Location: Richmond, Virginia
I wish I had known I wanted to design home products but I went the liberal arts route. I actually majored in English and Studio Art and then went on to graduate school in English. I didn’t think art was going to carry me very far, but I always loved it.
After graduate school, I taught writing and English literature at a school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This choice was based on an adventurous spirit paired with my more practical side. During the summer break, I took art classes including ceramics, which I fell in love with. I was so happy and content in the studio! Making beautiful objects was a much better fit for me than managing a classroom of teenagers — I knew I had found something I loved.
I really didn’t know much about how the industry worked. I just knew from seeing what was out there that what I was making was different and filled a niche market so I charged ahead.
That’s awesome! You’re such a go-getter. Tell me about the process of designing a piece from start to finish.
I respond strongly to color. It’s exciting! But I like it in small doses when I’m decorating. One of my favorite artists, Vuillard, painted in neutral ochres and umbers but there are slivers of color where light falls in his paintings. That’s how I like color to perform in a room. I like to start with a neutral base on the sofa and chairs then add touches of color. I like the surprise that color can offer.
I keep paper by my bed for late night note taking. Writing that thought down allows me to go back to sleep, but often I can’t read my scrawled writing! I have two employees who help me in the studio and a bookkeeper. But I still do a lot of the marketing myself on top of design work and the minutia of every day like lost boxes or damages. I’m busy all day which I like.
I look at all of the applied arts as well as fine art. Sometimes I notice a color combination that is unusual — like a navy blouse and a turquoise scarf — and work it into my collection somehow. My eyes are always roving. I go to flea markets and into my friends’ homes. Trend spotting just occurs because my eyes are wide open and I’m lucky enough to be exposed on a regular basis to the finest design in the world through trade shows and designer markets. I have fashion pictures tacked to a board above my desk beside vintage fabric cuts. I also keep binders full of rooms I’ve seen in magazines and I use Pinterest and Instagram. All of these inspire me.
She likes color and usually wants to preserve a majority of the items she’s had over the years. She wants a room facelift rather than a complete redo. Old antiques are easily updated with bold modern fabrics from my new Stroheim line. A wall in a vibrant print adds just the right note, revitalizing the room. The customer who likes my line of products is usually used to fine things in her home but she doesn’t want her house to look like her mother’s. She is smart, vivacious, and optimistic about life.
I love when customers say they love my stuff. I do hear this a lot but I absolutely never tire of it. I want people to be happy with their choice and when I hear that a product I made actually enriched their lives, my job is done.
The least fun part of my job is dealing with customers sometimes. I should have a customer support department but usually I’m the one fielding their grievances. Being tolerant and kind on the phone is a lost art for some. The majority of my customers are not like this but when it happens, it’s definitely a bummer.