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Subject: Mary Bright, 48, Curtain Maker Who Used Unorthodox Materials

New York
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Date Posted: November 30, 2002 5:36:03 EDT

Mary Bright, an innovative curtain maker whose work for the Museum of Modern Art, Calvin Klein, Wendi and Rupert Murdoch, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Lauren Bacall and other clients moved the traditional craft of cutting, sewing and pleating curtains to the realm of modern art, died yesterday in New York Presbyterian Hospital. She was 48.

The cause was lung cancer, said her husband, David Paskin, who was Ms. Bright's partner in Mary Bright Inc. He is her only immediate survivor.

Ms. Bright was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1954. She studied fine arts in London and fashion and millinery in Leeds. She was never formally trained as a designer.

Ms. Bright's first career in New York, where she moved in 1979, was as a hat maker.

"I couldn't find a hat I was willing to wear," Ms. Bright told The New York Times in 1983, offering an explanation for her constructivist-like head pieces. To complement them, she also designed clothing, including a cocktail dress with a revealing back blocked in, as though to foil window-peepers, by slats from a Levolor window blind.

Ms. Bright's first curtain design, for the actress Ellen Barkin in 1983, redirected her professionally into a field that she was acknowledged by design professionals to have redefined almost single-handedly.

Ms. Bright preferred experimenting with new or unorthodox materials, like corrugated paper or rubber or fine metal meshes, to cutting and sewing linen or wool, though her fabric designs also refined and renewed the idea of a simple curtain into something that went well beyond window covering.

Ms. Bright, asked in an interview this year why she had chosen something as homely as curtain making to make her artistic mark in the world, said, "I decide that if I was going to do something out of the ordinary, that I'd better start with something ordinary. I respect people who hate curtains."

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