We're back this week with another design rockstar interview as part of our SpoonChallenge: Creating a Fabric Collection with designer Bonnie Christine. We recently fell in love all over again with printmaker, designer, author and educator, Lizzy House, when she co-instructed the Creativebug Fabric Design Series. We were so excited to get to sit down and chat with her about design, inspiration, and what really makes a collection work. Lizzy's seven lines of fabric, series of quilt patterns, and her book How to Enter the World of Textile Design make her more than qualified to teach us a thing or two!
Today, Samarra Khaja, SammyK on Spoonflower and one of the craftiest ladies we know, stops by the blog to share a fun and innovative DIY to organize your collections, travel memorabilia and other bits and bobs!
Has your spring cleaning morphed into summer cleaning? Feeling like it’s on the brink of oh-why-even-bother cleaning? Well, before you feel as though weeding the greenways along the highway entrance ramps would be a better use of your time, I want to show you four, count ‘em, four fun-filled wall organizing solutions that will allow you to happily display your cherished collections, even if everyone else thinks you’re a hoardin’ fool. We’ll show them!
After hundreds of entries and many thousands of votes, we're finally down to the finalist collections in our Fabric8 contest, a competition to discover the next textile rock star for one of the world's leading fabric companies, Robert Kaufman Fabrics. You've had a chance to read about each of the eight finalists, and now is your chance to vote for your favorite among the collections they've developed over the last few weeks. Unlike our usual contests, this week you get only one vote. Choose carefully and help launch the professional fabric career of one of the many talented members of the Spoonflower community.
The finalist collections are:
- Sberrens Fabric8 final collection: Breezy Bloomswww.spoonflower.com/collections/17833
- Kayajoy's Fabric8 final collection: Flight Patternswww.spoonflower.com/collections/16982
- Anderson Lee's Fabric8 final collection: Painted Petals www.spoonflower.com/collections/17762
- Valley Designs' Fabric8 final collection: Fabric Garden www.spoonflower.com/collections/17852
- Snowflower's Fabric8 final collection: Sea Garden www.spoonflower.com/collections/17720
- Heather Dutton's Fabric8 final collection: Tea Time www.spoonflower.com/collections/17674
- Mahoneybee's Fabric8 final collectionwww.spoonflower.com/collections/17711
- CJLDesigns' Fabric8 final collection: The Scented Garden: www.spoonflower.com/collections/17645
With voting for the eight collections in the final round of the Fabric8 contest starting this Thursday, we decided to check in with one of the movers & shakers in the fabric industry: a woman who selects professional fabric collections for a living.
Evie Ashworth is Design Director for the Retail Division at Robert Kaufman Fabrics. An established member of the textile industry for over 40 years, Evie has traveled the world to production points from Europe to Asia and in between. She brought her expertise to Robert Kaufman in 2000 to establish within the company a whole category of product specifically for quilt fabric retailers. She merchandised the line, introducing the concept of coordinated samples and print basics, including the trademark Fusions(TM) brand, and she continues to ensure Robert Kaufman brand’s association with the highest quality standards. Evie currently directs a large internal design team as well as several art studios abroad, to produce Robert Kaufman’s signature in-house Luxe and Gallery looks as well as a broad range with external licensed artists and brands.
About Robert Kaufman Fabrics: Designer fabrics for the creative sewist. Founded in 1942, this Los Angeles-based fabric manufacturer wholesales to the home sewing retail and manufacturing markets, with customers including manufacturers of finished goods, such as apparel, bedding and accessories, and retail customers whose end-users comprise home apparel and craft sewers. For more information, please visit: www.robertkaufman.com
What was your background when you came to work at RKF? Where did you grow up?
After 14 years working for a company that manufactured sportswear, swimwear and finally as their fabric buyer and manager of 3 fabric stores, I was recruited by Hoffman California Fabrics for the new position of Design Director for their retail division in 1984. I remained with them until 1999 before joining Robert Kaufman as Design Director for the Retail Division. I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon and San Clemente, California.
