How To Run A Successful Textile Print Business
Running your own design business is really tough! If you enjoyed the interview with amazing knitwear designer Bronwyn Lowenthal from Lowie about How To Create a Successful Sustainable Knitwear Brand, you'll LOVE our interview today, picking the brains of incredible printmaker and owner of Cotton & Flax, Erin Dollar. Erin creates beautiful, modern home and decor products in sunny California - lucky Erin! She's a true inspiration and a little look into her process just might help you to reach success too! Here's her story.
How To Run #Successful #Textile #Print #Business with @cottonandflax
How and why did you start Cotton & Flax?
I started Cotton & Flax in 2012, as an extension of my fine art printmaking practice. It was a way to collect all my (then experimental) printed textile projects into one place. I began the company selling printed pillows, and have since expanded into linen tea towels, coasters, and other tabletop goods, as well as collaborating with others to create gift items, like sachets and patterned notebooks.
What makes your company different?
My unique aesthetic viewpoint. I approach textile design as a printmaker first, which leads to bold designs that blend well with a variety of modern decor styles. I'm also obsessed with using quality materials, and I source beautiful linen and wool fabrics which only improve with age.
How did you get your brand noticed?
It's been rather organic so far. Mostly word of mouth, but that's been a great compliment to the behind the scenes peeks I share on social media. The most important part of getting your brand noticed is to create truly outstanding, original work, and to speak up about it!
The most important part of getting your brand noticed is to create truly outstanding, original work, and to speak up about it!
Do you stick to the same print techniques?
I studied fine art printmaking in college, and I am professionally trained in a variety of printing techniques. I've managed to work out a specific printing system to print fabric in my tiny home studio, which is only 72 sq ft! I worked for months to find an efficient printing methods and an optimal schedule, and now I pretty much stick to it.
You design, print and sew everything yourself (!) Do you find it challenging working on your own?
Yes! It can be tedious to work alone, especially when I'm working assembly-line style on a very large order... Honestly, though, I really can't complain, because the best part of running the business is being in control of the process. I can keep the quality high, and if I am sick of sewing zippers on pillow covers, I can always switch to packing orders, sourcing or re-ordering supplies, or writing a blog post. There are an endless number of tasks involved in running the business, and each requires a different type of creativity. It's never dull!
How often do you update your designs & how do you choose which product you'll sell and which print to use?
I try to update my designs a few times a year, creating patterns in various scales to suit specific products. Part of what makes my brand feel cohesive is the consistency in color and pattern between the different products, so I try to keep that in mind and design each new product with the whole brand in mind.
What do you do if something isn't selling well?
First, I try to assess if there truly isn't a demand for the product, or if I haven't effectively marketed it to my customers. Often, if a product isn't selling as well as I anticipated, it's because it needs a little boost in promotion. Since I create things in very small batches, it's not too risky to debut new products, because if one doesn't sell well, I can move on to the next
You have an amazing blog showing your customers how to make your products. Do you think that's important for your brand? Why?
I love sharing peeks into my process on the Cotton & Flax blog! I think it's important to share those behind the scenes glimpses into the studio, because it reminds people that there is a living, breathing artist behind the work. My designs start with an ink drawing, created by hand with a brush and sumi ink — I think people are fascinated by the traditional methods of production I use, and I'm happy to share those details. I wish I had more time to spend documenting my processes and sharing peeks into the studio... maybe someday I'll be able to hire an assistant to help me document studio life.</div>
You also offer workshops - Is that something you've always done? What made you decide to do so?
I really enjoy teaching workshops! If I wasn't busy with work for Cotton & Flax, that's something I'd like to do more often. I love to share my knowledge of printmaking and pattern design, and I find it completely inspiring to meet other creative makers, and to create something new.
What are the best and worst things about running your own business?
The best thing is the feeling of independence, of having creative control, and the freedom to try new things. The worst part is the lack of free time. :/
Have you had any hiccups along the way that you would warn budding print makers about?
The danger of creating designs that people love is that you will inevitably encounter a copy-cat or a company that has stolen your designs for commercial use. Learn your rights, and protect your work! Create work that is highly original, and make sure to have a plan for when/if you need to deal with copyright infringement.
What one piece of advice would you give someone who wants to start their own printmaking business?
This advice would be for anyone wanting to start a business (print related, or not): Running a business is a monumental task! Make sure you create a business that revolves around something you truly care about, because on the toughest days, you'll need that passion to keep you moving forward.
Thank you Erin! What a great insight into Cotton & Flax. We wish you plenty more success in the future! Visit Erin's site at Cotton & Flax, follow her on Twitter, Instagram or like on Facebook for more updates.
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Great #business #advice from @cottonandflax