Over the next few months I’m going to be running interviews with True Up’s sponsors. In addition to (hopefully!) giving an extra boost to the people who help make this website possible, I’m excited to get to know everyone better. Be on the lookout for giveaways and discounts too!
Today, we talk with Patricia Bravo of Art Gallery Fabrics. As you may recall from this previous post, I discovered the company and met owner/designer Patricia for the first time at Quilt Market last year. She and her husband Walter produce Patricia’s fabric and patterns for the retail market. They don’t sell directly to the public, but if you’re interested, they do have a list of shops (brick and mortar AND online shops around the world) that carry their products.
How did you start designing fabric?
Patricia Bravo: Well, it began as way to solve a problem that I was having with fabric colorations. You see, years back I used to make art quilts and I needed to use a wide range of colors in my designs. But this range of colors was very limited and I said to myself that perhaps I might paint these colors that were absent. Over time I experimented and got hues, tints, and shades that hadn’t been seen before. Then my quilting friends saw them and fell in love. In a matter of a few months I was selling at shows across the country and the reaction of the people was marvelous. Later I started hand stamping those fabrics with some Chinese motifs and they all began to ask me to make the fabrics by yard commercially, and that’s how it all began.
How often do you produce collections?
Normally I design eight or nine collections a year. I’d like to do more, but as you can imagine, it’s too much for me alone; in the future I plan to expand, hiring in-house designers who share my same vision.
Please tell us about your most recent collections, and Botanica and Revive… What are the color stories about? What are their influences? Do you have a type of person or project in mind that they’d be well suited for?
BOTANICA and REVIVE are two very different collections, although all my groups always have something in common: I work with emotions or states of mind that I want to transmit or reflect. I am a very emotional person; the intensity or passion with which a certain person in history lived his/her life, how different societies in history were delineating their vision of art, the artistic concept of a dress, are things that “move” or “shake” me very much. That leads me to capture all those concepts in a collection. I am a history fanatic, I have read more than three hundred books on the subject, and cannot stop! I think that in a previous life I must have lived in the court of King Luis XV of France or Enrique VIII of England as a maiden or something like that!!
In BOTANICA, I wanted to express our increasing need to return to a more organic, simple life. The prints are very aerated, simple and I feel that they mean Nature in the middle of such chaotic and materialistic world. The color stories are also organic, like Lime & Figs and Cranberry & Herbs. I usually think in a group of persons who would use these fabrics, and in this case they are mommy-preneurs, a very increasing segment in our population now. The funny thing is that we have heaps of orders exactly from those customers who are starting small businesses making bedding and accessories for babies and children.
In REVIVE I designed thinking about textiles used in the spas of several European hotels that I have been studying during a certain time; modern forms but in turn glamorous and elegant, perhaps a vision of the lost ancient luxury fighting against current modernity. The colors are a miscellany of vibrant and fresh but with a sophisticated touch. I tried to used all the blue in the world; soft, calming blue, pacific blue, turquoise, eggshell blue, deep Prussian, as you can see in the Sapphire Palette. Also purple, to very transmuting color; many variations, but very soft and dusty. To warm it up a little bit some brown; very dry, grayish, not a hint of red in it. And creamy white, to give it luminescence, as in the Amethyst Palette.
Do you try to coordinate your collections with one another?
Something curious that happens to me is that after several collections I have come to the conclusion that there are colors to which I feel especially attracted. That makes many groups interchangeable. Lately I’ve been creating lines of blenders in colors that they can merge with almost all my collections, so shops can work with more freedom. In fact, one of the policies of my company is that we try to keep every collection in stock for one year; we do not remove it so rapidly from the circuit. This way, the business has more opportunity to work with projects like block of the month and kits for more time.
Having my fabrics for a longer time allows them to coordinate new fabrics with others they have left in stock or think they can sell together, and increases their chances of selling more. If we need to reprint a collection, we always do it — in fact, we always reprint because they sell so fast!! I talk a lot with shop owners and they complain about this practice of manufacturers selling collections only for very little time. I never forget that my support to every shop owner is fundamental. It is like a big family of fabrics that keeps on adding new members and keeps reinventing itself.
How do you fit in among the world of contemporary designers? How are you different?
My style might be called “contemporary elegant.” It is very eclectic but in turn sophisticated and feminine. And I always give them a historical twist. I don’t know if this niche exists in the market; perhaps that’s why the people consider me to be different.
When did you move to the U.S.? Do you still visit Argentina often? What is the fabric and textile scene there like?
