Dahlia, a clothing and accessories store that someone might miss if they weren’t looking for it. Once inside, visitors are enveloped by a kind of soft, colorful cocoon of fabrics and yarns forming what could rightly be called wearable art. This is the world of Dahlia Popovits, weaver and clothing designer, artist and artisan, mother and businesswoman.

Dahlia’s shop is full of handmade and hand-dyed silk scarves from textile artists across the United States, displayed alongside multicolored, hand-woven vests, vesties (more structured vests with cap sleeves) and jackets designed and made by Popovits herself in the production studio behind the showroom. The natural-fiber fabrics include rayon, bamboo and cotton/bamboo blends, some of which are woven by Popovits in her home, where she lives with her husband, Marc Levine, a fellow artisan who makes one-of-a-kind handbags that look like small sculptures.

Popovits was raised in Israel and New York. She studied painting at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, but she learned about clothing design at home. “My mother was a seamstress and a maker of everything and anything textile—she was really incredible,” recalls Popovits. “I grew up with that and I picked it up when I was about five. I always enjoyed things like crocheting and knitting.”

During her last year of art school, Popovits took a weaving class on Cape Cod that ignited her love for the craft and started her on a career path that’s spanned more than three decades. “I have designed thousands and thousands of fabrics and I could see continuing to do it for another whole lifetime,” she says. “It’s fun to come up with a concept in my head, actualize it, and see the variations that comes forward within the original idea.”

Popovits says the tactile aspect of the work also draws her in, as she encourages a visitor to feel the softness of a bamboo jacket. Bamboo has become a popular material for environmentally conscious clothing manufacturers, she notes, because of its sustainability. “The full plant is used—it’s cut and spun into yarn—and bamboo grows like a weed,” explains Popovits. “It’s also an incredibly comfortable fiber that wicks away moisture and is relatively odor-free. So people like to do yoga in it, for example, and there are now sheets made of bamboo.”

Many women who buy Dahlia designs return year after year to add to their collection, says Popovits. As her clients have eased into their retirement years, she has moved away from business attire and toward clothing for special events and travel. The idea is to make clothes work for the customers, who can order items in the sizes and colors that best suit them. “I love my customers,” Popovits says, “so if they’re coming to me and looking for something in particular, I’d like to be able to offer it to them.”

Inspired by fashion, color, texture and nature, Popovits’ clothing is comfortable, stylish and distinctive, attracting fans who know it when they see it on other women. “I’ve heard this a number of times,” she remarks. “When somebody wears something of mine to a meeting or function and another woman says, ‘Oh, you’re wearing a Dahlia.’ It’s highly recognizable, and to me, that feels great.”

Popovits and her designs also can be found at craft shows in the Boston area and beyond, and some of the items are sold in Florida and Virginia boutiques. To appreciate the scope of the artist and her creations, visit Dahlia from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, or call to make an appointment.

Dahlia is located at 97M Union St., in Newton Centre. For more information, visit DahliaHandmade.com or call 617-527-4456.