Hello Designers! Libs Elliott
- What was your first creative job
I studied textiles, got my B.A. then promptly got a job in advertising where I stayed for 17 years. Although I wasn’t in the creative department (I was a project manager), I did get to work in teams with a lot of creative and technical people. It’s because of those connections that I ended up becoming a quilter full-time. So, if I’m being honest here, quilting is my first real creative job.
- Who do you think has been your greatest design influence?
My Dad has been the biggest influence on me. I grew up surrounded by antiques and shelves full of books on interior design, century homes and traditional textiles. If I took an interest in something particular, like British fashion in the ‘80’s or midcentury furniture, he’d nurture that by buying me books or picking out pieces for my collection.
He’s always had this incredible talent for finding the beauty in objects and has the historical knowledge to back it up. He opened my eyes to all of that and I’m forever grateful for it.
- Can you tell us a bit about your creative process, for example...do you start on paper and move to a screen?
When I design quilts, I 100% use my computer. For my most popular quilts, I’ve always used a programming language called Processing. I use it almost like a quick sketching tool to generate random geometric designs. I then take those designs and refine them in Adobe Illustrator then work out the math to make them into real quilts. The whole concept started in collaboration with my friend, Joshua Davis, who is a well-known digital artist and designer. We were the first to use generative design in conjunction with quilting and from there it’s been a pretty wild ride. However, when I design fabrics I do some on paper and some are digital. I like to mix it up because some of my surface design ideas are much more organic so they deserve paper.
- Do you have a colour or palette that you most like to work with?
I’m generally drawn to neutrals or bold black and whites, maybe with a hit of bright colour. It’s impossible for me to pick favourites because I love it all. I always struggle when designing new fabric collections. Often I’ll look at interior design trends or urban influences like graffiti to pull my color palettes.
- Is there someone in the fabric design world who is a favourite, or who you like to keep your eye on?
I’m really excited to see what’s coming up from Ruby Star Society. It feels like it’s going to be both creatively inspiring and empowering based on how they run their business. Those women – Melody, Rashida, Kim, Alexia and Sarah – are all so talented. They’re a really positive, approachable bunch.
- Who taught you to sew?
My mom taught me to hand-sew when I was really young. I think she did a demo once and then I clearly remember helping myself to her sewing box of notions and needles all the time. I made clothes for my Barbie dolls when I was around 7 years old. I still have the first doll outfit I ever designed and made. I learned how to sew on a machine in grade 10. I made a lime green velvet bustier with buttons. It was both hideous and glorious.
- What’s your favourite thing to make (sewing)?
Quilts. Just quilts. Or quilt experiments. Once in a while I get grand ideas about making a garment so I’ll buy fabric and patterns but then it rarely materializes. It’s a very different skill than quilting. I only really have one passion.
- If you weren’t a designer, what other career do you think you might have been good at or enjoyed?
I know being a teacher is exhausting, but now that I’ve spent so much time volunteering at my daughter’s school (I run the morning snack program this year), I sort of wish I’d been an elementary art teacher. I follow a few great art teachers on social media and they come up with really cool projects. I just love kids’ imaginations and the creativity they can unleash when given the encouragement and opportunity. Of course, I’d include quilting in my curriculum!
- What was the last good book you read?
Calypso by David Sedaris. All his books make me laugh until I cry. I read a lot while I’m travelling and I’m pretty sure anyone who has sat beside me on an airplane disembarks thinking that I’m a basketcase. I’ve also been making an effort to read books by Indigenous and First Nations authors. And, by ‘effort’, I really mean just Google ‘Indigenous authors’, then start downloading books. It’s not difficult. I’m currently reading Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga. As a person of European descent living in North America, these are voices and stories that I need to hear. I didn’t get an honest education about Canadian history but I now acknowledge that I live on stolen land and I’m educating myself.
- Where are your travels taking you next?
In Spring 2019, I’ll be in NYC, Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Ohio and Ottawa. Still cooking up some big plans for Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. I keep saying I need to travel less but then it’s really hard to say no. I love travelling, seeing new places and meeting new people, but I miss my family terribly when I’m away for longer stretches. The travel goes in waves though…the busiest times are Spring and Fall. Summertime is 100% family time.
- Can you tell us about the inspiration for your latest collection, Tattooed North?
All the prints in Tattooed North are visual impressions of the nature I experience every summer – sand, ripples, birch, cobwebs, rocks, Orion... Since I was born, I’ve been going up to a family cottage on an island, on Lake Nipissing, in northern Ontario. It’s always been a really magical and special place for me. When we were kids, we were allowed to ‘run wild’. We ran barefoot through the woods, explored nature, challenged ourselves, scraped our knees, learned what moss and hot sand felt like and discovered how dense the sky was with stars. We’d look out across that massive lake, breathe the fresh air and feel like a tiny speck in the universe. We only saw adults at mealtimes and gatherings. I’d listen to my Grandpa and Uncle tell tall tales. It was brilliant. I have so many great memories of being up at the cottage – I continue to make them every year - and they’ve all been made because of the people.
But not everyone makes it back up. That change is the hard part. So, after 45 years of going every summer, my comfort is found in the constant of nature – in knowing every crevice of the rocks, remembering where the best blueberries are, the familiar feel of pine needles under my feet. Some of the people we love are long gone but I know when I see Orion in the night sky, that they’re still right there with me on Sandy Island.
I had a visceral reaction to Tattooed North. I love the natural inspiration. The simple but iconic images Libs chose from her cottage life are perfect. But the main reason I love them is the fabrics are really stunning. The design is spare, sophisticated and thoughtful. I love them individually and I love them together. It's hard to do a big group of neutrals and make them captivating but Libs did it. With Tattooed North, she has hit a new level of confidence and achievement in her design life.
It's been a super treat to have Libs answer my questions. I hope you enjoyed getting to know her a little better. If you're a fan, you can support her work and get access to her tutorials and design inspiration on Patreon, check it out here.