Valori Wells is super busy: a mom of two with another on the way, an artist/photographer, a quilt/sewing/knitting shop co-owner, an author/pattern designer, quilter, and fabric designer, and coordinator of the Quilter’s Affair series, which is a prelude to the big Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show taking place this weekend. I have always enjoyed her blog, where you can hear her behind-the-scenes stories and see her idyllic home studio and all the beautiful work that comes out of it, including lots of beautiful photographs from around her home in Sisters, Oregon.+ Today we’re focusing on her most recent fabric collection for FreeSpirit, called Del Hi.
I was immediately struck by Del Hi’s High Desert colorway. Valori has used browns and greys as counterpoints to the bright, bold colors of her previous collections Sole, Olive Rose, and Urban Flannel, but this time the muted tones get to carry an entire colorway. I asked Valori to tell us all about Del Hi and her design process in general.
You are a quilt shop owner — how does that inform your fabric designs?
I think that being in the shop gives me an insight to what people are purchasing. It does influence my design to a certain extent but then I also still keep it me. More than anything it makes me think about the shop owner and how you buy fabric and how much fabric you look at in one sitting. How big collections are and what you pick and choose from as a shop owner. More than anything I want to keep my designs fresh – keeps me interested and hopefully keeps the quilter, sewer and shop owner interested.
How did you learn to design fabric?
I taught myself. Started with the drawing and then taught myself to paint, I really wanted my fabric to have my hand.
Where does the name Del Hi come from? I saw on your blog earlier in the development process that you referenced it as “Delhi” …
Well, the collection started with dahlias and in my conversations with my friend Carolyn -– she is my backboard for a lot of creative things, she lets me talk out ideas and gives her opinion- we came up with Del Hi. Her mom grew up on a street in California called Del Hi and we thought it fit. At first I did not put a space in between the two words and realized that it was reading Delhi (like the city in India). Names are really hard for me to come up with, I have no problem with the designs — it is just giving them names that is hard, so I have help from Carolyn and my mom. They are a great creative brainstorming team.
I was surprised (happily!) to see the lighter neutrals and spare outlined designs in Del Hi. How does this collection compare to your previous ones?
Yes, that palette is a step away from my brights. It is my High Desert Palette; we live in the High Desert in Oregon and the colors really come from my surroundings, with a little creative license.
What are the colorways and what do they mean to you?
There is the High Desert, which is home where we live. It was a natural fit for me; I just hadn’t seen it before. Sometimes what is in front of you tends to be lost. Mediterranean is the second palette, I guess I picked that because it was so different from the High Desert, made me think of the Mediterranean –- at least the photos I have seen, as I have not been there – the blues and bright clean colors. Again I did take some creative license on both palettes to make them complete in my mind.
Can you tell us a bit about each print, how it came about, and how it fits into the overall collection? (Prints from the High Desert colorway are shown below.)
Let’s see … First there is the PomPom Dahlia. I had photographed a bunch of dahlias a couple of summers ago at a dahlia festival. I love the look of the PomPom and decided to make a big floral of it -– kind of my signature style of big floral. I wanted them to be more monochromatic so that when they are cut up they still work as texture. [ed. note: Kathy from Pink Chalk showed Anna Maria Horner's Socialite Dress pattern with the PomPom Dahlia and Stones prints, which gives you a good idea of PomPom's large scale.]
Paisley: This was an experiment, I really love to do the medallion/paisley designs. They are so fun for me to just sit and draw, playing with ideas and shapes. When the drawing was done I really liked the look if it just as a drawing so I thought I would try it that way. No painting, just lines. Now I want to do another one that combines drawing and painting … oh so many ideas!
Tango: The butterflies and dahlias – again at the festival there were lots of butterflies and my daughter kept pointing them out to me. I had to make sure that I included them in the collection.
Monarch is a small butterfly that I put together in clusters to complement the Tango print.
Tapestry is one of those designs that I am not sure where it came from; it just sort of came about as I was working on the other designs. I like the layers that it created and the look of not-quite-floral but still organic.
Out of the Tapestry I pulled the Chandelier design and the Flora – I felt that they were needed go with prints to complete the collection without being dahlias – yet again they are organic and fit with the other designs.
Stones is the last design – a dot but not an exact dot -– again I’m going to use the word organic. You can definitely see that I drew them by hand. I really think that you need to have some sort of simple print in a collection, and this was my simple print.
In the Mediterranean palette there is the In Full Bloom design (link) that is a overall print with lots of different dahlias. It was a combination of the varieties that I photographed at the festival. It is only in that palette because it just didn’t work in the other, sometimes that happens. I wanted it to be clean and clear so the white background was perfect to make the colors and flower pop.
Can you tell us a bit about your process? I know you’re a painter — do you also do the repeats? By hand or computer?
My process … well most of the beginnings of fabric start with photographs. I love to photograph flowers, trees, leaves and organic shapes. I have boxes of images that when I am stuck I go though. Then I usually start with one theme -– like with Del Hi it was the Dahlia -– this usually develops into other designs that work with the theme. I do all my drawings in repeat then transfer them to illustration board or canvas and paint – in the repeat. Once the paintings are done I will get them scanned and to the color callouts for the other colorways and send it all off to FreeSpirit. I would like to do some of my color callouts on the computer but have not had time to learn Illustrator at this time … one of those things on my list.
Of all your textile-related work, do you have a favorite part? A least favorite part?
I love the drawing and painting … my least favorite part is doing the color callouts –- part of why I want to learn how to do it on the computer rather than thinking it up and not seeing it until I get the strike-offs. I think it would make that part of the process a bit more interesting.