We’re nearing the end of our Reflections & Predictions series, and what a series it’s been! Today Michelle Engel Bencsko from Cloud9 Fabrics and Cicada Studio joins us with her thoughts from a textile designer’s perspective. Cloud9 Fabrics utilizes eco-responsible low impact dyes for printing and dying, and 100% certified organic cotton in the manufacturing of their base cloths. You’ve likely heard of their recent, popular My Happy Nursery collection, as well as their up-coming series of guest designer collections, which we’re really excited about! Enjoy Michelle’s interview today, and answer any or all of our questions for a chance to win one of five $15 Sew,Mama,Sew! gift certificates on January 15th.

Sew,Mama,Sew!: Looking back on the sewing scene of 2010, what trends stand out in your mind?

  • Owls definitely stand out– They seemed fringe before, but 2010 was the blitz. No one can deny, it was their year!
  • Simple repeats with simple graphics: 60’s-70’s-inspired, fun, bold and funky conversationals. Kitschy and cute flat images set on mostly white grounds or cut out blotch grounds. Basic repeat formations that hearken back to simpler days where the icon was more significant than artistry (and I say that with due respect to the periods they are influenced by).
  • International influence: I think Japan’s is most notable, but also Scandinavian, British, French, and Australian flair have really begun to filter into American manufacturers’ assortments.
  • Simple color ways: Single color, 2 or 3-color prints. I think this may be sparked by all the wonderful hand-screen printed fabrics in the handmade arena over the last five years, where costs really dictate how many colors one can do per print. The result is refreshingly back to basics.
  • Primary colors. And secondary colors, too. True blue, brilliant yellow, really red. Orange, green and purple. Completely understandable, and it makes things fun. I think this ties in a bit with the previous trends I mentioned, too.

SMS: What was your very favorite fabric collection or print?
Michelle: Castle Peeps by Lizzy House. Just adore it. She nailed it for me.

SMS: What were some of your favorite things?

  • I loved seeing more white-ground prints. *Hooray!*
  • I always enjoy prints that come from kooky little line drawings (Alexander Henry‘s In the Kitchen Farmdale) or full blown out fantasies (Tula Pink’s Parisville); characters and whimsies that seem to pop from someone’s imagination and make it all the way through the process to thousands of yards of fabric. It’s just FUN.
  • The rise of indie artists and hand-illustrated images and motifs. There is some really original work beginning to unfold and talents that will not remain hidden for long.
  • And of course, I’d like to add, the rise of organic cotton fabric companies and collections. Budding entrepreneurs and veteran companies are introducing the market to the value and benefits of organic cotton and how it can be accessible to everyone. As a result, it will be ever more important to see more “voices” and choices so they really ARE for everyone.

Collaboration between Michelle & Heather Moore, featuring Cloud9 Fabrics’ Beyond the Sea.

SMS: What was the best thing you made in 2010?
Michelle: I will always remember the day that I worked side by side with Heather Moore as she helped me prepare samples for a photo shoot for Martha Stewart Living (which didn’t get in the mag!). We didn’t have a plan. Everything just flowed. I think it was the most creative day I have spent in ages.

SMS: What do you think 2011 has in store?
Michelle: More indie talents rising– particularly artists typically outside the quilting arena– lending their images to bring in new and exciting looks, personal perspective and unique vision. Smaller, tighter collections. More selective curating. Cross-pollinating with other collections.

I think the rise of cotton prices will be a major influence on how shops purchase fabrics and smart merchandising will come into play.

I think “artists” vs. “designers” or “directed collections” will begin to pick up interest for their unique perspectives, personal involvement and originality. Some may consider it semantics, but for me, on a basic level, artists naturally focus from within, while designers are trained to focus on what’s outward. (For the record, I consider myself a designer with artistic tendencies.) I’m thinking about that personal element, of which Heather Ross is an excellent example, where back story and story-telling grips people, and makes them feel more connected to the product. It becomes cherished, too.

SMS: Any bloggers, quilters, sewists or designers who you think will be rising stars in 2011?
Michelle: Heather Moore, Julia Rothman, and Geninne Zlatkis! (I may be biased, but they’re all brilliant!) Oh, there’s a ton more. I think everyone I tweet with or follow on blogs or know personally from market– There are so many amazing people out there… It would be lovely for everyone to get their shining moment(s)!

Victoria’s Pojagi panel, The Silly Boodilly

SMS: What is one of the best things you saw that was made by someone else?
Michelle: Can I pick, two?!:

  • Victoria Gertenbach: Her Pojagi panels were amazing.
  • And Jenean Morrison’s Bike!

Wild World collection bike by Jenean of Jenean Morrison

SMS: Anything you’re ready for the world to get over?
Michelle: I’m not a big fan of sherbert-y, cool colors, so I wouldn’t mind seeing less of that and more warm tones. However, when it comes to trends, I’m pretty accepting. Hot trends will die quickly, where safe trends never do… What I really like is the “new” and the things that “could be” trends, whether it’s my aesthetic or not. I like the energy of new things and how they get people talking and thinking.

SMS: Any thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate? Predictions or wishes?
Michelle: Love/hate. I enjoy it– I might even go as far as I need it. However, I don’t like things that I enjoy becoming work and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be “on” publicly on my business’ behalf. I would much rather shoot the breeze than talk shop these days. But I do value our readership and I know they want to hear what I can offer, so I consider it a must to deliver whenever I can. Then, of course, there are times I wish I could unplug altogether, but I know I’d miss all the great people I’ve come to meet. On top of that, it’s nearly impossible to be in business and have no online presence. People are plugged in on all levels and crave more from everything that interests them. If you want to be noticed, you need to be visible in some capacity.

SMS: Can you tell us anything about what to expect from you in 2011? Any big projects, life changes or goals you can reveal?
Michelle: Well… Gina, my partner, and I just had a big Goals Meeting, and boy, are we two big dreamers. I can start with what I know will happen: working with licensed artists. We’re introducing our Designer Series, which is just the biggest treat for me. First we have a collection by Heather Moore, followed by Julia Rothman and then wrapping up our year with Geninne Zlatkis. All of these will be on our price-sensitive 100% organic cotton base cloths, which is another big deal for us. It’s lovely and offers many shops the opportunity to buy into organic cotton fabrics for the first time.

We have plans for at least two, if not three, more Premium collections in our 200 thread-count silky smooth 100% organic cotton base cloth. These collections will most likely revolve around nurseries. I even have hopes of introducing another artist that is near and dear to my heart… My grandmother. She was an illustrator in Paris before WWII for children’s lessons/nursery books. I would love to implement some of her motifs into a range.

We are considering re-running some of our popular Beyond the Sea prints, namely the beloved Sand Piper as well as Coral Weed and Anemone much like we revisited Flock from My Happy Garden into My Happy Nursery.

On top of this, we’re dipping our toes into the world of product manufacturing. I can’t really say too much now because it’s so conceptual… But suffice to say, our organic angle will be a perfect marriage to our ideas.

Thanks, Michelle! Kristin’s up tomorrow with her thoughts…