Hello, please introduce yourself:
My name is Erin Dollar, and I’m a textile designer and surface pattern designer in San Diego, California. I launched Cotton & Flax, my collection of patterned textile home goods in 2012, and I opened my first retail shop last year!
Have you always wanted to be a designer/illustrator?
Not exactly! Like all kids, I was very creative when I was young, but I was part of the generation that watched Free Willy and immediately decided to be a marine biologist when I grew up. My creative side was at a soft simmer during my teenage years, and I took a lot of art and craft classes, including painting, ceramics, and photography. I had planned to major in Environmental Studies in college, but when I discovered the printmaking department, it was all over for me… I never wanted to leave. Discovering my creative passion as a newly minted adult sealed my fate, in a way.
How did you come to the current point you are at in your career?
When I first started working as an artist, I was working part-time jobs, and spending every spare minute in the studio. I would contribute art to gallery shows, and sell my work on Etsy -- at that point it looked more like a side hustle. I brought my artwork to some craft fairs, and the enthusiasm from shoppers encouraged me to put more work into my creative business, and consider the possibility that it could become my full time job.
Cotton & Flax began as a series of experiments with printing my artworks on fabric, which I built into a full collection. Making utilitarian goods really appealed to me, and by honing my sense of pattern design, it helped me create a distinct style for my work. As the business grew, I’ve partnered with brands on pattern licensing projects. As I continue to grow as an artist, these partnerships and collaborations allow me to experiment, and grow in new directions!
What is your design process?
All my patterns begin as ink drawings. I use sumi ink to draw/paint a pattern onto smooth paper, and then scan and edit in photoshop. I am certain that there are easier ways to design simple patterns, but I find that working on an iPad or computer to start makes my patterns feel too “perfect.” It takes away some of the charm of the hand drawn line.
My design process is usually centered around creating a pattern for a specific product, so I’m brainstorming color choices, and thinking about how the texture of the fabric will affect the design. For client projects, I’m often working from a design brief, so I am thinking about the best way to communicate the idea of the design through my minimalist modern lens.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have a design studio in San Diego that’s part retail shop, which is where I work from most days. I arrive in the morning, check emails, package and ship out orders from my online shop, and then the afternoon is spent working on admin or design projects. On a good day, I get to grab coffee down the street with a friend or client, and brainstorm new creative projects.
When you feel stuck or in a design rut, how do you get yourself out of it and back on track?
I try to rest, and not beat myself up too much. Experimenting with a new technique or medium tends to help shake things up a bit.
What has been/have been some of your favourite design projects to date?
I’m very proud of the design work I’ve done for Cotton & Flax. Being in charge of the entire process, start to finish, is a huge undertaking, and I often forget to celebrate that fact!
I’ve created two fabric collections for Robert Kaufman Fabrics, Arroyo and Balboa. Both are overprinted on linen fabrics, much in the same way that I create work for Cotton & Flax, which has made this a dream partnership for me.
I created a collection of stationery for Scout Books, a company in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, that focuses on creating the coolest notebooks from recycled materials.
One of my favorite commissions from 2018 was a pair of silk scarves that I designed for Deseda. This was one of my first fashion collaborations, and it was so exciting when the samples arrived in my mailbox!
If you could go back 10 years and give your younger self one key piece of advice or an insight, what would it be?
Try to slow down and enjoy your successes more. Find as many like-minded creative folks to collaborate with as possible, and be generous with your time. Sleep more, and wear sunscreen.
There has been an art supply sanction imposed and designers are only allowed to possess 3 items/tools, what do you choose?
Oooh, that’s a tough one! My first two are staples of all my design projects these days: sumi ink, and smooth bristol paper. Almost every pattern in my collection has started with those two tools. I guess my practical side would pick my computer as the third tool… but that’s boring! Instead, I’ll say my Case for Making watercolors, which feel so special and rare to me that I treat them like gold.
Where do you find inspiration?
Walking! I believe that so much of being an artist and a designer is just noticing things, little details that others might miss. When I go on a walk, my brain stops whirring over all the items on my to-do list, and let’s me just daydream and observe.
Which designers, artists or individuals truly inspire you (past or present, living or dead)?
SO many: Anni Albers, Eva LeWitt, Yayoi Kusama, the quilters of Gees Bend, and Sigrid Calon come to mind. My friends inspire me constantly, Jen Hewett’s beautiful floral patterns always delight me, and Laure Joliet’s photos capture so much magic. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a truly creative community.
Where you can find me: (your website link, social media links)