Laurie Wisbrun: From the boardroom to the craftroom.

Hello! I’m so happy to have been asked to blog here on the Swatch & Stitch!  My name is Laurie Wisbrun and my very first collection for Robert Kaufman, Tufted Tweets is releasing in June. I’m so excited to see what everyone makes with it!

How I got into design.
My degree is in Advertising and I spent the last 20 years working in advertising and marketing. My focus was on working with blue chip clients (which is just a way of saying that I worked with really big and high profile companies) to help them define marketing plans and advertising campaigns. This also means that I sat on the business side of the table wearing a suit and building charts, instead of sitting on the design and creative side wearing jeans and creating art.

After spending so many years working in ad agencies and in marketing departments, I was really ready for a drastic change of career. I was good at my job and it was scary to think of leaving it, but I knew I wanted to create something more personally meaningful to me and to be able to focus on my creativity. At the time, I was living in Brooklyn so I was fortunate enough to be able to take a bunch of different classes to help me figure out what I wanted to do. The plethora of classes and education options in NYC is amazing. I took some night and weekend classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), at the museums, at a local quilt and knitting store, at the Institute of Culinary Education and even at the city’s oldest cheese shop learning about making artisan cheese (yummmm). I really just wanted to immerse myself in as many creative pursuits as possible and see what started to feel right.

I’ve always loved going to a fabric store and seeing all the colors and all the patterns. For me, the best part of a project has always been picking out the fabric and figuring out how to make something really unique by combining fabric and color in an unusual way.

So with all my exploration, I started to realize that my love of pattern and design was a constant in the classes that were the most energizing and exciting to me. And then I discovered Spoonflower! Spoonflower is a service that allows you to digitally print fabric in very small quantities. Birdies and Chairs was my first design that I created specifically for fabric and I submitted it to a design contest Spoonflower was having. And how surprised was I when it won? From there I was completely hooked.  I started spending every hour I could find designing. I started to view the world in a different way and started seeing patterns everywhere. Within a few months I decided to take the leap and see if I could build a business based on pattern and design.

The transition from indie fabric producer to licensed artist for Robert Kaufman
Once I made my mind up that I wanted to focus my career on design, one of the big goals I set for myself was to become a licensed artist with one of the major fabric manufacturers. But I also knew that I wanted to try selling some of my designs to see if people liked them and if they had any commercial viability. So I set up my Etsy shop and started printing small runs of fabric through Spoonflower and offering them for sale in my store. I started blogging about my journey as a newly self employed designer and sharing my trials and tribulations on my blog.  And it just took off from there!

Sometime last summer, I felt like I was ready (or as ready as I could be!) to take the leap and contact manufacturers. I selected a few companies that I felt meshed with my personality and design aesthetic and sent out my portfolio. (After getting over my serious bouts of self-doubt!!) When I heard from Robert Kaufman that they were interested in licensing my work, I was of course over the moon with excitement. With the company’s new emphasis on the ‘Urbanista’ look and the modern crafter, I knew it was going to be a great fit. And here we are today! Tufted Tweets comes out in June and Urban Circus will be coming in July. And I hope there are lots and lots of collections still to come!

Favorite part of design process.
I generally start with an idea (like a room full of chairs) and then try to figure out what the uniquely ‘Laurie’ spin is that I can add to it. I love the idea of design surprises through color or through subject and I rarely have everything planned out in too much detail when I start designing something new. So my favorite part of the process is probably just seeing what happens as I start to play with the designs.

I love how changing the color palette on a design can really change the feeling you get from something. So once I get started with color changes, the design always starts to take on a whole new dimension.

And of course there is a new part of the process that I just discovered that I love! When I got my first cuts of Tufted Tweets that had my name on the selvedge, I pretty much completely dorked out. Dancing around and calling everyone in my family was involved, as well as just huge ear-to-ear grinning. I fear the first time I go into a fabric store and see a bolt of Tufted Tweets, I will do the same thing and will have to explain ‘that’s my design!’ before they call the police due to my dancing about… :)

Becoming inspired and how I translate that into my designs.
Inspiration is a tricky one. I find that it comes in huge waves and I try to catch them whenever they arrive. For me, it’s almost like a bunch of ideas are trying to escape from my brain all at once. Which may be why I have some pretty unusual combinations in my work!  I keep a journal with design ideas and sketches that I’ve done at random times. Drawing by hand isn’t one of my best strengths, so my sketches are really more reminders of an idea nugget than the beginning of a design.

For inspiration, I also create mood boards, spend a lot of time in museums, and can often be found going through Flickr for color inspiration. And it helps that I can be inspired by just about anything. For instance, the wall paper in Avian Therapy is based on the ironwork of a brownstone near my apartment during my time in Brooklyn. And a rainy day on vacation in Greece provided the initial idea for ‘Donkeys in Wellingtons’ which is a fabric that I produce independently. The little things in everyday life are where I see most of my design possibilities!

We're giving away a 1yd set of Tufted Tweets! It's no surprise that I have a love of chairs & furniture. Tell us your favorite chair/couch/seating apparatus and why you love it for a chance to win! Winners will be selected at random on Monday, May 3.