How does RKF usually scout for new design talent?
We look for designers through art, licensing and trade shows domestically and internationally, but we also accept individual submissions thru the process outlined in the Artwork Submission Guidelines on our site. We also have referrals thru many different channels of our business. We shop other markets — such as home, stationery and apparel — for new designers as well.
Tell us a little about your selection process.
There are many facets to our process for selecting designs, including timing, the end customer, uniqueness, how well we believe it will sell based on past experience, and whether or not marketing support is available. We always ask if the work is different enough from our current designers. One of our criteria is always to look for an artist who is flexible and quick to respond. These aspects are all considered after the work has been selected for a final review.
There were hundreds of hopeful designers who didn’t make it to the final round of Fabric8. Can you offer any advice to amateurs hoping to break into the industry?
It isn’t easy and there is a lot of competition. I always tell designers to do the homework: scour the larger web sites, blogs and quilt shops to see what themes, colors, scale and designers are strong. Come up with your own individual look that sets you apart from what is already available. Ultimately the designs must be something that will sell successfully for Robert Kaufman and, most importantly, for our customers who are independent fabric retailers. Ask the question of yourself: will several hundred stores purchase my work?
What makes a great fabric collection? Is there a formula for what kinds of designs to include?
A beautiful focal or feature design is usually needed to drive the group of designs in a collection. We look for good support designs that complement the feature design by adding interesting scale, color, texture, accent or calmness. Together the designs in the collection must make a stunning quilt. There is somewhat of a formula, but we also like to be flexible to keep the collections exciting.
What is the typical production timeline for a collection from the design stage to fabric arrival in stores? What are the various stages of the process?
It takes approximately 7 months to work through the whole process from beginning to end. The stages include:
- Review and Selection
- Scheduling the Release
- Counter Sketch and Artist Approval
- Engraving and Strike Off
What are some of your favorite fabric design trends right now?
I’m particularly drawn to exotic countries that provide trend and inspiration, such as India. Scandinavia continues to be a strong influence in the fabric world as well.
Robert Kaufman sells apparel, home decor and quilting fabrics. Does creating fabric designs for these applications require differently scaled designs? Which of these is your largest market?
Quilting is currently our largest single market, however we hope that designs for quilting cross over into other markets. Our manufacturing customers for home and apparel are usually more open to larger scale designs than quilting, and those collections are developed by another design director.
Mixing and matching patterns and colors for creating and decorating seems more liberal now, does the definition of a coordinate mean something different than it once did?
Yes. Our customers have developed a more sophisticated vision for their projects, whether is it modern, retro, traditional or vintage. For instance, something as simple as a polka dot could now be a multicolor 2-inch diameter dot instead of a single color pin dot. What used to be a coordinate could now be used to make a bold statement for a border of a quilt.
Talk a little bit about licensing. Do designers typically sign contracts with only one fabric house?
Yes, but some work with more than one if they have a large portfolio and they are not so interested in branding their name. We prefer to have a license for fabric and fabric-related products so when we license a design we do not restrict the use of that design for any other type of fabric-related product.
What’s on the horizon at Robert Kaufman Fabrics?
We’re very excited about the upcoming Dr. Seuss collections based on the books Oh the Places You’ll Go and Green Eggs and Ham.
This week's challenge offers one of the most difficult themes we've put together for a regular contest. We asked designers to come up with four coordinating fabrics laid out to be printed on a single yard of fabric. So you're voting not just for a single design, but for a collection. Fun, no? The work submitted for this contest is just amazing.
