I was lucky enough to catch up with fabric designer Kate Spain to ask her a few questions about her fabric lines. She currently has three (soon to be four!) lines out and it is fascinating to see where all her inspiration comes from. Notice that the pictures Kate gave us show exactly what her inspiration was for her new line Central Park... anyone recognize these spots? Read on to find out more about Kate’s work!
Oh, and in order to help spread the inspiration around, one lucky reader will be winning a fabric roll of Kate’s collection Fandango! Leave a comment at the end of this post for your chance to win! The randomly selected winner will be announced on Tuesday November 23rd.
How did you get interested in designing fabrics?
Well, unlike some fabric designers, I’m fairly new to sewing and quilting. When I was growing up, my Mom had a sewing machine that she let me and my sister use so I learned how to thread it and would often make simple pillows, curtains and other stuff to decorate my room. It wasn’t until much, much later that the idea of designing fabric even landed on my radar! I graduated from Rhode Island School of Design where I majored in Graphic Design. After college, I worked in children’s book publishing and then in product development for licensed character children’s accessories. I worked mostly on designing Hello Kitty products and loved when I had the chance to create coordinating patterns to supplement the style guides we had to follow. In fact, I loved it so much that all I wanted to do was make patterns! So in 2007, I worked really hard and put together a portfolio of original art and designs and exhibited at Surtex in New York City. It was there that I met the art directors from several fabric companies (though not from Moda) who were interested in licensing a few of my designs. I didn’t know who-was-who in the fabric world at that time, and when I mentioned the possibility of designing fabric to one of my quilting-addicted relatives, she said, “You should try to work with Moda.” So I took a shot-in-the-dark and had the agent I was working with at the time send a pile of patterns to Cheryl Freydberg, the design director at Moda Fabrics. Several months later, I got the great news and we began working together! I feel so incredibly grateful to be working with such an amazing company and also fortunate to be able to wake up each day with the chance to do something I love.
What are some of your inspirations when designing fabric?
My first fabric collection, Verna, was inspired by many of the spring flowers in my garden. Fandango was inspired by my love for ceramics and the beauty of Spanish tile work. I also love color and the way colors interact so sometimes I'm inspired to create designs around a certain palette. Other times, I may have a theme in-mind and my designs relate back to the theme. But either way, what’s most important is to have a connection that I’m excited to explore. So I guess you could say that for me, inspiration comes from so many different sources and is sometimes quite unexpected — as it was with my soon-to-be-released new line, Central Park.
What is your favorite part of the design process?
I love every part of it from the moment when my pencil hits the paper, to the moment that I hold the finished fabric in my hands! Most often, when I set off to begin a new fabric line, the direction I thought I was headed in can often change significantly once a design or pattern starts to take shape. This is when it gets exciting, though, because it’s when creative discoveries are made. Letting go of expectations enough to explore possibilities, then being able to recognize when something is working and building on it, is the essence of the creative process and the part that I really love.
What is your newest fabric line? How did you come up with this particular line of fabrics?
My newest fabric line is called Central Park and will be shipping in January 2011. As I mentioned, this collection came to me unexpectedly. A little background first…I was born in New York City, grew up in a suburb close-by and then later lived and worked in NYC. Central Park was a place to find some quiet and get away from the fast-pace of city life (it's also a much more scenic and enjoyable route to cut across town!). Needless to say, I've probably walked through the Park hundreds of times. But in January of last year, I was waiting to meet my aunt and uncle to go to a show at a museum together. I had some time to kill and was right at Columbus Circle, where the main entrance to Central Park is located. So I decided to head into the Park for a brisk walk to pass the time. It was freezing cold, but the light was beautiful and for some reason, I started to notice things I hadn’t seen. The carved stone reliefs, ironwork on bridges, decorative pillars, and cobblestone paths all caught my eye and I couldn't help but see the beginnings of patterns...everywhere! I was so excited and inspired that once I settled on the color palette, this line just flowed. I did an "Inspiration Tour" on my blog where you can see the photos I took and how I translated them into patterns. The prints are named after different areas or landmarks of the Park: North Meadow, Trefoil (arch), Carousel, and the Central Park Zoo. I can remember exactly where I was when I spotted the motifs that inspired many of the patterns — and how amazed I was that I had passed by them so many times and never even noticed them. For me, this line will always connect me to those moments of discovery and awe.
What advice would you give to artists who are interested in designing fabric?
I think the most important thing is to be true to your own style and not to present what you think fabric companies are looking for, but rather try to show what you have to offer with the uniqueness of your own hand. Your passion and potential will come through if your work is genuinely you. And that’s pretty irresistible.
Where can people find your fabrics and products?
There are many online fabric shops that carry my fabrics including Fat Quarter Shop, Hancock’s of Paducah, QuiltHome, Pink Chalk Studio, Lola Pink Fabrics. You can also use the Moda store locator to find a local quilt shop in your area. Not every shop will carry my lines, so if you’re interested in something specific, it might be best to call ahead. In addition to Moda, I work with 10 companies who license my designs for use on everything from ceramic and paper tableware, stationery, and kitchen textiles to gift wrap, puzzle books and recipe binders. Products featuring my designs can be found at Crate and Barrel, Target®, Bed Bath and Beyond, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and Michaels craft stores. I usually announce new product releases on my blog, so that’s always a good place for people to connect and keep in touch.
Thanks so much Kate!