Lists. lists. lists. We all keep them, but how many are neatly checked off and deposited into the trash way in advance of deadline? And how many others continue to pile up unchecked? I’m a lover of lists so I maintain quite a few, but none excites me more than my shop list. It’s actually a massive binder filled with resources and images of all the products I would carry if I had my own retail storefront, a more compact version of this blog I guess you could say. And while I have no immediate plans of setting up shop (I often wonder if the reality of it all is far less exciting than my dreams) one of the top 10 products that I would carry on my list is Mozi out of Australia. I adore these ladies.
From i-pod covers to laptop sleeves, stationery, kitchen items, and home decorating accessories, Mozi’s delicious selection of vibrant prints and patterns will leave you spinning. Owned by sisters Camilla and Olivia Tipler, their first collection was launched in August ’05 and they’ve been running non-stop ever since. Although they’re a huge hit down under and over in the UK, you won’t find Mozi in that many U.S. locations yet. This means that if you just so happen to already have a shop, perhaps Mozi would be a good fit for you.
Psst: Interesting in learning more about shop ownership? Click here to jump in on our Shop Talk series.
(images from mozi)
I don’t talk a lot about the environment because I’m a big believer in practicing what you preach and since I’m not living the most eco-responsible lifestyle, I lay a bit low on the topic. I did start to recycle this year by donating a lot of clothing and misc. home decor items to charity, and I started to buy only organic meats and produce so even though my grocery bill is like $5,000 a week and I risk losing my home, car, and life savings all in the name of $30 per pound oranges, at least I’m helping out. That’s a good start, right? In addition to those things, another one of my goals for the year is to source for more eco-friendly products that I can share with you from time to time so that at least we can have options. Green ones. And having options is always good.
Rhode Island-based twins Deborah and Dawn launched Oliveira Textiles, an eco-responsible textile company, after a bout of illness in the family got them thinking more about how toxins in the environment affect our health. (Some of the most successful companies rise from tough times.) Dawn spent 22 years in New York designing fashion and home textiles with an impressive client list that includes Ralph Lauren, Stark Fabric, and Emanuel Ungaro but now that she’s back in Rhode Island with her sister Deborah by her side, the focus is on their recently launched brand and their premiere Ocean Collection, a tribute to their coastal upbringing.
With fabrics made of sustainable hemp and organic cotton and printed using only water-based pigment dyes, they found a mill willing to work with them, resulting in both eco-friendly and beautiful textiles. Anemone in red coral would make beautiful drapes and I picture Wavelength in ultramarine as cushion covers on a three-season porch. Sure, it may take a lot to develop products that fit such strict requirements, but if part of your new year’s resolution is to shop for more green home items, then your support of companies like Oliveria can make their hard work worth it and your resolution a lot easier to stick to.
Looking for more sustainable textiles? Visit Boston locals over at Mod Green Pod or click on the word ‘eco-friendly’ below to view green products that we’ve covered on decor8 previously. For additional products and tips on going green, please visit some of my favorite eco-bloggers: EcoFabulous, Ideal Bite, Treehugger, and Pure Style Living.
(images from oliveira)
I’m so uplifted on a daily basis by our online design community where we have interior designers, artists, product designers, fabric designers, and a slew of others putting their work out there and taking huge risks that ultimately lead to some major success stories. One such creative force is Tanya Whelan, a popular fabric and sewing pattern designer based in Norfolk, Virginia. The second you visit her blog and website you immediately know her aesthetic – cottage romance, florals, stripes and dots that are undeniably feminine and oh-so-Southern. Intrigued by the whole idea of producing a fabric collection, I decided to interview Tanya to see what jewels of wisdom she can share with decor8 readers. If you have any questions to add to this interview, please fire away in the comments section below this post. :)
TW: Everyday is really different though they all start with waking my children up at least 3 times before they actually get out of bed and then taking them to school. Today I’ll be sewing up samples and writing an article for an upcoming magazine project. I’m a slowpoke at both things so that will be a big chunk of the day. I also have to think up some ideas on ways to feature my fabric for another coming article. Next, I’ll fill orders for patterns and get them shipped out and bug the printer to please hurry up with the next batch of patterns. Then I’ll spend some time planning my booth for the Spring Quilt Market trade show where my next line, Ava Rose, will be released. In between will be emails back and forth to my company, other bloggers, magazine editors (on a good day) and various business stuff.
decor8: You mentioned everyday is different, so what about a week from now. What do you see yourself working on then?
TW: Next week, when I receive my first set of strike-offs (the first version of the fabric that comes back from the mill) for my next fabric collection, will be very different. All day will be spent making changes to colors and more or less obsessing on minute details. I get very crazy during the strike-off period and can go from completely elated about how I think the fabric is going to turn out to seriously worried and depressed about it. I’m a total drag to be around during this time which my husband can attest to.
