Happy Friday fabric lovers! :)
Today’s interview is with Sara Lawson, who’s currently living in Chicago, Illinois and is one of the Limited Edition collaborators! Her collection is called Jungle Ave. and it was inspired by city living. You can find many urban dwelling elements throughout her collection, such as subway maps and images of high-rises.
Sara's favorite print from her collection is ‘Elephant Skyline,’ which is the 8th and last print from the below picture. She loves the movement going on and the strong colors. I must say it's my favorite print too! The design really stands out and I love the color combo too.
Q: What's the story and inspiration behind your collection?
A: My collection is called Jungle Ave., and it is inspired by city living. I live in Chicago, and even though it is a metropolitan city, I was curious to explore the softer side of the city. I thought about people living in apartments or in high-rises, and how they could still keep potted plants on their balcony or have small patches of soil to plant vegetables. I combined the floral elements of these ideas with the images of asphalt and riding the subway (here in Chicago, it’s the elevated train, or ‘el’). The images of the elephants come in because I wanted to play with the idea of an ‘urban jungle’; the elephants perfectly marry the floral idea with the grittier images of the city, such as the black polka dot print or the fuchsia text print.
Q: What does the AGF Limited Edition concept mean to you, and what mood or point of view have you brought into this project?
A: AGF Limited Edition is a great way to explain what myself, April Rhodes, and Caroline Hulse bring to the table. Because we are strongest at garments and fashion accessories (like bags), I feel like we bring a unique perspective in with our designs. We each have a strong voice for using fabrics in our sewn items, and I feel like this definitely translates in each of our individual collections. While my line would also work great in a quilt, I hope that shops and sewists will be able to appreciate the strong sense of color and bold prints, which is something that I always look for when deciding on a fabric for my next bag pattern.
Q: How did your collaboration with AGF come about?
A: I’ve been attending Quilt Market for 2 years now, which is a twice-yearly trade show for the quilting and sewing industry. I’m very shy, and even from the beginning, it was a bit daunting to be around all of these sewing celebrities, authors, fabric manufacturers, etc. Even though my main skill is as a bag sewing pattern designer, I would make myself new outfits to wear to each Market, which were kind of my ice-breaker (some people might see a dress I had made on my blog, and then when they saw me in person, they would immediately recognize the dress); I incorporated bold fabrics, and sometimes even used quilt-making as a focal point for the dresses (a Dresden plate, pieced hexagons, etc.). Even though Pat Bravo, as art director of Art Gallery Fabrics, is selling lines of fabric geared toward quilters, I think it is a natural path that Art Gallery Fabrics should also be seen as perfect for garment fabrics, because of the unique softness of the fabrics and the wonderful drape and hand. I think she chose 3 people, myself, April, and Caroline, that would be good representations of this direction.
Q: How has your experience been working alongside Art Gallery Fabrics on this project?
A: This has been the experience of a lifetime for me. I have learned so much working with Pat Bravo and the rest of the Art Gallery Fabrics team, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that my fabric line will be in stores soon! Since color has always been so important to Pat, I feel like I’ve learned new things about pairing color and design in my bags especially. When talking about designs, Pat would always ask me, “What would you make with this fabric?” If I couldn’t visualize at least several things that I would make out of it, I knew it was back to the drawing board. And I’m hoping this is great news for fans of Art Gallery Fabrics, because I can definitely visualize a whole bunch of things that I would make (and am planning to make!) with my fabrics!
Q: Describe your creative process when designing fabric.
A: Since I was brand new to designing fabric, I listened to all of the great advice that Pat gave me. I brainstormed an umbrella theme for my prints, and at the same time, adapted what she calls a color story, which is a grouping of colors that I would use in every print in the line. Because I was working on an urban jungle theme, I researched and pinned (on Pinterest) lots of images, from quilts to animals to clothing to the runway. I also sketched out a lot of ideas, which I then translated to the computer. Some of my digital designs did not end up working for the line, but it was all part of the process. I completely cleared my schedule for about 6 weeks to work on the designs; they definitely didn’t come to me over night! But the hard work was definitely worth it, and I think Jungle Ave. is definitely a representation of ‘me’.