I came to this blessed country in 1989, and I feel proud I did, since it gave me tons of opportunities that I could not have had in Argentina. I try to visit my family quite often (I go every two years). Although I live here, there is always a part of me left in my country, and there is a part of Argentina here with me; it is a feeling that you cannot describe, but it is there. My family is the most important thing in the world and am always missing them very much … But this country made me much happier than I imagined when I came 20 years ago. I am very grateful to life for that.
To speak about textiles made in my native country is very strange, because on one hand quilting is not a big hobby there – although this is changing lately. There is more emphasis on sewing. There is almost no domestic production; the majority of the fabrics are imported. It is very sad because I know there is a lot of talent over there; but, commercially speaking, it is a completely different world than ours.
What are the challenges of producing your own fabric?
We are a relatively young company (six years old), and my husband and I handle it ourselves exclusively. Walter is one of the most spectacular entrepreneurs that I have seen in my life and his contribution has no substitute. He had a clothing company for more than 15 years and that gives him a big advantage. He handles the production, the reps, and the finances. That gives me the freedom to run the creative part and to design. There is a graphic designer working with us; her name is Angelina, who devotes herself to the advertising department, helps me with the website design and the blog. She is an angel of sweetness and my right hand in this aspect. Also, all our people at the warehouse.
To have your own company has his pros and cons. As a pro, you have complete freedom to create your “trademark” look as well as to decide what way you want to take your company commercially. Then the cons — I do not necessarily consider them cons; I see them, as you say, “challenges.” The production is one of the most important areas and it needs a lot of work and dedication. Often you have to repeat strike-offs (“first swatches”), and you are not content until the result is perfect. Other times it is necessary to travel to the mill overseas to supervise the production closely. From the moment we send designs to the mill until the production comes back here, it can take several months. In these months you can meet this type of challenges. But I love them! You always learn something new.
A thing that I like very much about being a family owned company is that we get to put our personal touch in all the areas, and that makes our relation with the business very close and warm. Our customer service and shipping is excellent, at least according to customers!
You recently started a blog (welcome!) — how has that been going? Is it hard to find time to write between all your other projects?
I can’t complain, but it has been a bit of a struggle in that I am quite new to it, and I wasn’t born to write! Also, since English is not my native language I speak well but have still problems with the slang. The “perfect and colloquial” use of English frustrates my attempts of expressing everything I want to say. But I do not give up!! The more I learn, the more satisfied I am myself …
Talking about time, I DO NOT HAVE ANY LEFT! I always say that I wish there were 48 hours in a day. Having begun a blog has reduced my time for sewing projects, but I will try to balance it in the future. I spend most of the day in my design studio — a big room in my house. My other jobs are designing and writing all the free patterns that accompany the collection plus the line of quilting and sewing patterns that are for sale, working with several magazines to design quilts for them, coordinating shows and sample products … the list never ends! I am in a different position than other designers in the sense that I am also the owner of the company; that brings additional responsibilities and extra work. To accomplish that, you need extra time. But I do like blogging because it has brought me back in contact with the people I’ve met at retail shows and fallen out of touch with. I’m liking it all a bit more every day.
Who are your favorite textile designers? Who/what else do you look to for inspiration?
Tricia Guild (English designer), Kaffe Fassett, and Lonni Rossi are by far my favorites! I feel they’re very close to me in the sense that there is always a state of mind reflected in their collections. They show me what elegance is and they inspire me; transmit to me their vibrations — although it sounds crazy, I feel them!! They allow me to dream with past times and teach me that always color moves the human mind and soul — and that fabric patterns are in constant mutation. It is an alchemy that I hope is reflected in my own designs. Perhaps also I feel close to them because they are inspired in a historical context to design.
What is next for you?
Can one day have 48 hours, pleeeeeease?? I have so many projects in my mind right now! After the Spring Quilt Market I have a couple of trunk shows as a designer. Then, I will keep on designing, designing, and designing!! I am always trying to bring to quilters and sewers a different perspective in design and color. And as I said before, I’ll try to produce more collections in this year. A little taste of France for a next collection, perhaps?
I also have many other projects for the rest of the year: One of them is to expand the blog and to try to focus it to be more educational, with more tutorials, etc. I adore teaching and being face-to-face with other sewers, but time doesn’t allow, so I think that the blog is the perfect vehicle to put us in contact and allow me to teach many things at the same time. I will also have more free downloadable patterns for the collections, as well as new sewing patterns. And, perhaps, a new puppy!
Patricia is currently holding a huge giveaway — two people will each receive 50 Art Gallery Fabrics fat quarter bundles! To enter, visit her blog before Thursday, March 12 and leave a comment about funniest/weirdest situation you’ve experienced in your sewing room.
Thank you so much, Patricia! As she always says, “Handmade rocks … so keep on stitching!”