Careers in Sewing – textile designer
Have you ever considered a Career in Sewing? Do you dream of ditching the 9-5 and pursuing your creative dreams? In this blog series we will be posting interviews for a range of different sewing jobs to give you a taste of what possibilities are out there. Today we interview Erin Dollar who is a textile designer (including creating collections for companies such as Robert Kaufman) and owner of Cotton & Flax.
Can you tell us about your job and where you work?
I’m a textile and surface pattern designer, and founder of the home decor company Cotton & Flax. I design textile home goods featuring modern patterns, which are sold in my shop in San Diego, my online shop, and 150+ indie retailers around the world. My range of handcrafted pillows, tea towels, napkins, and coasters have been featured by Sunset Magazine, HGTV Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and Martha Stewart, among others.
I also license my surface pattern designs to other companies, most notably my two fabric collections with Robert Kaufman. Balboa, my most recent fabric collection, debuted late last year, and I collaborated with lots of local sewists to create a lookbook for the release.
What is your background and how have you ended up working where you are?
Before I launched Cotton & Flax, I studied fine art in college at UC Santa Cruz. After completing my degree, I worked as an artist in a co-operative printmaking studio in Portland, Oregon, where I created silkscreen and lithography art prints, which I sold through local galleries, at dozens of craft fairs, and in my Etsy shop. Printing on fabric started as an experiment — I had a friend who was interested in quilting – but I loved the challenge of creating artwork for 3D product applications, and I caught the textile design bug, you could say! I launched Cotton & Flax as a new brand to feature all my home decor designs in one place. As the business expanded, I went from managing an online store, to selling my products to indie boutiques, and eventually seeing my work in home decor powerhouses like CB2, Need Supply, and West Elm.
In the last few years, I was getting tons of requests from customers who wanted to purchase fabric yardage with my designs. I realized it was time to collaborate on a fabric collection, since it wasn’t possible to manufacture the yardage on my own. Luckily, Robert Kaufman Fabrics responded positively to my pitch, and we’ve created two fabric collections together, Arroyo and Balboa, both collections of printed linen fabrics. I’m continuing to expand my collaborations this year, and looking for ways to think even bigger!
What do you do in a typical day?
What are the best and the worst bits?
Did you always want a creative career?
Yes and no. There were a couple years during college where I thought I’d pursue Environmental Studies, but then I found myself completely enamored with printmaking, and spending every spare moment in the print studio on campus. It often feels like embracing my creativity is inevitable; I always find myself returning to it. It’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else!
What qualifications, skills or experience did you need to get your job? Have you continued to train since starting?
Do you have any tips for someone looking to get into the same thing as you?
Hone your style of artwork, and pitch your artwork to the companies you want to collaborate with! I think there’s a misconception that you need to have a giant online following before you can sell your work. Don’t be afraid to put your artwork out there, and start the collaboration conversation by submitting your work to art directors for consideration.
If you could do anything else what would it be?
Working as a fine artist is still a goal of mine for the future! It’s not so different from what I do now, but it still feels like a bit of a leap to move towards that world again.
What is your favourite sewing tool and why?
My seam ripper (because it’s saved me from disaster so many times) or the cute little Crew Pincushions that my friend Nichole made for me (because it reminds me of the encouragement I’ve received from my friends who sew).
What are you sewing right now/will be your next project?
I’m creating a series of quilts from the scrap fabrics I save from Cotton & Flax products, which I hope to display in the shop in the fall. It’s been so fun to revisit fabrics that were part of my collection four or five years ago, and bring them back to life in new ways… it’s like a little time capsule.
Follow Erin on social media here: