Spotlight: Lila Tueller

This is the latest profile in an occasional series spotlighting interesting crafters, artists and designers.

Lila Tueller epitomizes the term “mompreneur.” The bubbly mother of seven has juggled a busy family life with a booming boutique sewing business for some time and recently added the titles of fabric and pattern designer to her resumé.
“For years I had been sewing boutique items and selling them on Ebay or in real boutiques and also paintings, mostly watercolors I did,” says Tueller, who recently became a grandmother for the first time. ” I didn’t want to be always tied to my sewing machine, filling orders for people. I like sewing but it got to be a real chore.”
Tueller shared her frustration with a niece who also is a part of the boutique sewing community. She, in turn, encouraged her aunt to look into designing fabrics. Tueller invested in a Wacom tablet and some software, and started designing.
“I thought, ‘I’ll just try this; it may go nowhere.’ But I did it and I took (my portfolio) in and walked around fall market last year,” Tueller says.
While several companies expressed an interest in licensing her work, Tueller ultimately chose to work with Moda. “They didn’t have (anyone designing) the style that I had at that time,” she says. “I didn’t want to be in competition in the same company.”
Her first line for Moda, Woodland Blooms, is an earthy palette with colors like Spice, Henna, Sprout, Rosewood and Sky. The prints feature bold floral interpretations much like a walk through the woods, which obviously influenced Tueller’s designs.
“I have a little camera I take around with me and take pictures of things: flowers growing in someone’s garden, curtains, cool damask from Europe, tiles in the floor,” she says. “Nature, especially, is my biggest inspiration. I like looking out the window and seeing colors in nature together and say, ‘that’s my next colorway’.”
She’s already been working busily on the next two fabric lines to be released by Moda, although she only hints at what’s to come. “I’m really excited about my next line, Spring ’09, and thn one I’m working on now is Fall ’09 and that one I’m even more excited about,” she says.
Little could Tueller have expected that her association with Moda would lead to her next venture: designing patterns.
“Right before (spring quilt) market, I got a phone call from one of the people at Moda, asking if I wanted to put patterns out to go with the fabric,” she recalls. “I said yes, not realizing it was going to be a lot of work. It freaked me out!”
Tueller quickly dove into pattern creation but admits the learning curve was a bit steep. Her first three patterns — Funked-Out Peasant Blouse, Funked-Out Apron and The Bohemian Bag — are available now. A fourth pattern, a quilt, is coming soon.
Looking back on the past year, Tueller admits she had no idea how much of an impact her new creative ventures would have on her life.
“I think it is more work than I expected, absolutely, and my husband would agree,” she says. “It kind of takes over your world, especially at first when you’re trying to learn everything and do everything right.”
That doesn’t mean she hasn’t enjoyed the process.
“It’s the ultimate creative experience, to be able to sew with fabric I’ve designed. I can’t tell you what it does to a person,” she says.
Of course, managing a household of nine people has helped her stay organized and keep both her business and family running at full speed.
“I think a lot of it is that I have support not just from my husband but my kids,” she says. “I don’t want the kids to suffer for it and I really try to divide up my time. I do a lot more of my work late at night, from 10 (p.m.) to 4 (a.m.).”
Her husband, kids, extended family and friends have all lent a hand with carpools, meals, babysitting and housework when she’s been working to get designs out the door. There’s also some trading off that gets done, she admits.
“You can’t do everything and not have something suffer,” she says. “You let a lot of other stuff fall by the wayside that’s not that important to you. I don’t care if my dishes are done 24/7 but my daughter does, which is really nice of her.”

Copyright 2008 by Mary Abreu. All rights reserved. Please do not copy without permission.