Interview: Lizzy House

sunny side up!

Lizzy Dish’s Sunny Side Up colorway

Lizzy House is having a big month — she just received her B.A. in Printmaking and around the same time, her debut fabric collection with Andover, Lizzy Dish, was released. At 23 years old, she may very well be the youngest designer the quilting fabric world has seen! Judging from the collection and her artwork, she certainly has a long and wonderful creative career ahead of her.

Keep track of her work and travels on her blog, and keep an eye on her Etsy shop for her wonderful prints.

I asked Lizzy about the collection’s journey from idea to market, her artistic process, and the things she’s into right now …

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“Set the Table” in yellow. Images of the individual fabrics courtesy Bee Square Fabrics

How did you come to design fabric?

I always wanted to be a fabric designer. I decided at a very young age (6) that it was just what I was going to do. I was so determined; I designed a line in Microsoft Paint when I was in the 7th grade, and called a company about their submission process. But I got really serious a couple years ago and started designing to actually submit to companies.

How has your printmaking education informed your fabric designs?

Block printing is really satisfying for me and where I do most of my playing around. It’s actually where I test some of my ideas. Lizzy Dish started as a block print! Whenever I carve a block I always think about the edges and how they will repeat if I decide to print it on fabric sometime. I’m always thinking about how I can translate my work into fabric. I’m actually teaching Block Printing on Fabric this summer at Squam Art Workshop [in central New Hampshire].

I also do a lot of Intaglio printing, but I keep that separate from fabric design, because it’s nice to have a division between fine art and commercial art. It seems to be two different places in my head, and both need exercise.

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“Spoons” in aqua

What were the easiest and the hardest parts about designing your first collection?

Once I had the idea for Lizzy Dish, I knew where I was going with it, and what I wanted it to be, so it all came together pretty quickly. When I get going I will literally just sit and work for about two weeks straight, without seeing the light of day, until I am finished. The hardest part I think in creating anything is the editing. Editing, and waiting. Fabric has a long turnover time. The first one is the hardest. I seriously thought it was literally never going to come out, and I would have to tell all my readers and everyone on earth that they had been had. It came out though … it just takes a while. Each line can take anywhere from six months to a year, but eight months is pretty average. So the work is fun, and the waiting is hard.

What is the inspiration behind Lizzy Dish? How did you settle on the theme vs. all your other ideas?

With Lizzy Dish I wanted to create something nostalgic, and at the same time new. It started as a cook book. I came up with the key design, and was going to print it on pages of a cookbook, but the peeps at Andover saw the print, and wanted to see more of it, so I scrapped the cookbook and designed a cohesive line around that one piece. It might seem silly, but I saw it as an assignment. I just treated it like a job, because I wanted the job! So I took the first piece and really did build a theme, and decided on the impression that I wanted to give with it, along with the story I wanted it to tell.

kitchennaire*

the Kitchennaire* colorway

How would you describe its color story?

I wanted each colorway to accomplish something different. There are slight overlaps but for the most part they are independent of each other. Kitchennaire* (the Pinks) I wanted it to be kind of girly. I took inspiration from popular Fiesta Ware of the 50s as well as the idea of a Dream Barbie Homemaker. I like the idea of that. Appliance (blue, black, yellow, green) is the retro appliance, the avocado green, and the ochre yellow, as well as a touch of the Rock and Roll-Space Age. Sunny Side Up! (teal, yellow, orange, purple) is based on the new state-hood of Hawaii as well as the Beach Party Movie craze. Think Elvis Presley, Gidget, Franky and Annette.

Again, I wanted the color to feel vintage, and modern at the same time.

Where do you see yourself in the pantheon of contemporary fabric designers?

I don’t know … causing some kind of commotion!

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“Dishes” in aqua

Who are your favorite textile designers? Who/what else do you look to for inspiration?

My favorites: I have some deep love for the Eameses, as well as a whole boatload of other mid-century designers. Anything from Marimekko. Designers involved in the Vienna Secession, as well as the Arts and Crafts movement … they were producing some mad textiles. I’ve always been a flat graphic peep. It’s just what speaks to me.

