Each year as part of our awards show we honor someone that is kicking butt in their business and is making cool stuff. This is someone we see as leader in the handmade community and has made a career path that many others in our industry can pattern their own businesses after. We could not be more pleased to announce that the 2015 Master Maker will be Erin Dollar of Cotton & Flax. Not only does she make beautiful home goods and has rapidly grown her business to be featured in stores like CB2, but she has also made herself available to other makers to help them and advise them as they grow their businesses. We can't wait to honor her at our awards show on March 7, 2015!
Q: Tell us a little about the back story and history of your shop.
A: Cotton & Flax began as a side project: after years of creating fine art prints on paper, I started experimenting with printing my original designs on fabric. I loved the idea of designing utilitarian pieces that would beautify a home, and be enjoyed for many seasons. I founded Cotton & Flax in 2012-- just as my fabric printing experiments had completely taken over my print studio. I shot some photos of my one-of-a-kind textiles, and shared them on social media-- the response was fantastic, so I opened up an online shop, and traveled to craft fairs to sell the pieces.
As I grew the business, it became clear that I would need to focus on streamlining production, and so I moved from one-off pieces to creating a small collection of handmade, printed textiles twice a year. Each pattern design starts as an ink drawing-- I prefer to work with a brush rather than a computer, as ink lends an organic, one-of-a-kind look to the pattern. It's the traces of the maker that I find most appealing in handmade work, so I want my unique approach to design to come through in every piece. Just as I insisted on printing on the finest papers as a fine art printmaker, I source my gorgeous linen fabrics locally to ensure the highest quality. Each piece is screen printed by hand in my studio using eco-friendly, non-toxic inks, and then cut and sewn into the final design.
Q: How has your craft evolved since the beginning?
A: The process has mostly remained the same, although I produce items in larger quantities now, to meet demand. I also receive some local help with sewing during busier seasons. Mostly what's changed is that I'm dreaming a bit bigger-- if I want to collaborate with a maker who has skills I don't have, I don't hesitate to reach out and suggest an idea.
Q: What are your favorite materials to work with?
A: Quality linens and linen blends are amazing to work with. Linen has special properties that make it ideal for use in home goods - it's particularly long wearing, and once it's been broken in, is very absorbent as well.
Q: When was the first time you realize that your business was going places?
A: The times I've felt most confident about my business were mostly centered around landing large wholesale orders, or when my work was acknowledged by the press. Having a feature in the LA Times last winter made everything feel so real... something about seeing it printed in black and white felt very concrete to me.
Q: Where do you see your business going in the future?
A: I'd love to continue to expand at a sustainable rate, adding new products and moving into printing yardage of my fabric designs. I hope to eventually be able to hire full-time help, and to be able to take on much more ambitious projects as a result.
Q: What is the best piece of business advice you've ever been given or learned?
A: Don't be afraid to ask other people in your community for help when you need it.
Q: What is the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given or learned?
A: Draw in your sketchbook as often as possible!
Q: Where can people find your stuff online?
A: cottonandflax.com, or over on Instagram - I'm @cottonandflax