BP_Lynne, I've known you for quite a while now and am constantly amazed at your versatility and
industrious nature. Do you ever sleep?
LF_Well, actually I do, but I live alone so I'm able to work in my studio whenever I feel like it--which in my case is most of the time! I usually like to work simultaneously on several projects so that when I'm stumped on one, I can refocus my attention on something else.
BP_I know you as a painter, a gallery owner/business person, a Designer Council Chair for CHA,
as a craft designer, an author...what are you currently excited about?
LF_Actually, all of the above, but at the moment I have a new book, Fresh Felt Flowers, that I'll be promoting at Quilt Market this month , that truly represents what I consider my life's work. It's a real celebration of nature's boundless beauty, interpreted into three dimensional sculptures created from fabric and thread. It's been a long time coming and now I'm hoping to use the work as the basis of my licensing portfolio. There are so many avenues I'd like to pursue with it from the manufacture of the actual flowers to surface designs for home textiles, paper goods and ceramic ware. I feel like I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential.
BP_ What type of crafting have you never done and wish you had the time for?
LF_Actually I just wish I had more time to do the things I already love like painting and drawing---I can really lose myself (and hours on end) when I paint, but rarely do I give myself permission to simply draw and paint for my own amusement--I seem to be constantly working against some deadline ---you know, "craft emergencies"!
BP_ Your background is quite unique, will you tell us about it?
LF_I feel very fortunate that I've always managed to make a living doing what I love--being creative. Serendipity has played a huge role in shaping my career I've sort of followed opportunities as they presented themselves.
I started college as a music major (what folly!), but quickly switched to art and graduated with a BFA in printmaking and then stayed on for an MFA in painting.
I began as a college art instructor at a tiny college in Louisiana. After a year, I moved to Atlanta where I continued teaching art for about five years at a boarding school here. I became fascinated with puppetry after making some puppets for a school play and actually quit my teaching job to free-lance as a puppet maker for professional puppeteers. Serendipity stepped in when someone saw my puppets and offered me a job at a toy company as a designer of stuffed animals. That was an incredible opportunity where I learned how to draft patterns and how to actually design for production. I also attended Toy Fair, the New York Gift Shows and the Licensing Show for the first time. Unfortunately the small family owned company closed its doors within a couple of years, so I was forced come up with a new plan.
My husband at the time and I started a singing telegram business ( for some reason it seemed like a logical step!--costumes, music, silliness---all of my favorite things! ) which we ran for several years while I continued making puppets and props for commercials and painting murals in baby furniture stores. In the interest of full disclosure, my life was a sitcom during those years.....As has often been the case with me, things got a little out of hand. Sometimes I would actually have to perform the singing telegrams, the puppets and props kept growing until they sort of morphed into full sized costumed characters, and the people who owned the baby furniture stores contracted with me to design infant bedding from the little characters in my murals. Whew!
After several years, the costumed characters sort of took over as the main focus of my business and I designed and produced sports and corporate mascots until I got involved with the home sewing and craft industries when Simplicity Patterns licensed several of my designs. In 1990 I attended a educational seminar of the Society of Craft Designers (SCD) and it literally opened up a whole new world of creative opportunity for me that has been the center of my work for the past 17 years. I've been really fortunate to author six books, appear regularly as a guest on HGTV, write hundreds of articles for magazines and work as a creative consultant for several manufacturers, helping them promote their existing products and develop new products.
A couple of years ago SCD joined forces with CHA's (Craft and Hobby Association) Designer Section and I've been fortunate to serve as the Chair of the Section since then.
BP_What advice would you give someone wanted to work as a professional craft designer and/or
author of crafting books?
LF_I would say join CHA. We have a great online designer discussion group for our members, a mentoring program, incredible educational programs and amazing opportunities to network and connect with the very people with whom you want to do business. Also, subscribe to the industry trade journals and learn all you can about the various aspects of the industry. There are so many opportunities for designers on every level that you can surely find a way to create professionally on your own terms.
In the craft industry, books are one of the main ways that consumers learn about new techniques and products, so there are lots of opportunities for knowledgeable designers to become published authors. There are also lots of publishers and each one has their own specialty so an aspiring author should do some research online, in the bookstores and at the major craft retailers to target appropriate publishers. Most of them have their author submission guidelines on their websites. Designer Showcase events are held at both of the CHA tradeshows wherein designers can show their work and connect with potential publishers, editors and manufacturers any of whom can be the key to a publishing contract.
BP_What advice do you have for manufacturers wanting to work with professional designers?
LF_Again I would say that the Designer Showcase events and the License and Design section of the CHA tradeshows are a great way for manufacturers to connect with designers who can provide a wide array of creative services. Manufacturers can also connect with designers through the online discussion group to offer sample products and to find designers for specific projects.
BP_Thanks very much, Lynne, we've learned a lot and look forward to seeing much more of you fabulous designs!
Lynne Farris Designs