It was such a joy to work with the wonderful Erin Dollar of Cotton & Flax for the second installment of Pennyweight Goods. The tea towel was silkscreened by hand in Los Angeles, California, onto an exclusive grey natural linen and cotton blend fabric. I've purchased her towels in the past, and know firsthand how beautiful they are.
How did you get into your art?
I studied fine art in college, and when I discovered the printmaking studio, I never wanted to leave. I felt an instant connection with the medium, it was wonderful! I worked mostly with paper, but I wanted to branch out to other materials. My mom taught me to sew when I was young; in fact, I'm still sewing on the machine my mom gave me many years ago. Printing on fabric seemed like a natural next step, and what began as an experiment became something I wanted to pursue full-time. While I love making fine art pieces to display on a wall, the idea of someone taking a nap on a pillow I designed, or drying dishes with a tea towel I printed brings me so much happiness. With Cotton & Flax, I try to bring beauty into the items we use everyday.
What is the creative community like in California, and how does that influence your work?
I moved from Portland to Los Angeles two years ago, and I'll admit that the LA creative scene initially felt both overwhelming and isolating to me. Eventually, I did connect with other designers, artists, and makers, and I feel more at home now that I have that community support. I am lucky to have found a group of creative friends who are excited to collaborate and offer support for each others' projects. My friends show such enthusiasm for LA, and for living a creative life in general... it's inspiring. They push me to soak up the color and beauty of California and infuse it into my work.
Between printmaking, drawing, collage and hand-printing textiles, what do you find yourself enjoying the most?
Right now I am obsessed with printing textiles, and I keep returning to the fabric district downtown to search for beautiful fabrics to print onto. I am trained as a fine art printmaker, and I treasure my knowledge in that area, but I am fascinated by the tactile nature of textiles and I'm really enjoying designing in a more practical way.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the process of silkscreening these home goods?
I use Sumi ink and large brushes to draw a large repeat pattern. I use a grid to help create uniformity in the pattern, but I love that each inky shape is different, and that the overall pattern feels imperfect and unique. I source raw fabrics locally, looking for beautiful colors and a consistent, high-quality weave. For anyone who is unfamiliar with silkscreen printing, it's somewhat similar to using a stencil. I use a squeegee to push a thin layer of eco-friendly ink through a screen that has been prepared with my design, which transfers the ink onto the fabric. Then I heat set the ink, and sew the fabrics into pillows and tea towels!
I print fabrics one piece at a time, since I work in a small space and can't spread out enough to print yardage. In a way, printing in small quantities feels more special, knowing beforehand what each printed piece is destined to become.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I've discovered recently that I am actually a morning person! I start my work day almost immediately after I wake up, and don't even notice that I'm hungry until noon. I tend to work on things in small batches. Whether it's printing fabric, sewing up seams, ironing and packaging tea towels, or taking product photos, I prefer to give one task my full attention. I wind down the day by packaging up online orders, replying to emails, updating my online shop, and doing creative research. Cotton & Flax is still a very new business, so I try to spend some time every day looking for ways to expand and improve. Often this means spending an hour developing new patterns and jotting down ideas in my sketchbook, while my cat naps next to me on the couch.
Where are your favorite places to find inspiration online?
I use Pinterest a lot, and I've found it to be a great way to catalog creative inspiration that I can return to over and over. Lately, I have been doing more focused searches through art museum websites (MoMA and the Whitney are my favorites). Online museum archives showcase pieces that aren't currently on display, which makes me feel like I am rummaging through their attic to find hidden treasures.
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Pennyweight Goods is a curated shop, featuring small batches of beautiful pieces from various makers around the world. The site will be updated on a monthly basis, but be sure to sign up for the newsletter so you don't miss anything.