Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Heather Ross On life, work, and Pocahontas
When we found out that Heather Ross, fabric designer extraordinaire, was coming to Philly to promote her new book, Weekend Sewing, I jumped at the chance to be able to ask her some questions about her life, inspiration, and design process. I often find myself admiring the women who make everything seem so naturally simple, so perfectly effortless, as if the ideas have been there all along, and just flow out of their minds and into their craft like easy squeeze mayonnaise! Heather is the perfect example of this, which is one of the reasons I think she is so successful, another might be her secret lemon bars. Enjoy the interview below, and be sure to join Heather at Spool this weekend for a book signing and special project session!
You have been textile designer for a while now, and writing a book about what to do with all that beautiful fabric seems like a logical step. What were the most enjoyable parts of producing it? What obstacles or problems did you have to solve along the way?
I loved the process, but I loved the people more. Working with a publisher like STC gave me access to some of the most talented people in the industry. I also loved that we got to go to some of my favorite wild little places for the photo shoots. I had to learn how to “be edited”, which was huge for me, very challenging but extremely rewarding.
Weekend Sewing is coming out at a time when many people are cutting back on spending money on clothing, how do you see your book fitting into this new, simplified way of life?
Liesl (of Disdressed) and I made a little quilted jacket from the Lucys Kimono pattern, and were amazed that it looked like something that would have cost literally hundreds of dollars in a boutique, and yet required only about $10 worth of fabric! That’s a nice feeling, that we are providing resources that help people to have beautiful things without spending a lot of money.
What is your favorite project in Weekend Sewing, and which projects would you recommend for sewing beginners?
My answer changes every time I get this question! Currently I am obsessed with the smocked sundress, which is so much fun. Lots of patterns, like the sundress, employ elastic thread, which is such such a fun little trick...
Can you tell us a bit about your design process? What types of media do you use to produce your designs?
I start with a sketch, and scan it into Photoshop. I can then add color and fine lines and build repeats much more easily. I like my art to maintain a hand-drawn feel, and have never been able to accomplish that with Illustrator, even though I know plenty of designers who are very happy working in both. I draw and color everything using Photoshop channels, and build files that go directly to the engravers computer. I started doing this because if I just provided my paintings or my artwork on paper, the engravers would re-draw my stuff, and sometimes I would not be able to see my hand in it at all. I have been using a stylus and a wacom tablet for about 8 years, and am utterly incapable of managing a mouse! My friends get really annoyed when they try to use my computer and have to try to figure out the stylus, so I keep a mouse handy, but its definitely the cleanest, whitest thing on my messy desk.
A lot of your fabrics have a connection to nature, something that people don’t normally associate with the big city. How does living in New York influence your work?
I miss living in the country very much, which has driven me to develop some of my best work. There is a reason that love songs, when written while you are in love, sound so shmaltzy compared to the haunting post-heartbreak stuff. You just have so much more to say about something once you have lost it and begun to realize how much it meant to you, you know?
What inspires you, and if you could meet one person, who would it be?
I really honestly believe that if history had allowed it, Pocahontas and I would have been total BFFs.
Can you give us an idea of what a typical workday is like for you?
I work from home, so much of my day revolves around bargaining with my dog about when we will go for a long walk. I usually go for a long neighorhood stroll for coffee wiht him first thing then spend much of the day in front of my computer, drawing or emailing, and as much of my afternoon sewing or sketching. I am also on the phone and emailing a lot, the latter complicated by the fact that I do not know how to type properly. I really couldn’t see a need for it back in high school. Boy was I wrong.Recently I made a commitment to getting fully dressed every single day, things were getting a little too casual and a teensy bit sloppy. Its amazing how much better you feel when you have clothes on, as opposed to sweats and your husbands musty tee shirt.