Print-to-order textiles

At various times in the past it has been suggested to me that much of my design work and many of my patterns would work well as fabric designs. I agreed but was unaware of how to go about achieving this. People connected with Riverviews Artspace, those attending First Fridays, and friends alike have urged me to explore this angle.

Then Jenny Light moved into the suite next to my studio. One evening as we were talking, she mentioned and showed me samples of fabrics printed by Spoonflower.com. She explained that you merely upload your design to them and they will print this design on fabric of your choice. This was intriguing to me, but I was too busy at the time.

After completing the commissioned painting for Central Virginia Federal Credit Union, I decided to make time to explore the Spoonflower.com operation. I started by uploading images of some of my existing paintings. One of the choices of ways to receive samples from Spoonflower is a “swatch” -- an 8”x8” printed sample on the fabric of your choice from their selection. I wanted to see how accurately the colors I used would reproduce on fabric, so I ordered several of these. I was floored by how good they looked!

One problem showed itself immediately though. My paintings are one of a kind and fabrics depend upon repeating images. I would have to work on that. The next problem was that some of my colors did not reproduce the way they appeared on the computer screen. Even though they were attractive, this would make it impossible for anyone to order fabric with any assurance of color accuracy.

I solved the first problem by redoing artwork specifically for fabric designs. Even those patterns that appear to be reproductions of my artwork were redrawn on the computer. I made adjustments to them so that they would repeat properly. As for the problem with color accuracy, Spoonflower had a solution: they have a color chart showing their full color “gamut,” the colors that reproduce well with their system. By choosing my colors from their color chart, the colors on the computer screen more accurately represent the colors that are printed on the fabrics.

After several rounds of uploading images and ordering swatches, I settled on the patterns that are available in the “shop” that has been set up for me at
http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/michael_mewborn_art. Each of these patterns is available on any of the fabrics they offer. The top of the screen on their website offers “Fabrics and pricing.” This section defines all of their fabrics and the uses for which they are suited. It also shows recommended cleaning methods.

Remember that your order is printed just for you. If you want 4 yards of pattern named
xyz on cotton silk, they will print that for you. I recommend that you order a swatch of your selected pattern on your selected material. That way you can be sure that the colors are what you expect. Swatches run about $5 each. I will be uploading new designs periodically.

Here are the fabrics they offer: Kona® quilting weight cotton, cotton poplin, cotton voile, linen-cotton canvas, organic cotton interlock knit, organic cotton sateen, upholstery-weight cotton twill, silk crepe de chine. I earn a small amount of money from each order (except for swatches), and that is my total compensation.

I look forward to hearing from anyone concerning this venture. Any thoughts, suggestions or comments are welcome.

Central Virginia Federal Credit Union

A telephone call from the wife of the president of the aforementioned credit union started the ball rolling. I knew that they had visited my studio before, but I understood that he was not interested in my art. She had said to me that she wished that he shared her interest in my work, so they could consider buying a painting. So I was doubly surprised that he was interested in having me create a painting for his new office in Forest, Virginia.

I arranged to meet with the two of them on the first day the new building was in use. It turned out to be a very modern building with very modern fixtures and decor. He showed me around the building, then the wall where he hoped to hang my new work. We went through most of my website as he showed me what he did and didn’t like. Based upon this brief meeting, I suggested a 3’x4’ painting, although I had no idea what I might come up with. We agreed upon a price and shook hands. I asked what sort of progress he wanted to have reported back to him and whether he wanted to see the incomplete creation. He waved that off and said, “You’re the artist. Surprise me.”

This is just the sort of commission I can enjoy. I had full control over the nature of the painting and wouldn’t have to worry about someone breathing down my neck or offering suggestions. This meeting occurred shortly before Thanksgiving in 2011. I explained that with the holidays coming up I could not deliver the painting before Christmas, which I was afraid was his desire. His reaction was, “There is absolutely no rush. Let us know when it’s finished.”

My previous commissions had involved contracts and schedules. This provides a very stressful background for a creative process. This one, however, allowed me the freedom I love. As I drove away that afternoon, I had no idea what I might do. Their logo was geometric and looked hand-drawn. I suspected I would be working that into whatever I did.

I’m often asked how I get my inspiration. Unlike many (most?) other artists, I carry things in my head as I work out details. I rarely make sketches, preferring to work mentally. Within a week, while working on several other projects, I had decided a gridded arrangement of logos, each treated differently. Their logo involved only four colors, so I added a couple of others. Each one would be different, some complete as to form, but with different colors, others would be missing parts. All of this would be on a black background.

Here is their logo:
cvfcu logo

It took about three weeks, but finally I had drawn the image and was ready to start painting. This was December 22, 2011.

Here is the canvas before I painted it:
cvfcu
Here is a detail:
cvfcudetail
Yes, the numbers represent colors.

I wasn’t able to start painting until after the First Friday event on January 6, 2012. Working six or seven days a week, I completed the painting on February 9.

Here is the painting when I finished it. It is sitting on the easel in my studio.
IMG_1671

Arrangements were made to deliver and install the painting on Saturday, February 11. As luck would have it, it was a very windy day. The painting nearly flew away and took me with it as I got it from the car to the building. Finally the moment had arrived and I unwrapped it, giving the new owner the first look at his new art. This is a very nerve-wracking part. But, he loved it. That is actually an understatement. He REALLY loved it. I had apparently accomplished my mission.

Here it is in its new surroundings:

IMG_1678

To answer the question before it is asked - I am very pleased with it and the way it fits its environment.