TW: I sort of fell into fabric design by way of other creative businesses I’ve had over the years. I’ve always sewn so making sewing patterns felt like a natural next step.
decor8: Who do you design for?
TW: I design fabric for Free Spirit/Westminster fibers. But really I design it for women (or men for that matter) like me who want to use fabric for quilting, accessories, clothing and home decoration but who don’t want to pay $30.00 a yard or more for a piece of cotton.
decor8: How did you make that contact over at Free Spirit?
TW: I was encouraged by someone in the industry to present my ideas to Free Spirit. I called them and was able to get an appointment with the head of the company at that time. I made a very nervous, stammering, somewhat sweaty presentation to her that, to my amazement, started my relationship with Free Spirit.
decor8: If someone is interested in designing fabric, how would you suggest they get started?
TW: I would say to do some research and figure out which companies you’d most like to work with and then contact them about what they’re submission guidelines are.
TW: I started my blog after being inspired by so many beautiful blogs like decor8 and those of my fellow Free Spirit designers. I wasn’t at all sure how to approach it at first, I just thought who the heck wants to hear from me as I’m pretty boring and writing doesn’t come at all naturally to me. But it started to feel really natural and good when I thought about it in terms of what I could offer people and started including free patterns and tutorials on the blog.
decor8: Do you feel blogging helps your business?
TW: I definitely feel blogging helps my business. I have no idea whether it translates directly into fabric sales but what it does do is give me way to show my point of view and to hopefully give people and store owners ideas about how to use the fabric.
decor8: How do you maintain your balance between blogging, work, and raising a family?
TW: Oh, sometimes I really don’t balance everything well and become too obsessed with work. But this doesn’t make me happy in the long run so I really try to keep focused on the most important part of my life which is my family. My kids will only be kids for a short time so to make sure I can fully enjoy this time with them and be the mother and wife I want to be I try to keep everything else in my life very simple. Laundry and housekeeping are done only on an as needed basis. I recently threw out all my throw pillows when my 3rd child came along cause picking them up off the floor a million times a day didn’t seem to make much sense. I’m very much at peace with the idea that I can’t do everything well which also helps me feel balanced.
decor8: Tell us about your workspace – is it at home or someplace else?
TW: I work from my home office and go back and forth through out the day to my upstairs studio, an old sleeping porch with the best light where I take pictures and make color choices. I don’t have much trouble with distractions because my children are at school and I usually love what I’m doing. Also, it helps that a sink full of dirty dishes doesn’t distract me in the slightest.
decor8: Any advice for others who want to work from home but have never done it before – what keeps you focused and on track?
TW: I guess the advice I’d give to women especially working at home is to not feel guilty like you should be cleaning or doing other home related stuff just because you work at home. If your work is important to you then treat it that way and give yourself permission to make it the priority during the time you designate for work.
TW: Design inspiration for me always comes from a love of simplicity and light which is why I so appreciate Scandinavian design. Historic architecture, vintage objects and interiors, movies and my memories of the buildings, apartments and museums I saw growing up in Manhattan have all shaped my aesthetic.
decor8: What kind of software do you use and did you receive formal training?
TW: I use Photoshop and taught myself through a long and painful process. I should have listened to my mother and taken a class.
decor8: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you and do you mind passing it along to us?
TW: I can’t remember getting any specific advice like that but what I did get was encouragement in small ways from people I respected that I took seriously. The advice I would give anyone starting their own business as a designer or something related is to not take rejection personally and to not let it hold you back. If you have an idea or product or design that you feel strongly fills a niche in the marketplace and that you just really believe in then there’s a good chance someone else will too even if the five people before them said no thanks.
decor8: Describe how you feel about your work…
TW: I feel really good about my work because it encompasses so many of the things I love to do. I was pretty bad at most other jobs I’ve ever had whereas what I’m doing now just feels natural for me.
decor8: Where are your fabrics and sewing patterns sold?
TW: My fabrics and patterns are sold in retail fabric stores across the US and internationally and online through lots of great retailers.
decor8: What websites do you use to network online and which have been the most helpful and why?
TW: I don’t have a specific website that I use for networking but just being part of the blogging community of crafters and sewers has been really helpful in that regard though it’s too much fun to really feel like networking.
decor8: And finally Tanya, if you weren’t a designer you would be a…..
TW: If I weren’t a fabric designer I’d be a geek who obsesses about architecture, old furniture, objects and photography. Oh wait, I’m already that geek so I guess I’d like to be an interior stylist if I weren’t a fabric designer.
