Well, today I am back with a fabulous giveaway and interview with Harmony of Harmony Art Fabrics! Many of you may already know of Harmony's gorgeous fabrics. I know I have mentioned them several times over the last two years (see here, here, here, here and here). I became acquainted with Harmony and her fabrics a couple years ago while living in Germany, before I even started blogging. I was on the search for some gorgeous organic cotton fabrics to sew children's clothes with. I found Harmony's sitethrough Amy Butler'ssite. When visiting her website for the first time, I was not only smitten with her colorful organic cotton fabrics (most organics where and still are beige!) but was drawn into her journey and her documentation of all things related to organic cotton. I got on the phone one afternoon from Germany and decided to call Harmony's company to ask some questions about sales in Europe, etc.. To my surprise, Harmony answered the phone (I was expecting to get a recording!) and after a long conversation, I knew I wanted to work with her fabric and knew she was a cool lady! She is a gem in fact, has a huge heart, is very thoughtful and is passionate about organic cotton. Here is a wonderful interview I did with Harmony a few weeks ago. We have been planning on doing this interview for a while now (over a year!)...so it feels great to finally get this up to share with you all! At the end of the interview, you'll see the information about the giveaway and directions on how to enter! Have fun and I hope you enjoy getting to know Ms. Harmony and her fabrics!
The Interview1. Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic/design background? Do you have formal art education?I have a b.s. in Human Services from the University of Oregon . . . and years later went to theCalifornia School of Professional Fabric Design in Berkeley, CA. The teacher of the school pridesherself in teaching textile design to "non-artists." I think I am her poster child.2. Has art always been a part of your life? Who and what were some of your early influences? What inspires you most now?Yes, art has always been a part of my life. When I was a little girl I used to make my owngreeting cards and would always sign them on the back with a copyright sign and"Harmony Art." It's hard to believe but 7-year-old me named the company I would createas an adult. In high school I had an art teacher, Mrs. Hermann, who was GREAT!She was a true supporter of creativity. She didn't believe in everyone's art looking alike.She would teach us a technique and then challenge us to make something that was unlikeanyone else's. I believe that the creative process is most authentic when it is coming fromthat unique place and perspective that each one of us has. As far as what inspires me mostnow . . . without a doubt it would be nature and my surroundings.The natural world is full of pattern and inspiration.
I know I am biased, but I believe I live in the most beautiful place on earth. A hike in the
redwoods or a stroll along the bluffs above the ocean or a walk along the river always leaves
me rejuventated and inspired.
Well, if you are asking about Harmony Art organic design . . . you can trace its origins to a
conversation I had with an eco fashion designer named Kate Scott at the 2004 Green Festival in
San Francisco. We were both waiting in line to speak with Julia Butterfly Hill who had just
given a talk. We started to chat and I asked her if she ever used prints in her work.
She told me that there really weren't any printed organics to choose from.
A light bulb went off and I realized that here was a need that I could fill.
A year later at the 2005 Green Festival I was helping my first customer (Cotton Monkey)
woman a booth with my printed fabrics on her crib bedding!
4. Most people interested in art and design are drawn to color. What's your favoritecolor?
Oh that changes daily . . . but today I would probably say yellow or grey.
Yellow is such a happy color. And I love the colors of the rocks that I hiked past last Sunday.
What colors/color pallettes inspire you the most?
Hummmm . . . . I again often find inspiration in nature. It might be a flower or the colors of
a meadow in the fall, but ultimately it is a less conscious decision. The computer makes it
so easy to play with different color combinations that I may color a design 50 different ways
until I fall in love with it. When it feels right I just sense it. Since part of my mission is to
show people that organic fabrics do not have to be just shades of oatmeal and granola,
I tend to want to infuse lots of color.
Which colors have you incorporated most in your living space and wardrobe?
My living room is purples and blues. I inherited the coolest purple/blue couch and purple
chairs from my paternal grandmother. Apparently when my grandmother died (I was very young)
and the house was divided between my dad and his brother and sister no one wanted the
purple furniture, so my parents ended up with it. When I got married, I asked for the purple
furniture and got it! It definitely has found a good home. It's over 40 years old and still going
and Trudy) clean out their closets last year and it effectively created a whole new wardrobe
for me! It was fantasy come true . . . new clothes with no $$ spent, all recycled.
Sometimes I still have to pinch myself I feel so blessed! I also have a few special Harmony Art
fabrics items . . . skirts from Hamakua Homegrown, belts from Laura K, a skirt from Kate Scott.
Those are go-to favs.
