While attending Quilt Market in Houston last October, I was mesmerized by all of the amazing fabric lines that burst from each booth. I visited familiar favorites while learning about dozens of new and new-to-me artists. One artist I was thrilled to discover was Sarah Watts, who designs fabric with Blend Fabrics, a division of Anna Griffin. If you have not yet been introduced to Sarah, I am honored to do so with a fun Q&A today; and if you are already a fan, I know you’ll love this inside peek into Sarah’s creative side!
Stitch Craft Create: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Sarah! Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into fabric design?
Sarah Watts: Hi Shannon. Thank YOU for taking the time to talk to me! Well, I graduated from Ringling College in 2008 with a BFA in illustration. From there I designed art for kids apparel at Carter’s/Osh Kosh, then I designed stationery and gift wrap at International Greetings. I was always doing freelance projects on the side and planned to go freelance full time once it picked up. I have always sewn too. Sewing and the print/pattern knowledge that I learned at my day jobs really lent itself to fabric design. I definitely fantasized about designing fabric. My friend, Jules Davis, put me in contact with Blend. They were looking for designers. They loved my art and I loved them, and the rest is history! I quit my full-time job around the time I signed with Blend in 2011 since freelance was getting crazy to juggle.
SCC: Timber & Leaf is your third collection from Blend Fabrics, and we are told that, like your first two lines, it tells a story. Can you share what that’s about?
SW: Timber & Leaf honors the curiosity and playfulness of the forest. This collection symbolizes my current life. I am exploring things that feed my curiosity and passion. Like playing in the forest, I find new paths and magic that inspire me to create. I also grew up with a strong nature influence. We were always out in the woods or near the ocean collecting and exploring. Nature and narrative will continue be a strong underlying theme in my work.
SCC: Can you explain a little of the creative process you go through when designing a new fabric line?
SW: I typically design based on what’s going on in my life or where I’m traveling. I draw a bunch of stuff in my sketchbooks and then start composing the drawings. I make a mood board and then pull it all together with magic unicorn powder! Haha.
SCC: From where do you draw inspiration for your work?
SW: Nature, storytelling and thrifting. As a kid, my family always took us walking in the woods, and we also had a lot of pets. My favorite was my iguana, Dino, who I walked on a leash every day, haha! We grew vegetables in the backyard to feed the iguanas (and us), but mostly the iguanas. I also grew up thrifting and upcycling. My family is all about the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Collecting neat finds is very inspiring to me and calls to a favorite part of my childhood. I also love adventures, and so I tend to make a lot of art inspired by trips that I go on. There is nothing more magical than morning dew in the woods, or a vintage treasure that has just the right price tag on it! Scott (my husband) and I recently drove from Vegas to Mt. Zion in Utah. I have to make a collection from that! I found a bone in the desert on that trip, ooooh!
SCC: A little birdie told us that not only are you a talented artist, you like to get crafty! What are your favorite mediums, and what do you enjoy making?
SW: I love sewing! I am learning more and more, and taking classes here in Atlanta taught by my studio mate, Sarah Lodato. I also love paper sculptures, so I want to mess around with that a bit. Oh, and upcycling – I like to find unwanted things and make them something new, or compliment something new.
SCC: What’s something from the arts & crafts realm you’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t yet?
SW: I want to get into screen printing! We just got a set up in our studio, so I will be exploring that soon. I also want to design clothing. I recently signed with Peking Handicraft to make aprons and tea towels. Having the opportunity to design the whole apron was so rewarding, and now I want to do more! I also want to collaborate with an upholsterer. Home dec is an exciting realm that I am dying to get into. When my husband photographed the images for this post, I got to go junking and fix things up. It was awesome!
SCC: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and designers looking to take their passion full-time?
SW: Find your niche, and dump tons of passion into it. People respond to authenticity, so don’t try to change into what you think your should do. Embrace the little quirks and imperfection about your work, and people will feel a connection to it. Jessica Swift is a big inspiration for me in this. She is all about embracing yourself. Working for YOU also involves pushing yourself hard and staying inspired. Some days are hard for me, and others make me so happy that I’m not sure that it’s real. I also try to remember that it’s a learning process. When you get knocked down, brush it off and keep going. My favorite quote: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” -Steve Jobs
SCC: We can’t wait to see more of your work. What’s up next for you?
SW: I am currently illustrating two children’s books for Sterling Publishing that my book agent, Abigail Samoun wrote! I am also illustrating some book interiors for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and a journal for Compendium. Pillows and another apron launch are coming this year as well. Oh, and I’m exhibiting at Surtex in May. That’s what I have in the works for 2013 so far!