Hey there fabric lovers!
We hope everyone is having a fantastic Tuesday! Isn’t it crazy how time flies? It seems like only a couple of months ago we were telling you about Fall Quilt Market in Houston, and now it’s almost time for Spring Quilt Market in Salt Lake City. We're really excited about the new things we will show then, BUT let’s come back to the present because you’re going to love the first of many surprises we have ready for you this season!
Today, I get to share with you the first surprise…brace yourself! All of the AGF girls and myself are super happy to introduce you to our new limited edition designer, Dana Willard! Dana, is the host of the popular Youtube channel MADE Everyday, the writer of the sewing blog MADE, and is the author of the book Fabrics A to Z. Dana’s fun personality, admiration for bright colors, and drive to make sewing simple will win your heart.
Dana’s designs and photography have been featured in various books, magazines, and award circles. In addition to her many ventures, she is a wife and mother of three beautiful kids. (She must be a super woman!)
We had the chance to interview Dana to find out about her inspirations, the fabric design process, and we got to learn about all of the things she loves. We hope you have fun getting to know our new limited edition designer! Without further ado, we present to you Dana Willard!
AGF: Why choose Art Gallery Fabrics to launch your first fabric collection?
Dana: Oh there's so much to love about Art Gallery! I've been following AGF for a few years and have always been impressed with the soft touch of their fabric. And the designs just make me feel....happy. There's a great balance of playful and colorful, mixed with floral and sophisticated. And on top of the beautiful fabric, I admire the overall brand and marketing that Art Gallery has created through social media, videos, the look books. Oh the look books! Those sucked me in. I've got to be honest. So I guess in a nutshell: I wanted to work with a high quality, hip, fabric company, to make happy fabrics!
AGF: What did you do before you started designing fabrics?
Dana: For the past 8 years I've been blogging, writing, and photographing on my site MADE. And I'm still doing that! But I'm happy to add fabric design to the creative package. I also sell sewing patterns and I've written and photographed some books. Two years ago, I started a sewing show called MADE Everyday which really combines all things I love in one place.
But before any of the fabric/sewing stuff?....I worked in Los Angeles in the film business on blockbustery films like Pirates of the Caribbean and King Kong. It was a fun time of life, but I actually love what I'm doing now even more! Making connections with other women and moms like myself throughout the world is amazing. We all help each other, share ideas, and laugh at our mistakes together. It's the modern day penpal-meets-quilting bee.
AGF: How and when did you decide fabric design was something you wanted to do one day?
Dana: I never really thought I would design fabric because my style is so simple and minimalistic. In fact, last year another designer friend asked me, "when are you going to design a line of fabric" and I kind of laughed "well, it would just be stripes and dots". Which I guess it sort of is! But my friend's comment got me thinking. Could I design fabrics? Would it be more than just cabana stripes? And on the plane ride home from the blogging conference I started making lists of different fabric line concepts. Then when I got home I started drawing, and tweaking, and drawing some more, and learning more about Adobe Illustrator more than I ever imagined.
My designs are still minimalist, and I'm definitely a novice with a long way to go. But these designs are also very me. And I've learned that you can take a basic concept or shape and give it your own spin. Cause who doesn't love dots??
AGF: What is the story behind your collection?
Dana: I love summer. I love color. And I love playing at the beach. (I'm starting to sound like Olaf). I wanted to make a collection that captured all those summertime pieces that make me feel carefree like a kid again. So I hope that through these playful prints you can imagine walking on the boardwalk, ordering your favorite ice cream flavor from the chalkboard menu, laughing with friends, stopping to take a photo against a colorful wall, and just enjoying the bright colors of a busy beach. That way, it can feel like summer all year long.
AGF: What are you hoping to translate and offer to fabric lovers with your collection?
Dana: I hope sewists young and old enjoy the "fun" in this collection. Because although the designs are youthful, I imagine a really cool men's shirt filled with the "ice scream cones" fabric, or "twinkle lights" neck ties...and a gathered skirt from the "soda straws" print, with an "eat it all" crop top. There's something for everyone here.
AGF: What are some ways you gather inspiration before you start designing?
Dana: Once I have a concept in mind, I love to browse pinterest just to see what images pop up. It helps me think of aspects I hadn't thought of. For instance with Boardwalk, I'd completely forgot about all those Salt Water Taffy bins until I browsed images online. So I incorporated some taffy pieces into the "Busy Beach" print. I also take screen shots of images I see on Instagram...anything that captures my eye or makes me pause. Then I keep a folder on my computer called "fabric inspiration" with these images. I also keep a notebook with fabric ideas and notes and simple sketches (emphasis on "simple". Because, unlike my fellow AGF designers, I am not very skilled at hand-drawing or painting! So instead I focus on things I am good at, like color combinations and shapes. I've learned that you don't have to be an "artist" to be an artist :))
Dana: Well, from a beginner's perspective...
I first make a list of different concept ideas, about 6 collection lines. And in fact I actually designed a completely different collection before switching gears and moving ahead with Boardwalk Delight. But you can never get too many designs down on paper (or on the computer), because it's often the journey that gets you right where you need to be. And there will always be future collections that dip into your design bank.
After landing on a concept I make private pinterest boards to gather inspiration ideas...anything from colors, to objects, shapes, etc. And I make a mood board/mosaic of images to get a vibe for finished projects I would make from such novelty fabrics. Shops like H&M and Forever 21 are big inspirations for me---with canvas shoes in a popsicle print, shirts with tacos and funny quotes, etc. I wanted my collection to feel young, but also for adults.
From there I decide on a color palette, which might be a backwards way to do it. But often color alone will inspire ideas. Then I finally start drawing in Illustrator! Which is a fun and time-consuming process. My husband thought I was crazy for a month, because every free moment I wanted to work on fabric designs! But when you're motivated, you gotta go with it. And just enjoy the journey that takes to you a final design. Often in the process, a simple mistake, or forgetting to erase a layer, or changing a stroke to a fill has resulted in ah-ha moments. "Hey that looks cool!"
AGF: If you had to choose one print, which is your favorite and why?
Dana: I really love "Ice Cream Shop". It was actually the first print I designed and sort of set the stage for the collection's palette, because so many colors are included. Again, it's simple. It's just rectangles. But I love the vibe. It reminds me of so many different things---popsicles, giant sprinkles (in a minecraft world?) a fun mosaic tile wall down by the beach. In fact, that's what I wanted to name this print.---"cool colorful wall that you want to take an instagram photo in front of". But I could never think of a short and clever way to say that. So we called it Ice Cream Shop :) My second favorite print might be "eat it all". Because from a distance, it sort of looks like black and white stripes! You see, I got my stripes in there after all.
AGF: Which print was most challenging to create and why?
Dana: "Flavor of the Day" definitely challenged my hand-lettering skills and took the longest to draw. But I really wanted something hand-drawn for the collection because it gives a personal touch. I'm still learning the tricks of Adobe Illustrator and a pen/tablet, so it took me a while to find the stroke and paintbrushes that I like. It was also a good challenge playing with pattern repeat, and deciding which flavor colors looked good next to each other once the pattern repeated, and where the spaces should be, etc. Pattern repeat is a whole new design aspect I'm tackling. It's so much fun!
AGF: How does your line differ from other collections currently in the market?
Dana: This collection is very bright and geometric, which is a fun contrast to the many floral and whimsical lines that are out there.
AGF: When you are not designing fabrics, what do you like to do in your free time?
Dana: My favorite thing to do, honestly, is play in the sunshine with people I love. So a day at the beach with my family would be perfect. I also love indie films, movies in general, and dancing! I mean in the words of Sarah Jessica Parker, "I love to dance" (Girls just wanna have fun).
AGF: Is there a specific project you envision being made with your new fabrics collection?
Dana: I picture a lot of fun baby and kid items: bright colorful crib sheets, cute leggings, home decor pieces to decorate a kid's bedroom. Then, as mentioned above, I can see apparel for women and men as well: cute dresses, skirts, shirts, shorts. Men's shorts from "ice cream shop"?? Maybe! And of course some darling quilts. I've definitely grown up as an apparel sewer so quilting is a new world to me as well. I'm excited to start piecing things together!
AGF: What’s your favorite thing about designing fabrics?
Dana: I love seeing shapes come together and figuring out the pattern repeat. When I was working on a triangle design, I was cool to dissect which basic "shape" of triangles, in different weights, needed to come together to make the continuous repeat.
AGF: What is next for you in 2016?
Dana: I hope to put out more sewing patterns, more videos, and of course....more fabric! And I want to keep pushing myself to try concepts that are outside of my wheel house, that help me grow as an artist.
Thank you Art Gallery for having me!
I'm excited to join the team!
We hope you enjoyed the interview with Dana! Stay tuned for the full reveal of Dana's entire collection. We're super excited to see all the amazing projects you will make with Boardwalk Delight. As always, stay creative and thanks for inspiring!