5. Can you tell us a little about how you approach design?
It's organic. ;) I go trend hiking instead of trend shopping. Almost every Thursday and most
Saturdays I hike. I keep a camera in my pocket and stop to capture anything that catches my
design eye. I have a file in iphoto called "inspiration" . . . sometimes a picture/idea will haunt
me until I find time to bring it to life. Other times I will look through my "inspiration" photo
folder until something strikes me. I also have a tradition of doing a design to mark every
birthday. For that design I use something I encountered on my actual birthday (or right
around it). I then name the design the birthday I am celebrating. Here's an image of 38
which was based on a mushroom and the mushroom photo that inspired it. As you can see
I take lots of liberty with color, scale and details.
6. Do you hand draw your designs, use computer-based programs, or both? Why?
99% of my designs start with a black Sharpie marker and white paper.
Once I have an image/motif that I like, I scan it in and convert it to a vector image for
recoloring and laying it out. I was taught to design using paper and paint to do repeats
and colorways. I have to say I LOVE doing both in the computer since it is SO much quicker
and easier to play with a design -- experiment with colors and scales and tempo.
That said, if it doesn't start with a hand drawn image I find the designs loose something . . .
and are often too graphic and flat looking/feeling. The combo of hand-drawn and
computer-assisted is my favorite way to work.
7. Can you tell us about some of your favorite designs from your collection?
My favorite design from the current collection of stock fabrics would have to be Fields of Honey.
The pincushin flowers and the daisy like flowers I discovered in my dear friend Mary Sue's
AMAZING garden. The little flowers are gold fields that bloom in abundance along our coastline
in spring. The print is titled Fields of Honey after Mary Sue's wonderful dog, Honey, who
passed away a few years back but loved to hike with us. So the design has a personal element
and I love the happy mood it puts me in. I just got production yardage of the 2nd printing
yesterday and it looks GREAT -- fabulous color matching, line weight and the selvage name
was corrected too! The fabric should be back in stock by the end of September.... barring any
8. Why organic?
Well... you are the second to ask that question! Last week I completed a blog interview
for Going Home to Roost. Why don't you take a trip to Bonnie's site and read the answer there.
If I had to sum it up in a word, why organic? Because it's thoughtful. Specifically GOTS(www.global-standard.org) processed organic fabrics, actually takes the environment andthe people on it into account during the production. The processing is designed to improveland, top soil, air and water health and it does so with the expresses intent to help the farmersand the workers improve their lives as well. As of our latest reprints (due in the next 30 -60 days) our organic fabrics sourced from India are fair trade (www.fairtrade.net) certifiedfrom seed to selvage. I am proud of that.We live in a time in history that has been unlike any other. As Americans, we have access tovirtually anything at anytime. My beautiful and talented friend Katie( http://www.nartonisdesign.com-a.googlepages.com/home) and I were recently hiking onMt. Tamalpais and talking about just how incredible that is! Our access to "stuff" is mindboggling... and a relatively recent phenomena (in our lifetime). The downside of this excessof choice is the toll the planet and the people on it have paid to provide us with these things.picture of me taken on Mt. TamalpaisHere are some facts about conventional and organic cotton:“Today, only 0.15% of the world’s cotton is guaranteed to be pesticide free. This means thatthe majority of the cotton we wear is likely to have contributed to the poisoning of lives andthe environment in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities”, says Linda Craig,Director of PAN UK (http://www.pan-uk.org/).Cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop in the world. The Environmental Protection Agencyconsiders seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States as"possible," "likely," "probable," or "known" human carcinogens. The chemicals sprayed oncotton are some of the most hazardous. According to the World Health Organization, 20,000people die each year in developing countries as a result of the chemicals sprayed on conventionallygrown cotton.Organic agriculture uses 50% less energy and reduced water pollution by 75%. It takes carbon outof our atmosphere and puts it back in the soil leaving the land healthier and reducing globalwarming. A 23 year report on organic farming by Rodale Institute (www.rodaleinstitute.org/)shows that by converting all crops to organic we could come close to effectively eliminatingglobal warming.Here's a link to a quick and brief breakdown of the differences in our processes than conventionalorganic fabric processing: http://www.harmonyart.com/organic-textiles/OrganicVSConventional.htmlIf you are really interested in the topic, I high recommend reading the Environmental Justice Foundationsreport: The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton (http://www.ejfoundation.org/page324.html).After reading it, I am guessing you won't look at your t-shirt the same way again.I don't think anyone wakes up and says: "Today I want to pollute the world. I want to ensurethe planet is spread with toxic chemicals and that our air and water is slowly poisoned."Sadly, our consumer culture practices are doing just that. Textiles are just one (and maybethe biggest) culprit. Yes, organic products are more expensive. I make no apology for that.The reality is that the "cheap" products are actually MUCH more expensive (in terms of ourglobal, farmer and personal health) but those costs have been externalized and passed onto our children and their children to clean up.
