This week, we're really pleased to be bringing you a virtual chat with Spoonflower designer, Virginia Odien, also known as Vo_aka_VirginiaO. Viginia's been with Spoonflower since almost the very beginning, has nearly 200 designs available in her Spoonflower shop on which to feast your eyes, and has won three fabric-of-the-week contests here. So it was no surprise to us to learn that Virginia also recently won a fabric design contest on Connecting Threads! Beating out thousands of other contest entries, Virginia's "Laundry Day" design was the starting point for her brand-new fabric collection Hello Sunshine, now available for sale through Connecting Threads. Read on for more about Virginia and a chance to win a pile o' fabrics at the end!
You’ve been on Spoonflower for over three years now, almost from our very beginning. Were you designing fabrics even before that?
Oh no, I’d never even thought about designing fabric before! I was simply someone who played around making graphics in graphics programs for fun. I started designing once I found Spoonflower and thought, “I can do that...I think.” I entered the 2010 calendar contest (where I didn’t have to do a repeat, hallelujah! ) and came in second place after Danielle Hanson. Yahooooo! That second place win created a whole new paradigm for me and I had to figure out how to make a repeating design! Back in the day, I had to take home-ec and typing classes. Doing art wasn’t really an option and oddly, it just never entered my mind that I could be taught to hone my doodling skills!
What do you do for a living when you're not designing fabrics?
My background is in project management and customer service. Currently I work in the media relations and marketing department of a university, doing whatever needs to be done. The more creative and complex the solutions I can come up with, the more I enjoy my day job. But really my heart and soul is in my night work at home, project-managing my creative processes and finding new solutions to creating new designs. It's really like playtime for me and I love managing myself since I never talk back (much)!
What inspired your new Hello Sunshine fabric collection?
A Spoonflower contest! I entered and won the leprechaun contest by wanting to create something different than pots of gold and little green men so I went with a humorous look at a leprechaun’s laundry.
I’m sure lady leprechauns think male leprechauns are handsome but I could only draw ugly leprechauns so I went with their laundry instead. I included their smallclothes and voters loved seeing their underwear and where they kept their family jewels. (Oooh, can I say that here?) I thought the Connecting Threads quilting audience might like a more general theme of laundry and I wanted something that evoked a light-filled, breezy summer day. The August heat also inspired me. I thought it would be a great way to remember summer when winter arrived and you might want to curl up under a fabulous, summery quilt.
What other things inspire you in your design work?
Oh, I have a big list for this question! My family for sure. I have a big group of fellow Spoonflwer designers who I talk to almost daily and we all give each other encouragement, hurrahs, and congratulations. They all bring a sense of humor to the table. Then there are my customers; I’m inspired by their comments and feedback, their emails, and their willingness to buy my designs to make things for themselves or others. I love when customers send me photos of their finished projects--fat quarter projects, yard projects, they’re all thrilling to see.
I recently sold 69 yards of one of my designs, “Gear Up.” I was curious to know what someone would do with THAT much fabric and it was the best thing ever! It was purchased by the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library for their summer reading program titled, “Gear Up!” The different branches within that library system used their fabric to decorate the libraries, and they're going to hold a contest for the best decorations. I couldn’t have asked for a better use of my fabric! I’m a chronic reader and libraries hold a dear spot in my heart. It inspires me to think about young readers expanding their horizons with a combo of graphic art and literature. Here's a photo of one of the displays. When I get photos of all of them, I’ll post them to my blog.
I do sew! My mom began teaching me when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. In a past career I was the costumer and stage manager for a civic light opera and when my kids were small, I was their Halloween costume master! I absolutely consider end use, and I think it’s critical to imagine how your design will work for the end use. I really enjoy creating novelty fabrics for quilters on one end of the spectrum, and designing for crafts or decor on the other. I also think about what I don’t see in fabric stores. I want to produce things that are sometimes a little quirkly or humorous and that will stand out as slightly different. That’s why you’ll see in my Spoonflower shop bacon, armadillos, steampunk squids, roller derby, hedgies, a honey badger, scooters, and trailers as a few examples. It’s also fabulous that I can offer different media on fabric. I have watercolor designs, photographic designs, crayon or colored pencil designs, and computer generated designs.
What other sorts of creative projects do you enjoy? Do you and your family do creative or crafty things together?
I’m a beader and you can see some of my work on my old beading blog. I also sew, paint watercolors, knit, crochet, embroider, string beads, create stained glass, do mosaics... you name, it I’ve done it! Mostly my family lets me do all the crafty things while they all play musical instruments or sing. We enjoy making music together (although we're not Partridge Family types), and we also enjoy going to plays and concerts together. Oh, and eating...we have a lot of creative conversations while noshing together!
You’ve entered quite a few of the Spoonflower fabric-of-the-week contests and have won three of them, the desert, woodland creatures, and leprechauns contests. What’s been your favorite contest theme so far and why did you enjoy it?
Oh, good question! I’ve really enjoyed the ones that I’ve won or where I placed in the Top 10, but really I so enjoy the challenge of almost every single contest. The contests make me stretch artistically and challenge me to make more interesting designs quickly. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Spoonflower and its thousands of followers. I cut my artistic teeth on your site and the encouragement that others have given me provided me with the courage to put my stuff out there for everyone to judge. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this ever-changing process over the last 3 years.
Do you have any other design collections in the works that you’d care to share with us?
Yes, I do! I’ve just released my Mod Scooters and Sidecars collection and my new Americana collection. I’m currently working on creating a collection for my focal design, Mātuhi - the New Zealand Bush Wren. If anyone out there is looking at one of my designs and wants a collection to go with it, just send me an email. Let's talk!
Thanks, Virginia! And now if all this talk of fabric collections has whetted your hunger to build your stash, we think you'll be pretty darn excited about this week's giveaway. The kind folks at Connecting Threads have provided us with a generous five fat quarter bundles of Virginia's entire new Hello Sunshine collection to give away--that's 19 different prints for five lucky folks! To sweeten an already awesome giveaway, we're also including 5 of Virginia's Spoonflower designs, hand-picked by Virginia herself: "Small Bacon," "Armadillos Wandering the Desert...", "Matuhi - the New Zealand Bush Wren," "Paisley Ahoy Koi, Oh Boy," and her "Hi, Ho, a Merry-O" bunting kit.
To enter this giveaway for a big ol' stack of fabrics, just leave your comment below or on the corresponding Facebook post, and do include your Spoonflower screen name or some other means of tracking you down in case you're one of our five winners. Entries close next Tuesday, 8/21 and we'll announce a winner on 8/22. Good luck, fabric stashers!
Last week, we offered a giveaway that a lot of you seem to have been really excited about. We offered up Meg McElwhee's lovely new Ashland dress pattern plus four yards of Spoonflower fabric to make it up in. The winner of that giveaway was Jennifer Pagliai. Congratulations, Jennifer! I hope you sew up something beautiful!