Meet textile designer Erin Dollar of Cotton & Flax of Pasadena, Calif. in today’s Dream Jobs Q&A!
I’m so thrilled to be introducing you to Erin Dollar of Cotton & Flax today. She’s the founder of the brand and an incredibly talented surface and textile designer. I seriously want at least one of everything from her shop in my home! I really love hearing what Erin has to say about finding inspiration, avoiding burnout and achieving her business goals. I’m really delighted to have found Erin’s stunning shop and I think you will be too! // susannah
1. How would you describe Cotton & Flax?
Cotton & Flax is a modern home goods company, where I offer handmade linen textiles and tabletop goods that are printed with my original pattern designs. The company started with a small selection of pillows and tea towels, and has expanded to include coasters, trivets, and cloth napkins. I also offer a small selection of gifts, like patterned notebooks, keychains, and lavender sachets. Everything is united by my love of minimalist patterns, and the natural materials I choose for their beauty and longevity.
2. What were you doing before Cotton & Flax? What inspired you to change paths?
Before founding Cotton & Flax, I was working as a fine artist and selling my original prints online and at in-person events and art fairs. Cotton & Flax began as an offshoot of that creative practice, and I created the product line based off feedback from my fine art customers. When I moved from Oregon to California right before I founded C&F, I worked part time in a library, and started taking small steps towards launching the business while I was still saving up as much as possible to help create a little cushion or safety net.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I try to do activities that keep me inspired on a regular basis, because there is nothing worse that hitting a block and not being able to create work that you’re excited about. I plan to visit museums or galleries every month, and take regular trips to the library to learn more about periods of art history that I’m less familiar with. Making time for relaxation has also been a great way to avoid burnout and allow myself to daydream a bit. I find that some of my best ideas come to me when I’m on a walk, or even when I’m swimming laps (my favorite form of exercise).
4. Describe your workspace.
My studio is divided into two areas: my print studio, where I silkscreen print fabrics for the collection, and my sewing area, where I have a big cutting table and a sewing station. I work from a home studio, so it’s a bit messy, since my work and life tend to bleed together… lots of coffee mugs and piles of art books strewn about. One thing I really love about my workspace is that it’s very efficient — I’ve had to create a working print studio in 72 sq. feet, which is no easy feat! I manage to cut, sew, and print pretty much every Cotton & Flax product here in my studio, and I’ve had to get creative when it comes to storing inventory and spreading out to work on larger projects.
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges for Cotton & Flax?
Often the biggest challenges lead to my biggest successes! Completing enormous wholesale orders always feels like a huge success, and makes me feel very proud. One order that I did for CB2 was particularly gigantic, and when I finally packed up the last box, I let out a “WOO HOO!” and then immediately took a nap.
6. What are your dreams for Cotton & Flax?
I would love to expand the product line to include fabric yardage — that’s something my customers have been asking for since day one, and it would be an amazing addition to the collection. I hope to get the opportunity to do more collaborations with talented friends, and to travel more to gather inspiration for Cotton & Flax. Lots to accomplish in year five!
7. Who do you look up to?
Other makers and artists, people who are generous with their knowledge and friendship. I’ve been lucky to meet a wonderful group of creative people here in LA, and I’m constantly inspired by my friends.
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
I try to take proper weekends off as often as possible — that down time helps me to do my best work during the week, and allows me to nurture the important relationships in my life. Of course, running a business does mean that I don’t get as much free time as I’d like, so I try to make the most of it by exploring LA, catching up with friends and spending restful days at home with my boyfriend and our two calico kitties.
9. What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
There are so so so many great books about learning to print, I’ve cataloged a few of my favorite books on the Cotton & Flax blog. I tend to be a book learner, but I also love taking workshops and meeting other creative people who can share their experiences. I’ve learned so much just by chatting with other creative small business owners, it’s been very helpful to have a network of other biz ladies to rely on when things get tough.
10. If you weren’t running Cotton & Flax, what would be your dream job?
It’s hard to imagine going back to work for someone else at this point… I think I’d love working closely with artists or artworks, perhaps at a contemporary art museum. I love being close to the creative process, so working as a fine artist’s assistant has always been intriguing to me, too.