For inspiration I actually do a lot of research, a LOT of reading. I feel like if you understand a situation or person above common knowledge, then when you see their “work” there is a new level of understanding. For me design is problem solving, and if you understand how someone reacts in situations then you can start to understand why they make certain choices in their work. The problem solved, for me, can be more inspirational than the whole. I also love traveling. I try to take a couple little trips every year, and then one big trip. Seeing new things can be really refreshing. Party planning is super inspirational to me. Finding ways to help peeps can be really inspirational for me. Like if I know someone is working late, bringing them dinner … somehow it’s really recharging. And always making things…

What has surprised you most about the fabric industry so far?

How small it is. Everybody knows everybody. And yet we always seem to fill the entire George R. Brown Convention center.

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“Flatware Weave” in eggplant

How have people in the industry responded to your age?

It’s been interesting. Some people don’t really care, and then other people treat me like I must be lost. I mostly laugh about it all, but it can be frustrating to not be taken seriously sometimes. I think that some people underestimate me, which is a mistake!

appliance^

the Appliance colorway

Congratulations on your graduation! What is next for you?

Thank you so much! I have a new collection coming out late spring/early summer which I am beside myself about. Other than that I’m just working on some projects that I wasn’t really able to while I was in school, like getting into galleries and setting up exhibitions, and some cool industry related surprises! Some really exciting stuff this year! And pretty soon I will be looking for a place to call home. I have a short list of some cities that I am interested in checking out. So we will just have to see how my life turns out this year … I’m game for just about anything.

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“Clean Plate” in berry

And some non-fabric-related questions: What are you listening to right now?

Queen. I have been on this “I Want to Break Free” kick for a couple of weeks. Also listening to, The Whitest Boy Alive, Camille, Hall & Oates, the Wall-E soundtrack, the Life Aquatic soundtrack, Kings of Convenience, El Perro Del Mar, Andrew Bird, Elis Regina, and Vince Guaraldi.

What are you reading?

I just finished “Born Standing Up” by Steve Martin. It was so great. What an amazing man he is. It’s a autobiography of his time doing stand-up comedy. He had such an amazing drive. It’s really inspirational. I highly recommend it.

I always like to read short stories. I’ve been rereading a lot of the Roald Dahl shorts. Beautiful imagery. Really into Theodore Roethke’s poetry right now …

Also, a friend recommended “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, so I have started that. It’s pretty interesting.

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“Flatware Starbursts” in lime

If you’d like to know more, don’t miss Color Mastery author Maria Peagler’s interview with Lizzy House.

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“Knives” in rust

Lizzy Dish resources:
- Flickr group
- a list of shops that carry Lizzy Dish; feel free to leave more sources in the comments here and there.
- Free quilt pattern using Lizzy Dish

5 Comments

  1. Tanya Whelan says:

    That was so incredibly fun to read!! Congratulations to Elizabeth on a totally fabulous collection! I kinda, sorta wish I had discovered fabric design when I was young instead of when I did but we all have our own path.

    I was just totally enjoying reading about her inspirations and her obviously deep and sophisticated appreciation for design. Love how she talks about the logical, problem solving approach she takes to designing and that she’s listening to Hall and Oates and that she approached a fabric company about submission policies in the 7th grade!! It took me till MUCH later and took all my courage so obviously this girl should not be underestimated. Yeah, I guess I’m a fan at this point.

    I don’t know, I just loved this interview and can’t wait to see what she does next!

  2. pam says:

    Hey I know you Lizzy! Love your new line!!! Congrats for like the millionth time on all your successes and accomplishments this past year!

  3. Lisa Jones says:

    Elizabeth House, you are amazing! I too am struck by your drive and fearlessness at going after what you want. No underestimating here. Great interview! Thanks to you and True Up!

  4. Jenean says:

    What a great interview! I love this fabric and I adore Lizzy House! Thank you, Lizzy, for sharing so much and thank you, Kim, for asking such great questions! Very fun to read! Thanks!

  5. Mary Beth says:

    Oh man, that bit about 7th grade is killer. Your drive is inspiring.