This is the first profile in an occasional series spotlighting interesting crafters, artists and designers.
For someone who spends a large percentage of her time around fabric, Erin McMorris admits she’s little more than a recreational sew-er.
“I sew but I sort of sew organically,” she says via phone from her Portland, Ore., home. “I don’t know how to read patterns. Quilts, I don’t like precision so I do a lot of blocks but they don’t line up. I feel like I know how to sew for me; to show anybody else is just terrifying.”
That means a lot of pillows and skirts created by pinning them on her body before stitching them up. “It’s all for me,” she says with a laugh.
McMorris may be a relatively new name in the world of fabric design but it’s hardly new territory for her. The graphic designer and illustrator grew up literally surrounded by fabric and the quilting industry, thanks to her mother, Penny McMorris of Electric Quilt.
“I’ve been around (the industry) my entire life,” she says. “When I was growing up, I always knew I would do something with design. … But I never even knew about textile design.”
Instead, she studied graphic design, a path that “very much fit me.” It wasn’t until a friend was taking a textile design course that McMorris realized it was the work she was meant to do.
“I knew right away it was the right thing for me,” she says.
Much of her career has been spent selling her work for use by other companies. Jo-Ann Stores, Lands’ End, The Land of Nod and Target are just a few of the major retailers who’ve bought her designs for use on their products. She admits there’s a certain excitement that accompanies seeing her work when she’s out shopping.
“It never gets old. I just love it!” she says.
Her enjoyment extends to the creations made by others with the two fabric lines she’s created for FreeSpirit Fabric (part of Westminster Fibres), Urban Gardens (2007) and Park Slope, which has recently hit stores.
“It’s such fun for me because … you don’t have any expectation what people are going to do with it,” she says. “I get really excited about that.”
While some of the shapes in Park Slope are somewhat evocative of her previous line, the range has a completely different feel from her first consumer fabrics.
“I went a little conservative,” she says of Urban Gardens. “I hadn’t done this before. With Urban Gardens, I was trying to do something not really true to myself.”
It’s a stark contrast to her feelings about Park Slope.
“I really feel like the line is very me,” she says. “I try to do things different each time to keep myself interested, as well.”
The foundation piece for Park Slope is the Poppy Dot Floral, a print McMorris actually lived with before expanding the line.
“I had printed it on fabric myself and made some things,” she says. “People were looking at it and commenting, asking if they could buy it. When it was time to do my second line, I knew where the other shapes — the organic feeling — was going to come from.”
For McMorris, that means starting with a hand-drawn sketch that is then scanned into the computer and expanded upon, using Adobe Photoshop and her Wacom tablet. She admits it’s a slow process.
“It takes me forever!” she says. “I don’t work on it continuously; sort of bits and pieces here and there.”
In the interim, she works on other designs for sale and licensing. All told, she estimates it can take her six months to complete the design work for a fabric line. “I swear, I don’t know how people do all these lines,” she says with a laugh.
She’s already hard at work on her next line for Free Spirit, although “I’m afraid to say what it looks like right now,” she says. “I’m still liking what I see. It’s a little retro but the colors are brighter this time as well.”
Copyright 2008 by Mary Abreu. All rights reserved. Please do not copy without permission.