Interview: Tula Pink on Hushabye

Hushabye Hang Tag LC

Ladies and gentlemen, Tula Pink.

You might know her from her debut line, Full Moon Forest, full of hidden animals and delightfully, trickily ornate designs — or maybe you’re more familiar with her other lines: Neptune, Flutterby, or Nest. Tula Pink has a die-hard fandom and it’s not hard to see why, when she shares fun and wacky projects on her blog and creates designs with such depth and playfulness. I love the slow smile that’s inevitable when you look twice and finally see the animal hidden right there in plain view.

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Her latest line, Hushabye, was just released — and to our relief and delight, the secret pictures are still in full effect.

Hello, Tula Pink! Thanks for talking with us today. Before we really get going, can you tell me how you got your name?

Aaah the question that never stops getting asked. First, I would like to explain that I am a deeply neurotic individual. Designing under a pseudonym gives me the opportunity to shed a layer of rigidity and work a little more freely. “Jen” stays at home and reads on a friday night, she flosses and matches her sheets to her mattress. “Tula,” on the other hand, is a trash talking, hip hop loving, creative free bird that dances around the house in her underwear while designing fabric. “Jen” does most of the book keeping and is the only one that is allowed to handle the company credit card.

The name Tula Pink itself has been with me for a while. I used to sell prints in galleries in Los Angeles under that name. I liked walking around the gallery on opening night, people would talk about me and not know it was me. I heard some great stories about myself. Really, I love that it sounds so sweet, like someone who would bake cookies and babysit for extra cash, things that I definitely do not do but wish I did.

It’s adorable.

Thank you.

totes

How did you get into designing fabric?

Designing fabric was a really natural progression for me. I have been sewing forever, made all of my clothes in high school and began loving quilts in college. I have this insane need to be involved with every step of the making process. Quilts are so much about the fabric, a fabric choice can make or break a quilt. So I knew that if I was going to keep sewing I was going to have to make my own fabric one way or another. My mom agreed with me and pushed me really hard to draw something up. Once I started I couldn’t stop. I sent my ideas to Moda Fabrics and the rest is history.

How did you learn to do it? What’s your background?

I majored in Graphic design at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. When I graduated I swore that the one thing I would never do is work in entertainment. So, naturally I ended up in the music industry. I would draw skulls and monsters all day then go home and fondle fat quarters while unlocking the mysteries of y-seams at night. I always thought of it as living a double life, Jen, the responsible Art Director by day, Tula, mad crafter by night.

Your newest collection is called Hushabye. How would you describe it? How did you arrive at its theme?

Hushabye is intended to lean towards a baby line. I am finally getting to that age where all of my friends are starting to spawn. All of these little ones deserved something better than a generic teddy bear theme. I looked around at what was out there and just couldn’t find anything I really loved or that they wouldn’t kill me for giving them. I would like to think of Hushabye as soft and sweet but still cool and interesting, something that would satisfy the new moms without freaking out the grandmas.

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Describe your design process — what tools and methods do you use to create the finished product?

I try to put a lot of my process on my blog. I draw everything out first in pencil on grid paper. The grid keeps me symmetrical and in scale. I don’t have to measure anything or carry a ruler, which is really awkward to carry around in my purse. I work all of the details out in the drawing, the repeat, the scale, darks and lights, everything. Eventually I will redraw the whole thing in Adobe Illustrator. I work in black and white until the very end. If it works in gray it will work in color.

My Tools (in order of appearance): My Brain, Zebra mechanical Pencil, Clearprint Design Vellum (10×10 grid), Adobe Illustrator CS4, Wacom Tablet, iMac.

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Can you tell us the story behind designing each print?

The main print, the owl, came about out of necessity. I would get hundreds of emails asking about the owls from my first line, Full Moon Forest. The line was long gone so I wanted to bring it back while incorporating all of the new stuff I had learned along the way. I think this one is better in some respects but I still love the original. The rest just fell into place. I tend to focus on the theme first and then figure out how to hide them in patterns.

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What do the different colorways mean to you, and how did you decide on them?

The palette for this collection was actually based on a bunch of rejected colorways from my second collection, Flutterby. They were gorgeous but the line needed to be bolder so they were set aside. I always knew I would go back to them. They sat on my design board for two years before I finally found a way I could use them. The colors are soft but they still have a punch. I like to call them “Hot Pastels” … it sounds sexy but in a maternal sort of way.

