We had some time to kismet with Alyssa at Quilt Market and wanted to share some more details of who she is with you. Her latest collection, coming on the heels of the enormously popular, Safari Sweet Organic, is called Picnic Pals Organic and should be in stores sometime this month. Here’s a little taste of Alyssa’s studio and how she makes the magic happen.
Clothworks talks with Alyssa Thomas of Penguin + Fish
C: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist/designer?
AT: “Look it up!” My mom and dad always told me when I was younger and had a question about something. I had to break out the encyclopedias and look it up myself. I hated it because I knew they knew the answer and just weren’t telling me. I’m grateful for it today because I know it engrained in me the ability to figure things out myself and not let “not knowing” hold me back.
AT: My advice to a young designer is to ask for critiques on your work, take them seriously, learn from them and work hard. Also, save some money before you jump into starting a company. It will make it easier to take risks.
C: What is on the top shelf or your design inspiration library?
AT: The 1950’s Child Life Magazines I just purchased from Porch Light Antique shop in Des Moines, Iowa. The animal illustrations in them are so quirky and sweet I can hardly stand it.
C: What do you do when you feel a block?
AT: I don’t usually get too creatively blocked. If I get stumped on something I’ll move on to another project and come back to the original project the next day. Sometimes it’s helpful to learn a new technique, or crochet a couple more rows on a blanket. That little break can energize the creative juices.
C: If you could meet any designer or artist and see their studio, who would it be?
AT: Donna Wilson. I love her cute knit characters.
C: What inspired this collection?
AT: I was inspired by all the little animals I can see outside my studio window trying to get at my garden.
C: Where do you work on your projects? Do you have a studio?
AT: I have a dedicated studio in my house that’s right across the hallway from my husband’s studio.
C: What is the best part of your job?
AT: Getting to do what I love. (i.e. drawing little animals)
C: What are you working on right now?
AT: I am working on a book. Squeeeee. I am so excited about it. Can’t chat too much about it yet but you’ll be able to find it on the shelves next year!
C: What are your top three tools?
AT: Embroidery needle, Mac / computer accessories, Spring action fabric scissors.
C: What’s your favorite local fabric store?
AT: It’s a tie between Sewtropolis and Crafty Planet. On Facebook: Sewtropolis + Crafty Planet
C: What’s your favorite color?
AT: Coral red pink
C: What projects bring you the most happiness?
AT: Anytime I can draw little animals it’s a win for me. I also love the mechanics of making a design into a repeatable pattern. Any time the final project ends in something tangible is a wonderful feeling.
C: What’s your earliest memory involving art/design?
AT: I remember my Mom showing me how to draw Mickey Mouse once. I also remember loosing my blankey in the house somewhere and drawing a “lost and found” sign for it (not to worry, it was under my dad’s jacket on the couch).
C: Who taught you to sew?
AT: I started cross-stitching when I was around 5 or 6 after the babysitter brought over a cross stitch and I learned from watching her. That got me started doing a lot of hand-sewing projects. I don’t think I started with the machine until home-ec class in junior high.
C: Favorite sewing tool
AT: Rotary cutter.
C: Favorite food
AT: Beef and Barley soup.
C: Song /Album that you like to work to.
AT: Ehn… I am more of a Hulu, Netflix, NPR, Book on Tape person versus a music listener while I work.
Would you like to see more of Alyssa’s work? Check her out here:
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