Q: Can you choose your favorite print from the collection and tell us why it's your favorite?
A: My favorite print is definitely ‘Elephant Skyline’. I have always been a big fan of the ‘focal print’ out of any fabric line, and I think this is definitely the focal from Jungle Ave. There’s just so much organic movement going on, with the hills, elephants, and buildings. Also the colors are so strong. I can see this fabric being used in a million different things, from dresses to bags to little boys’ pajamas to a baby’s cloth diapers.
Q: What's the one thing you can't live without?
A: I cannot live without my sewing machine! I sew for about 4-5 hours a night (well, when I’m not writing a new bag pattern, that is!), and it’s definitely my security blanket. Whatever else is going on, I know that I can sit down at my machine and be taken somewhere else.
Q: What other designers, makers or artists inspire your work?
A: Pat Bravo, of course! She is truly a genius in her field. I am really inspired by all of the designers on the Art Gallery Fabrics roster; I am blessed to call some of them friends, and I’m also big fans of their work. Before I was even approached as becoming a designer as part of AGF Limited Edition, I was already using their fabrics in my bag patterns and in my clothing; some of my best-selling bag patterns use Art Gallery Fabrics on the pattern covers (like my Aeroplane Bag or my Petrillo Bag patterns, using ‘Color Me Retro’ and ‘Carnaby St.’, respectively). Tula Pink is also a huge inspiration to me – I think what she’s designing as far as fabric and quilt patterns is so different from what everyone else is doing, and they are a representation of who she is as a person. Same for Thomas Knauer, he’s designing quilts and fabric that have so much meaning behind them. Also, of course, all the bloggers and designers out there – there is just so much talent out there, it’s insane. I could name at least 100 more inspiring people. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t see something on someone’s blog and think, “Wow, I love this so much” or “Dang, I wish I would have thought of that.”
Q: How do you stay on top of current design trends?
A: I pay attention to what other bloggers are using in their sewing projects, and I keep tabs on all the new fabric collections that are out each season. Following companies and blogs on their social media is also a great way to keep track of what’s going on and what’s hot right now.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or philosophy you live by?
A: I don’t mean to sound like a dork, but I’m a huge fan of the show ‘Shark Tank’. I’m so fascinated by the quick-thinking of the shark investors. I think about this quote from Mark Cuban all the time, “"It's not about money or connections — it's the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone... And if it fails, you learn from what happened and do a better job next time."
I love this quote. I don’t think that anyone can doubt that I’m a hard worker. I truly love what I do, but I’m thinking every day about how I can work harder or what I can do better. There are no evenings or weekends for me – evenings and weekends are when even more work gets done.
Q: What are you up to when you're not sewing or designing?
A: My son is 7 and in first grade, and my daughter’s 5-1/2 and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Neither of my kids were in preschool, and so until they went to kindergarten they were home with me during the day. My family is my #1 priority (I might be thinking of the next bag pattern in my head, but outwardly I might be doing the dishes or coloring, lol), and we like doing a lot of artsy crafty things together.
Q: Do you have any other upcoming projects lined up for 2014?
A: I have 6 new paper patterns (for bags) coming out end of April/beginning of May. I’ll probably print 6 more in the fall. This year I’m working on my second book (bags of course), and it’s due out in October of 2015. I’m really excited about it. I’m pushing myself even harder to come up with unique designs with lots of special details, while still making them easy and fun to sew. I’m also doing a lot of lectures and all-day bag workshops for quilt guilds and other organizations this year. I really enjoy teaching, and it’s the best feeling to help someone and give them personal attention so they can finish up their bag (even people who have never sewn a bag before!).
Jungle Ave. will be available in shops in June.
It was a pleasure to interview Sara and get to know more about her work!
Thank you for reading!