Your inspiration: what inspires you in general, and what specifically inspired you on the way to creating Hushabye?

I am inspired by fear mostly, just kidding (sort of). Really, I spend a lot of time drawing and I am surrounded by a lot of insanely talented friends. They really drive me to be better just by being better themselves. I try not to look at too much stuff but there are a few artists that have almost driven me to tears because of their talent or vision or uninhibited playfulness; Jenny Saville, Andrew Schoultz, The Clayton Brothers, Jay Steiner and Grace Teng just to name a few. The last two are friends but they will blow the world away with their skills one of these days. It’s just a matter of time.

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Correct me if I’m wrong: You live on a farm, right? What’s the dill? I am picturing a whitewashed farmhouse with sunlight puddling on the scrubbed-pine floors and shining on stacks and stacks of fabric and please tell me it is exactly like that. (My notes say “IS AWESOME? IS CHICKENS? HAVE SUN PUDDLED ROOM WITH FADED FLOORBOARDS, SEWING MACHINE, CATS? CAN COME STAY PLS?”)

Yes there is some puddling as well as the occasional pooling. It’s a little nothing house that no one had occupied in years. My nearest neighbor is about four miles away. I spent the first couple of months getting rid of mice and painting. I was on a big renovation kick until I got my studio set up. I haven’t touched the house since. There are a lot of critters on the farm, mostly cattle, a few opossums, some squirrels, mean little snapping turtles and a whole lot of stray cats. The farm across the street has a menagerie of bizarre animals for the midwest, zebras, ostrich, llamas, donkeys. For the most part this is corn and cattle country oh and beans, lots of beans.

Oh and duh, of course you can stay. I am trying to pick a color for my guest room so go ahead and send me a swatch. It will be ready by the time you arrive.

{Egggsellent.} What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Not working? hmmm … I sleep a bit and I read a lot. Lately my schedule has been working really hard for a few weeks and then traveling for a week. It’s pretty isolated out here which is great for being productive but every so often I have to indulge my city girl roots. I listen to a lot of music, I dance a lot but not terribly well.

What else is coming down the pike for Tula Pink? I saw an intriguing sneak peek on your blog, with a sketch and some swatches — anything you can tell us about that?

I am really excited about that! It’s my new fabric line coming out in January called Plume. It’s a little bit of a departure for me (I like to think of it as an evolution). There is a lot more color and a much more organic drawing style. I have been working up to this for a while now. I have a slew of awesome quilt patterns coming out too. I can’t wait to see what people do with it. The crafty community always surprises me with their insane creativity.

Woo-hoo! Thank you so much, Jen! (Or should I say Tula?) This interview has been a blast. Readers, Hushabye is available in stores right this second, in assorted Moda precuts as well as yardage. Start your engines!

10 Comments

  1. Audrie says:

    Tula Pink is definitely one of my favourite designers… everything she puts out is just beautiful and I can’t wait to make baby quilts with the Hushabye fabric I have!!

  2. Becky says:

    Love her designs! And her personalities (heehee) certainly fit what I imagined.

  3. Jona says:

    GREAT interview!! I love Jen’s style and I love that she lives in an isolated farm house (oh and Tula is great too)!

  4. [...] can tell you about the very amusing and delightfully insightful interview of one Miss Tula Pink on True Up. You can learn all kinds of stuff about me if you are so [...]

  5. We are busy redoing all my daughters’ bedrooms, which includes making new quilts for their beds. I decided to order fabric online instead of going to the only fabric store in our small town (Wal-Mart). One of my daughters fell in LOVE with Hushabye in Grass. I had NO IDEA there are animals hidden in the details. I can’t wait to sew the quilt with her (she’s 6) sitting on my lap and looking for the animals as we piece it all together. She loves animals of all sorts because we too live on a farm!

    Thanks Tula Pink (Jen) for making an already special memory sewing with my daughter even more so. =)

  6. Kylie says:

    Simply beautiful designs

  7. Kristin says:

    Great interview! (MB, you crack me up.) We just received the new collection and love it. I was really excited to see the return of Droplets. I think it is such a good idea to use a popular print in a new context. Why not?!

    I just got a look at Plume too and it is awesome!

  8. happy zombie says:

    I love this article. I love Jen. I love Tula. She oozes talent, creative and humor. I would love her even if she was Tula Burgundy – lounge singer. And knowing Jen, she’d make that cool too.

  9. amylouwho says:

    I want to be friends with you!

  10. Love her! great interview