(images from tanya whelan, most taken in her home studio)
Have you ever dreamed of owning a book authored by y-o-u? Sharing your voice is important, I believe that each of us has a special gift, something truly unique and beautiful to share with others. A book (or a blog in my case) can be the channel in which to showcase that gift. Perhaps you are a motivator, an anthropologist, or a secretary with some humorous stories to share. Maybe you have an interesting story to tell about your family, a character trapped in your head that you’d love to give life to, a children’s book that’s ‘this’ close to being the next Harry Potter but you just don’t know it yet. How will you know if you don’t take the first step? Do you take amazing photos, have excellent ideas around floral arranging or wedding planning? Perhaps you’re a great cook, you sew really well, or live an eco-friendly lifestyle and have terrific tips to share. Have you opened your own store, lost a loved one, or pushed through fears to accomplish a dream? The reason why this intro is so long and question-filled is to stimulate you. Maybe one of these questions made you pause. Pay attention to the pause, it could mean something great is brewing inside and that you just may need to listen to it. We all have something important to share.
Once you have your ideas together on paper, you can go the traditional route and submit your story through various publishing companies. One of my favorites is Chronicle Books because I’ve heard nothing but positive things about them from the many writers I know who they’ve published. Since you spend at least 18 months working on a book with your publisher, you’ll need to like them and most importantly, trust them and their vision for your book. Product packaging and marketing along with earning actual money from your hard work is also of importance and I’ve heard that Chronicle excels in these areas too. (Learn more about submissions here.) Chronicle Books and major publishing houses aside, perhaps you’ve heard of self-publishing. Have you considered the less traditional route as an option?
When it comes to self-publishing, where do you turn? How does it work? What’s in it for you? I can’t answer these questions, but I can point you to a decor8 reader that I admire because she just went this route and is already finding success with it over at Blurb. Her name is Kerry Pitt-Hart, you may know her from the etsy store Lush Bella or from these posts on decor8.
Kerry is an accomplished Photographer, Jewelry Designer, and Museum Educator and since January 11th, a new author. She has an Etsy store too. So much for wearing one hat in life, Kerry is involved in many things that she loves because each one brings her joy and satisfies her desire to explore and learn. I’ve included some images of her first book called I Spy, a mostly visual gem that also inspires imagination because alongside her photos of arrangements she includes a short somewhat poetic story or questions that ask the reader to get involved.
decor8: What made you want to author a book?
KPH: Honestly…I get bored easily, though strangely at the same time, I can spend hours stringing and sewing extremely tiny beads onto pieces of lace. I’m kind of an anomaly, I guess. But I also like to write, and the thought of being able to write and design a book on my own was the perfect cure for the boredom I had at the time.
KPH: It came to me when I received a message from Caitlin, who I met on Flickr. Before this, the book I was working on was a compilation of all the object photographs I’ve made up to the present, but she said something about my work that really struck a chord, and inspired some of the activities in the book. She said that my work reminded her of the grown up version of the i-spy books. So I set to work thinking of activities like the writing activity for “Follow Me II”, which is the arrangement of the scattered paper lithographs of Victorian-era butterflies arranged in a graceful curve fluttering after circles and dots. I also arranged some photographs side-by-side on the same page asking the reader to pick out the differences between them.
decor8: All of your little objects must have a history, do you reference that somewhere in the book?
KPH: Yes, in the back of the book are lists of the objects I used in each arrangement, so the reader can look up an object they may be unfamiliar with. I also tried to include where I found the object, like the spool of red and white thread that I unraveled from a length of polka-dot silk I picked up at a sidewalk sale next door to Momi Toby’s in Hayes Valley (San Francisco) several years ago.
decor8: Overall, how easy was it to use Blurb?
KPH: The software that you download is rather intuitive to use, though on my older Mac it kept crashing. However, realizing that it’s still in beta version I just worked through it and saved often. I was going to self-publish through Apple’s iPhoto, but it proved to be too cost-prohibitive for the number of pages I had. I also went with Blurb because of the fact that they’re out of San Francisco, have an online bookstore where you can sell what you publish, and because you decide what your “royalty” is. Plus, you can announce your book once you’ve published it by sending a message directly from their site where people can download a preview of the first several pages. I feel like a spokesperson for Blurb, but I think everyone should try it if they haven’t already.
You can purchase her book here online and if you’d like to learn about self publishing straight from Kerry you can ask her by commenting below or you may visit Blurb online and refer to their FAQ page or visit Blurb forums. But if you’re anything like me, I prefer asking those who have experienced something for themselves so feel free to comment below with your questions.
After viewing her arrangements, I have a question for Kerry. What do you do with your arrangements after you’ve photographed them? Do you place them inside of a shadowbox and sell them as works of art? You certainly could. I envision Kerry’s work in a gallery or a storefront, her originals alongside her prints along with I Spy. If I had a space for this, I would ask Kerry to do a book signing along with a show – this would be such an interesting and unique exhibit don’t you think? Someone invite Kerry! :)
(images from kerry pitt-hart)