We hope you enjoyed Jan’s post yesterday all about organic fabrics.  We sure learned a lot!  There was even more we wanted to know, so we’ve asked Jan a few more questions about herself and her business, Daisy Janie.  I’m also excited to kick off our newest Designer’s Challenge today, in which we’re arming several Fat Quarterly readers with scrap bags full of Daisy Janie’s newest line, Shades of Grey, to see what they create.  More on that later …

First, let’s get to know a bit more about Jan and the unique path she’s followed as an independent businesswoman.

Note: due to some unforseen circumstances, we haven’t yet been able to update our masthead with Jan’s design.  We’re working on it and should have it up shortly!

The first question we want to ask is about the name of your business, Daisy Janie. I assume that it is derived from your first name (Jan), but is there more to the story?

You’re halfway there! The DAISY is my favorite flower – sunshine-y, crisp & minimalist. With its simple beauty, it conveys to me, “What you see is what you get.” JANIE is what my husband has been lovingly calling me since we were 18. Together, they capture the essence of what Daisy Janie is all about: pure, bright, straightforward and overflowing with passion and sentiment.

Of all the different fields of design, how did your journey bring you to designing fabric?

Many, many, many stepping stones ago (1999), I created vibrant, abstract artwork on various surfaces that I sold at juried art shows in PA. I also painted customized designs on walls in clients’ homes. In both of these contexts, I was creating complex, layered repeat patterns, similar to those you’d find on fabric or wallpaper. Climbing up & down on ladders in odd spaces was exhausting, so I sought out other ways to continue creating surface design patterns and other applications for the patterns…which led me to fabric! In 2006, I created 2 collections of digitally printed fabrics for a line of handbags under the new Daisy Janie label. There was such a tremendous response to the fabrics that I was able to discontinue the handbags after 2 years and focus solely on fabric design and production. From there, it was a matter of building my brand and figuring out how to actually make a profit from my fabrics. It’s been quite the journey and a never-ending learning curve!

Many designers go the route of having their designs printed by an established fabric company. However, you chose the route of building your own business. Why did you go in that direction, and has it been difficult?

My decision to take on large-scale production for my own fabrics was precipitated by a proverbial line in the sand in early 2009, regarding my definition of success and what I needed to change in order to make my desires a reality. At the time, I felt like I had been swimming upstream for years – I was tired, frustrated and frazzled. I decided my success would hinge upon balancing time spent working plus self-fulfillment plus earthly stewardship with adequate profit margin. Looking at my work and experience through this lens pointed me quite instantly toward organic fabrics – it was the only logical decision I think I’ve made in my entire 12 years of artsy-fartsy businesses! Given that there weren’t ANY established fabric companies licensing art for quilters’ organic fabrics at the time, the only choice was to put all my pennies together and do it myself.

Yes, it has been immensely difficult! Daisy Janie is just me – I work alone, have virtually no experience and very little cash reserve to make mistakes. I realized very early that passion, risk and chutzpah only get you so far. In addition, it was like moving from a speedboat to an ocean liner. The beauty of digital fabric printing is the ease with which one can change directions or find affordable, quick solutions to the occasional problem. In contrast, the enormity of a large-scale print run does not allow for a change of heart, expediency, or inexpensive mistakes, and I have learned all of this first-hand! However, I feel over-the-moon every, single day about what I’m doing and the contribution I’m making to a multi-billion dollar industry where eco-friendly options are becoming more accepted and sought after. It feels good to be a pioneer!

Was having your designs printed on organic fabric a priority for you from day one?

Once I decided to undertake the printing of my own fabrics for wholesale, yes, organic fabric was the only option for Daisy Janie from that point forward. I have read too much and know too much about the negative, destructive effects of conventionally grown and milled cotton to ever consider it as a product for my business. In fact, educating myself over the past 3 years, combined with what I already knew and my personal philosophies, has prompted additional changes in the way we approach all of the buying and consuming in our household. We minimize our footprint in as many ways and days as we can! It’s really a way of life, not just a business for me.

Have you always been a sewist and quilter? What are your favorite items to make?