The designers this week are:
1. "Hot Stuff" Coordinates by jannasalak
2. 'a time to garden' collection by scrummy
3. 03jan12_1_coordinates_contest_entry_from_FireFlower by fireflower
4. 4 coordinates by anne-m-bray
5. 4 for 1! by mariao
6. 4in1 garden coordinates by jumping_birds
7. 8 Fat Quarters / 2 Yards in Any Fabric by pond_ripple
8. A Hint of Spring Coordinates, Seed, Bloom, Grow and Flourish by kdl
9. A moonlit moth fandango by coggon
10. A Pink Bouquet Fat Quarter Collection by robyriker
You all may remember Lizzy House, one of the participants in our Celebrity Fabric Design Smackdown a couple of months ago. She's a young textile designer who not only took it upon herself as a college student to figure out how to break into the industry, but who also took it upon herself to write and publish a book afterward explaining to other designers how to do the same thing. Her terrific ebook How to Enter the World of Textile Design: for the Quilting Industry can be purchased from a link on her blog.
Because the ten Project Selvage finalists are starting work on the collection portion of the design competition, we figured that today might be a good day to share Lizzie's advice on creating collections as well as some of the guidance that Kathy Miller of Michael Miller Fabrics offered to our ten finalists.
* key/main. This meaning the piece that all the pieces in the collection revolve around. Interestingly enough, the key piece generally doesn’t sell as well as the supporting pieces.
* dot. The dot is generally an all over pattern, like a polka-dot reinvented.
* stripe. Pretty straightforward, the stripe is a stripe. Stripes in quilting are great for creating multiple directions in quilts and projects by using only one fabric and changing its direction when you cut and sew.
* organic pattern. Organic patterns are just as they sound. Organic. Organic shapes are shapes that you would find in nature. This does not automatically mean flower. I tend to think of it more as something that happened on its own.
* geometric pattern. Geometric patterns are never as simple as they look, in fact the more simple something is, generally the more calculating there is involved. Again, they are important in quilts and projects for structure.
* large scale repeat. Repeats happen in divisions of 24 inches. The pattern design doesn’t have to be huge, in fact it can be small, but in a large scale repeat, there’s just more of it. So it only reoccurs 4-8 times in a yard. It makes it special.
* varying scale. This is just a friendly reminder to check your scales. Do you have a large pattern? Do you have a medium pattern? Do you have a small pattern? Do you have patterns that fit in between?
* varying value. Again, a friendly reminder about value. Do you have a dark valued pattern? A medium value pattern? Do you have a light valued pattern? And values in between?
This list is not concrete. In fact, I generally don’t use it literally. Although, sometimes a stripe is just a stripe. I like to think of pattern designs taking on the roles of these characters. A flower acts as the dot, vines act as stripes, a grouping of trees performs nicely as an all over pattern, and something ornate takes on the organic, while some heroic diamonds are called in last minute for some geometric contrast. Ta-da! Now, if you are casting these supporting characters, around your star, your key piece, and using these nuances as variations, creating a cohesive whole with continuity, and contrast should be a clear-cut task. Also bear in mind that some patterns will double up on this list. An organic pattern is also a large scale repeat, or dot is also a geometric pattern, and so on. If you make and follow a list like this, then you can avoid any redundancies. Also, don’t throw a piece in just for the heck of it. They always stand out. They make it seem like you were confused, and then in turn the manufacturer was confused. Be clear and concise with your vision.
The collection each finalist submits should consist of 6 patterns in total.
The winner will also be asked to develop a "Baby Girl" collection by the beginning of June.
Each pattern should stand on it's own as well as with the group.
The group needs to be tightly edited both in color and design. If pieces in the group look redundant it will cause the buyer to pause and start eliminating.
"If we don't do the editing the customer will." The reasoning is that most buying decisions are made on impulse. It's a split second decision.
You want the customer to look at it and say: "I want it all!"
Some obvious choices for coordinates are dots, stripes, checks and plaids – but don't limit yourself to the predictable (on the other hand, sometimes "predictable" can be perfect!)
One of the things that sets Michael Miller apart is that we don’t necessarily set rules and parameters when putting together a collection. We try to be diverse and innovative when putting designs together. Collections don’t always have to be the obvious match of color and design. We look for designs that work when sewn together in a project.