In college I worked as an Arts Educator at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, acting as a docent for visiting groups of young students, and guiding them in hands-on creative projects after their tour. Beyond working as a TA, it was my first time teaching in a creative capacity, and definitely planted the seeds for the type of creative workshops I lead now in the Cotton & Flax studio.
2. Who do you think has been your greatest design influence?
I've certainly been influenced by Marimekko ⏤ seeing those bright, bold patterns sparked my love of Scandinavian design. I love the way they use color and pattern in such a modern, flat way.
3.Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
Every pattern I design begins as a sumi ink drawing. I like working directly with ink and paper because it leaves more room for error. That sounds counterintuitive, but since my patterns are so simple, it's actually the handmade variation that draws you in. The little imperfections in the line, the slight changes in weight... that's what gives my patterns flow and movement. If I design on a computer first, I find that wabi-sabi nature a little harder to reproduce.
The next step is to scan in my drawings, and clean them up a bit in photoshop or illustrator. If I'm creating a multicolor design, this means layering different elements into one file, or sometimes separating elements into multiple designs to be silkscreened one color at a time. For Cotton & Flax, the process is tied to the materials, and selecting base fabrics to print on is one of the most fun parts of the process for me. Tracking down the best 3mm wool felt yardage took months ⏤ for me it's all about finding the most beautiful colors and the highest quality fibers.
4. Do you have a colour or palette that you most like to work with?
I love the color of natural linen, that yarn-dyed flax color is so appealing to me. I collaborate with the design team at Robert Kaufman to select base fabric colors for each collection I create, and I think if they'd let me, I'd do a whole collection of just neutral linens.
5. Is there someone in the fabric design world who is a favourite, or who you like to keep your eye on?
I love all of Jen Hewett's fabrics, both her hand-printed designs, and the fabrics she created with RJR. Jen and I used to do the Renegade Craft Fair circuit at the outset of our businesses, so it's been fun to watch our businesses grow together.
6. Who taught you to sew?
My mom taught me to sew when I was a teenager, on a Janome machine that's basically identical to the one I still sew on. I wanted to learn how to customize my clothes, and add embroidery and other fun details. She was so patient with me, and I'm really grateful that she introduced me to this world!
7. What’s your favourite thing to make (sewing)?
Quilts! If I had more free time, I'd be making lots of quilts. I made a batch of wholecloth quilts last year, for the handful of friends with newborns, and they were a huge hit. I love how quick they sew up, but I wish I had more time to experiment with patchwork, embroidery, and appliqué.
8. If you weren’t a designer, what other career do you think you might have been good at or enjoyed?
I think I'd be an excellent studio manager for another artist. I really like the juggling act that happens behind the scenes of all creative businesses, and the challenges that growing a creative career entails. I think if I could be divorced from the art-making side, I would actually probably be better at that job, since it's more analytical, and less tied to my ego... So much changes when it's your own creativity behind the business.
9. What was the last good book you read?
I just finished What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, and I found all the stories to be really moving. I haven't read many short story collections lately, but this one really hooked me, The first story in particular was devastating, but so beautifully written that I read the rest of the book in just a couple of days.
10.Where are your travels taking you next?
2019 looks very different from years past! Usually I take a couple trips to NY each year for trade shows, or travel to San Francisco to participate in art and design shows like West Coast Craft. This year, I'm planning to stay in San Diego as much as possible, and continue to build community around my new retail shop. It feels like the right time to put down more roots, and focus on being a bigger part of the design scene in my own city. There's so much potential for creativity and collaboration here, so I'm excited to see what blossoms.
Thanks so much Erin for taking the time and for giving us your thoughtful answers. I was inspired by your natural creative process and I think it shows in your fabric, they feel handcrafted and unique. For fabricspark.com we chose a beautiful neutral palette from the collection but had to add that deep ruby. It's become a bit of an obsession for me.
See all of the stunning new Balboa in the shop here.