9. Can you tell us how you see your business growing over the next 3, 5 and 10 years?
I definitely envision spending more time and energy educating others about organic cotton
and why it is important. It is nice to see new organic fabric designers emerging on the scene!
For us to convert a toxic industry, it is going to take a lot more than just me! I do think that in
order for organic to be more globally understood and accepted and accessible it will need more
education and outreach. I have been super lucky to have the best customers ever! They "get
it" and are committed to organics. However, there is only a very small group of people who
understand why organic textiles are important. Someone has to take the lead to educate the
"masses." This year I have done a lot of personal reflection and I keep coming back to this being
needed and that perhaps I am the one for the job. If we can get the word/education out I will
be able to help my customers, my business, all of the other organic fabric companies, and most
importantly the world at large.
I look forward to seeing how that manifests. Interviews like this one are definitely part of the
solution, so THANK YOU, SHEREE!
10. Do you also cook? If so, would you like to share with us one of your favorite recipes?
LOL! No. I am so spoiled with a husband who LOVES to cook and is AWESOME at it. He finds
cooking stress-relieving, which is the opposite of me. I would give you one of Sus' (hubby's)
recipes but he doesn't use them: it all comes from his head and what happens to be in the
refrigerator. They say "a way to a man's heart is through his stomach," but I contest it works
for women too! (Note: I do the dishes!)
11. I noticed on your website that you also offer custom printing services. Tell us more about that service and how one would go about working with you to bring a new organic cotton print to fruition.Designing is what I LOVE to do, so I have created a large library of unprinted designs that are just waiting to come to life (be printed). The design library gives me an outlet for the designs and a great starting point for custom/exclusive print runs. If you were looking for a certain design and not finding it in our stock fabrics, or if you want an exclusive design for just your company, we will work together to bring that vision to life. The designs exist in a password-protected online library.The process typically begins with having you sign a non-disclosure agreement. Then I give you access to our "design library." Since the designs haven't been printed or engraved we can easily change the scale and colors to meet their needs. In my world, "custom" means we split the production run. You pick the pattern, colors, and base organic goods and commit to purchasing 500 yards. We share in the engraving (setup) charges. Since the balance of the run will end up in my stock fabrics we both have to fall in love with it. If you are wanting an exclusive print run, then the minimum is a full production run or 1,000 yards.I love that Harmony Art is set up to help people in whatever stage of business/life they are in. You can buy one yard from one of our retailers or a "fat quarter" from Sheree's Alchemy and sew something for yourself . . . or you can buy wholesale (50 yards) directly from Harmony Art. As your company grows you can then move into custom designing where you have real say in what gets printed and then you can ultimately move into exclusive designs where no one else has the same fabric as you. We want to grow with you. The co-creating process I find really rewarding on so many levels. I know I already said it, but it bears repeating: I HAVE THE WORLD'S BEST CUSTOMERS! I am sincerely grateful for each and every one. Together we are making a difference.Wasn't it great learning more about Ms. Harmony? I am telling you all, she is really just a fab person and I am so thrilled and honored to know her!Now for the goods. There will be 3 lucky winners for this one.One grand prize winner will win this bundle....all 1 yard cuts of Harmony's gorgeous organic cotton fabrics!Then the second and third winners will win a super wide fat quarter of each of these fabrics...As well as some smaller swatches and large scrap pieces from these fabrics.....You can earn 3 chances to win this weeks giveaway! Please remember to leave a separate comment for each entry. I know it is a pain for you, but it is an even bigger pain for me to sift through and add on all the extra entries. :)1. Go to Harmony's website and look around. Then come back here and tell me what your favorite fabric is from her currently available as well as in development prints. Feel free to also tell us what you'd do with the fabrics if you won!2. Blog about this giveaway...show Harmony some blog love and tell your friends about her gorgeous organic cotton fabrics and this giveaway. Leave us a link to your post so we can swing by and say Hello!3. Tweet about this giveaway and Harmony's fabric collection.I will let this run until September 18, 2009.Before I go, here is one picture of an outfit I made with Harmony's fabric. Look at how little Leah was! This was taken a couple years ago when we were living in Germany. Man, time flies!And you all remember the lovely organic cotton tote I made with some project scraps.I have more sewing and quilting projects to show you all, but they are for Quilt Market, so I can't share them just yet! After market I'll have to do a little Sewing with Harmony Sew and Tell! :)
Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the drawing! I'd better get back to work...sewing like a crazy lady getting samples ready for my booth at Quilt Market and Festival! eeks! I seriously can't wait to share everything with you all!
Okey Dokey...Ya'll Have fun, Be Happy, and Create something Beautiful!