I was successfully & regularly breaking my mom’s Bernina starting in 10th grade, and I’ve been sewing ever since – 26 years! Quilting is new to me, though, having only made patchwork duvet covers previously. Last Fall, I completed my first quilt (Rec Room) for my booth at Quilt Market. That was crazy stressful b/c I thought for sure I was going to ruin it! It actually turned out very nicely, but I bought a walking foot the next day to alleviate some of the anxiety! I have all sorts of respect for quilters!!

I love making pillows and handbags because they come together fairly quickly and are so easy to customize any which way – you can always have an original!

Let’s talk for a moment about your first fabric collection, Geo Grand. From where did you draw your inspiration for the designs and color palette?

Like most of my designs, I am inspired by nostalgic memories or design motifs from eras gone-by. I have a thing about needing to identify with my designs in a very familial way. I like my designs to feel good in my heart, knowing they came from a cherished memory or place in time with which I identify.

For Geo Grand, I drew inspiration from mid-century modern décor found in my grandparents’ home. I was looking for a nice mix of movement, texture and color value, with the overall vibe being somewhat mod and oversized. The most exciting design challenge was achieving this within the confines of six designs, four hues and one colorway. I selected 2 colors from my go-to comfort palette: chocolate brown and chartreuse. From there, I added sky blue and a smoky aqua blue to stay on the masculine side as well as balance out the ‘earth’ hues with some ‘water’ hues.

With your current collection, Shades of Grey, you went in a decidedly different direction. How did the idea of a monochromatic collection develop?

The sparks that inspired this collection came from two meaningful gifts: an old Irish wool sweater given to me by my dearest friend after one of her first trips to Ireland about 17 years ago and a tiny beach pebble given to
me by son. Each one indulged me with its texture, softness, color and form, and, most definitely, the embodied sentimentality. As I considered them individually and together, the idea for a collection based upon textures/things stitched together by their characteristic grey hues began to emerge. I ruminated on many protypically grey things and honed in on 6 designs that represent grey objects or textures with equally good feelings as the two that kindled the collection.

  • My father’s pinstripe suits.
  • A dapple grey horse named Travis eating grass out of my hand.
  • My old Irish ragg wool sweater.
  • A chain link fence to climb over to meet my friends or to reach through to pet a doggie’s nose.
  • A bed of river rocks waiting to be skipped or stacked into cairns.
  • A nickel-plated zipper on my favorite pair of comfy jeans.

When designing Shades of Grey, did you envision entire projects made from the line, or more that sewists would use them to complement other prints?

To me, the Shades of Grey fabric collection is like a pair of jeans: they go with everything; they can be dressed up or dressed down as needed; and they’re absolutely timeless. I envisioned solids and non-solid solids in rich, saturated tones like garnet, plum, olive and mustard gold paired with these fabrics. I can see theses solids complementing the greys as piping on a pillow or floor cushion, a fun pocket detail on a handbag, an interesting stripe on a placemat or table runner. I also saw a lovely pencil skirt made from Pinstripe – would be a gorgeous masculine-feminine match-up (add to list…)! And a scrumptious, cozy duvet made from Chainlink.

You’ve already announced your next collection, Tilly. How would you describe this collection in 3 words?

Feminine, versatile and unapologetically domestic.

Other than your own, what are your 5 favorite fabric prints on the market right now?

  1. Cartwheel in Lime by Erin McMorris
  2. Wren in Gypsy by Valori Wells
  3. Wildflower in Dawn by Jessica Jones
  4. Too Muchery in Brown by Helen Dardik
  5. Lotta Jansdotter’s new collection looks very favorite-able, too!!

Thanks again, Jan!  We’ve been drooling over Shades of Grey since it was released.  We knew many of you have been as well, which is why we were THRILLED when Jan agreed to sponsor a Fat Quarterly Designer’s Challenge.

We put a call out on Twitter for volunteers and quickly reached our quota.  Jan will be sending scrap bags of Shades of Grey to 10 of our Fat Quarterly readers to see what they create, including:

We’ll showcase their creations here on the blog next month, and YOU will help us determine the winner.  Whoever creates the most spectacular, inspirational, jaw-dropping piece will win a fabric bundle of Daisy Janie’s organic fabrics.  We can’t wait!

Want to be “in the know” about future Designer’s Challenges?  Follow us on Twitter, where we put out our open calls for designers!