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Designer Interview 03: Lena Corwin

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Designer Interview 03
Who: Lena Corwin, textile designer & illustrator

It's been a few months since my last Designer Interview, but here it's back at last! I LOVE the work of textile designer/illustrator Lena Corwin. Since I'm a graphic designer who also does a lot of textile work, I love that Lena does a range of work, both for her own clients and her own product line. Her products are vintage-inspired, whimsical, colorful, and they completely draw me in. Here are Lena's wonderful & inspiring responses...

1 ~ What inspired you to start your line?
We’re surrounded by so many patterns in our everyday lives, I think it’s natural for a textile designer to want to apply their own designs to the things around us. I’ve been inspired by other textile/graphic designers who have been very creative in this way: Eley Kishimoto’s converse sneakers, Cath Kidson’s camping tent and Airstream, Marimekko bed linens, Alexander Girard’s airplane upholstery… so far my products have been basic, but I would love the chance to design on that scale.

2 ~ Did you find it hard to get started? Did you start the business cold turkey full-time or did it start as a side project while at another job?
When I left my full-time job at Jill Stuart I was able to make time to start my own line, but I continued to do a lot of freelance work and still do (it is definitely not economically feasible yet for me to make a living just from selling my products!). Being independently employed has been great because I’ve been able to explore new areas of design, like book illustration. I got started just by jumping into it and learning as I go along.

3 ~ How you find time to manage both your client work & your own line?
I enjoy bouncing from one thing to another- I do textile design for various fashion companies, illustration for Elle Décor magazine and for children’s craft books, and I’m hopefully going to be collaborating with a wonderful letterpress company, Pantry Press, to do stationery design. All of these things really contribute to my own line because they help my own design style evolve. And these projects often have to be my priority- so I’ll spend the weekends on my own line.

4 ~ What is your favorite product or series of products in your collection?
My new melamine plates. I’m used to working with fabric, so it’s fun to see my artwork printed in a different medium. And the melamine has this great slightly foggy, vintage look.

5 ~ Where are your items made? Are they made in factories/mills or in your own studio?

My fabric is printed in a textile studio in San Francisco. They do really wonderful, high quality work. I moved recently and I have a lot more workspace now, so I’m hoping to start doing some of the printing myself. I want to get off the computer and work with my hands more! The fabric products are sewn locally in New York and the plates are made by a large manufacturer (in the U.S.).

6 ~ How did you go about finding a manufacturer?

I asked friends and people I work with for recommendations, and did a lot of research online. It can be really frustrating and you have to keep searching. I had a hard time finding a good seamstress… I posted ads on craigslist, but couldn’t find someone reliable and professional. It finally occurred to me to try the tailor near my apartment, and there I met a fabulous sewer. Every time I passed it I thought about how hard I had searched for a good seamstress and it was right under my nose. When I moved I went to my local tailor again and found my new seamstress.

7 ~ What inspires you in general?
Stuff in my grandmother’s closet, old books, nature (looking out the window in my back yard), vintage textiles, Japanese design and fashion books, visiting museums, my friends, my mom & her friends, photography, movies, music, magazines, I could go on forever…

8 ~ What is one piece of advice to other designers and creative types who are looking to start their own business?

Don’t feel pressure to make your designs more “mainstream”.

9 ~ What's your favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon?
Either hang out around the house and do projects or go out and explore Brooklyn.

10 ~ What is your favorite flower, pet/animal, and magazine?
Oh, so hard to choose… cherry blossom, cat, and Relax for Girls (a Japanese magazine).

Thanks Lena! To get a glimpse into Lena's inspirations, check out her blog. {UPDATE March 17th: Check out Lena's mention in Daily Candy and her wedding featured in the Spring 2006 issue of Martha Stewart Weddings! Congrats Lena!

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