Beyond the surface of her colorful, handmade goods, her priorities stretch to include building a community through working with cottage industry manufacturers, and making sure each collection is inspired by a different place she’s travelled to.
She warmly welcomed us into her Greenpoint studio and gave us a glimpse into what it means to get your hands dirty, as well as talk to us about life, business, and maintaining a balance between both.
When did the journey to becoming a homeware brand begin for you?
I’ve always had entrepreneurial ambitions but I didn’t set out to start a business when I did. I was just making things in my studio and it all sort of came together. It happened when I was teaching preschool. My schedule allowed me to be in my studio at 4pm instead of 7:30 or 8pm like all of the other jobs I’d had. Teaching gave me the ability to spend more time in studio and therefore more time making things which is ultimately what I am best at.
Your process is very unique in the sense that everything is done by hand in a meticulous and precise way. What are some of the challenges and rewards of that?
I think that whether you produce in China or in your backyard, there will always be problems with manufacturing. There is never enough communication and there will always be errors. I want my products to inspire people to “make a home” and to feel cozy. I think products where you can feel the hand that made them are much more likely to stay in the pile of “treasures you’ll keep forever” as opposed to things you may toss out in a season or too. So making things with artisans and individuals rather than factories is an important part of my brand.
You work with cottage industry manufacturers. Can you talk a little about how that happened and why that aspect of your business is important to you?
Yes, this is a big deal to me! Part of the reason I like to make designs is two fold. 1) to create jobs for people that have amazing skills and for those traditions and skill sets to live on for generations to come, and 2) for the dialogue that happens between a spec sheet/drawing to a product made by an experienced artisan. I make my spec sheets both by hand and in Photoshop. It’s always so fascinating to see how my weavers interpret my drawings. The best products I designed were a complete collaboration between my original drawing and the artisan’s interpretation of that drawing, and I think that’s fascinating and so inspiring.
What has been the hardest part about owning a small business in New York City?
Living in one of the most expensive cities is definitely challenging. I have never had any funding or anyone helping me financially – every penny I made when I started went straight back into the business and it grew from there. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to move off the grid somewhere and make things from afar. The only problem with that is I love my design community here in Brooklyn – I feel so lucky to be apart of it. I love that I can pop over to a buddy’s studio and chat about design or how they would solve a business problem I am facing. So maybe one day I will move away, have more space, maybe be able to afford more employees – maybe one day when I build a community or family of my own, but for now I am content living in the most expensive and inspiring city I know.
How does your work influence your own personal style?
I like things to be simple no matter what. I like my clothes to be natural, breezy, and lose and I like my products to feel the same. I hardly ever get super dressed up and neither do any of my products.
I read that a trip to Bali post-college inspired you to start creating textiles. Is traveling still a part of your creative process?
Traveling is a major part of who I am, it’s what opens me up. I see things more vibrantly, patterns and colors start to jump out at me. Every collection I make is based on a city and part of my process is to go to that city and experience it and then come back to my Brooklyn studio and create. I built that into my brand because I believe that it’s up to me the build life I want. I could easily gain inspiration right here in NYC (very easily) but I’ve always loved to travel and its always opened my heart up and expanded me. I knew that if I didn’t build that into my brand it wouldn’t happen as frequently, so I basically, and very willingly, force myself to travel at least twice a year to someplace new for each collection. Some past seasons include Antigua, Guatemala ; Florence, Italy ; Essauoira, Morocco. My next season is Joshua Tree, CA.
What has been your favorite product you’ve produced so far?
I really liked the rugs I made with my weavers in Guatemala, but I think honestly my favorite product is still the very first thing I made which is the Hannah throw.
And the most challenging?
The most challenging product I have made were our Alpaca rugs – the Millican rug. They are produced in a village outside of Ayacucho in Peru. You basically have to travel by donkey to get there but I loved their work so I produced a limited run of those rugs and restock very infrequently. Producing products in places that are hard to reach both physically and by email are extremely challenging. The rugs are all made from the Alpacas on the family’s farm and the dyes they use are made from plants living on their farm. It’s a special operation and each rug takes up to 5 weeks to make.
What is your dream project or collaboration ?
I would love to collaborate with a big hotel brand that is looking to make a more intimate kind of experience. I’ve been dreaming of creating a large hotel that feels like a home. I would need an endless budget to create the perfect 10 bedroom hotel filled with the most beautiful and cozy furniture, textiles and art. Everything would be for sale and there would be resident chefs who would cook family style dinner for all the guests. It would ideally be right on the ocean (thinking Mexico…) and would incorporate some sort of art residency program as well…
What are some studio must-haves?
Essentia water at all times, paint and brushes within an arms distance with fresh paper handy for when an idea strikes. All of my inspirations and collected material from whatever trip I have just been on, lots and lots of plants and some good tunes or NPR when I am doing a mindless task like cutting out our templates for new block printing styles.
If you weren’t living in New York, where would you be living?
Mexico or LA.
Where can we find you when you’re not in your studio?
Traveling somewhere! Or at home being cozy and cooking with buddies.