Tula Pink is one of the most colorful people in the quilting industry and I had the pleasure of chatting with her recently about her latest (and AMAZING) new collection Acacia, her successful career in the quilting biz, and other fun tidbits about her creative life, including some advice to young creatives looking to make their passion their business!
CABBAGE ROSE: Your new collection Acacia is way too fun! I especially adore those rad raccoons!! What was the inspiration for this collection?
TULA PINK: Acacia is essentially a daydream. I live in the mid-west. There are small pockets of cities and suburbs but the majority of the space out here is tall grasses and rows of crops that edge right up to the city lines. Being a city girl all of my life, I grew up in Los Angeles, Those pastures are about as mysterious to me as the open ocean or the surface of the moon. Acacia is my explanation of what goes on in all of that dense wild ground. Most of my fabric collections are just me imagining what is happening in areas that I can't see. My imaginary reality is much more colorful than the one I see when I open my eyes and look around.
CR: Can you tell us a little about your design process? What is the most fun element of the process and the most challenging part for you?
TP: My design process is fairly straight forward. I draw everything out in pencil first. I scan it in and redraft it digitally and drop in the colors. I draw to scale and figure out the repeat in the pencil sketch, you can literally lay my drawing on top of the finished fabric and it will be nearly identical. I try not to let the computer do the work for me. I like to have a bit of my hand in the finished design. It gives it personality. The funnest and the most challenging is definitely getting the first test swatches from the production mill. I am always really nervous to open the box. This is the moment when I find out if all of my ideas really worked or if I totally missed the mark and it all needs to be rethought. It can be the highest high or the lowest low.
CR: Your fabrics are brilliant at combining vivid and vibrant colors with some seriously bold patterns. What’s your secret to making a lot of loud elements work so harmoniously together?
TP: I like a bold pattern and I love color. I look at each piece of fabric I design and I think "would I NEED this fabric" if I saw it on a shelf. If I don't get that feeling then I can't imagine that anyone else will either. That's where the boldness comes in. I spend a lot of time moving elements around and changing colors a shade this way and a shade that way. There is a moment in the design process when everything falls into place. It's a gut feeling when I know that something is working. I try to take everything right up to that line of going too far.
Tula Pink Originals!
CR: I find your quilt designs to be especially imaginative! How exactly did you get started creating such incredibly original quilts?
TP: When I sit down to make a quilt I don't think about the "how" to make it until the end. I think about what I want to make, I think about shapes and the overall impact of the quilt. I let my imagination run wild and I figure out the "how" later. I try not to restrict myself with practicalities. I like to think that I am painting with fabric.
So, you totally have the portfolio of someone who's been doing this their ENTIRE life! Just what exactly were you up to before Tula Pink became a thing?
TP: Before designing fabric I worked as a exhibit designer at a museum in Los Angeles and then as an art director in the music industry. I went from a very quiet environment to a very loud one, it took some adjusting. Designing fabric and patchwork started out as something that I did to blow off steam. I used to spend my days realizing other peoples' creative visions and I used patchwork and fabric design as an outlet to explore my own ideas in my free time. Now I design and sew all of the time and I don't have free time.
Who is your biggest creative inspiration? Favorite designers of the moment?
TP: My interests change frequently. I am mostly drawn to people who do things that I can't or don't do. I get excited about painters and illustrators that do unexpected things like Mark Ryden, Barry McGee and I love the wit of Gary Baseman, the darkness of Camille Rose Garcia. Jenny Saville is my favorite figurative painter and Tauba Auerbach does amazing things with pattern and type.
From Tula's book, City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks
CR: Are there any other mediums you enjoy creating with?
TP: I have been in the quilting zone for quite a while now. Every thing I think about adds up to fabric and patchwork. I love it!
CR: What advice would you give young creative types about to enter the work force?
TP: My advice to young creative types entering the workforce would be to choose a job carefully. Don't go for the biggest money or the fanciest name on the door choose your job by who you want to learn from. You will get more from your career out of a great mentor than you will out of an extra couple of dollars in your paycheck. Once you get there, soak up everything you can about design, production, business and anything else you can get your hands on. The first few years of any job is learning the ropes. I see a lot of young creatives making the mistake of thinking that their only job is to be creative and while that is a big part of it you can't move up the ranks if you can't understand the bigger picture and how you fit into it and where you can make a bigger impact.
CR: How do you go from just being concerned with supporting yourself to actualizing your dream job?
TP: You eat a lot of Ramen Noodles until you can afford to buy real food, lol. I just kept my head down, made the best work that I could make, worked every opportunity that came my way and over time my dream became a reality. The most successful creatives have an equal amount of business savvy, I like to call it "hustle" to an equal amount of talent. The talent is what people will buy but it takes the hustle to make them realize that you exist in the first place. It's a yin/yang situation. I am lucky enough to be fairly one track minded. If I love what I do then that is enough to keep me going. It got me through some of the rougher parts of trying to make this my career.
CR: Okay Halloween is right around the corner...are you a handmade costume kinda gal?? If so, what's the best one that you've created (or seen)?
TP: I have been at International Quilt Market almost every Halloween for the last several years so I usually spend it in my hotel room complaining about how much my feet hurt. The best costume I have seen was a girl dressed as on Oscar, the statues they hand out at the Academy Awards. She was basically naked with a shaved head and completely painted gold. I think that was the best budget costume I have ever seen. All she needed was a can of paint and a razor! Well, that, a lot of confidence and a killer body!
CR: HAHA! We know that feeling! Quilt Market/Festival foot pain is a WHOLE OTHER LEVEL! Okay, what's usually playing in your studio while you sew, draw or dream up your next creation?
I am very moody and extremely particular about my music selections in the studio. When I am frantically making a million quilts for a new fabric line it's all pop, dance and electronic music. When I am designing it's a tense kind of mellow, some Jazz maybe or some dark classical music I like a lot of dramatic sound when I am thinking creatively. If I am relaxing and figuring things out but more mellow, my go to is old school hip hop. Like I said I can be a little schizophrenic when it comes to my music selections.
CR: How about your workspace? Is it neat and tidy or are you all about that chaotic creativity?
I am definitely a neat and tidy sort. i can't think in a mess. When I am trying to be creative my brain moves about a million miles a minute. The chaos in my brain can't be competing with chaos in my environment as well. I like to keep the workspaces clear in case I have a sudden such of creativity. When that happens I need to get to work immediately which requires a clear space and I can't be bothered with having to figure out where I put my rotary cutter or which pile that particular piece of fabric I need is in. So tidy is definitely necessary around here.
CR: It really does seem like there is no end to your imagination! What's in store for Tula Pink in the coming year?
TP: More, More, More! I have new fabrics, new quilts, new everything! It's hard to stop so I just don't try to anymore.
Thanks so much for your time, Tula! She's such a fun and inspiring person! AND, she's a huge supporter of Local Quilt Shops, which you know is a very near and dear quality in our hearts! We are all just loving the new collection and we hope you all enjoy the color and creativity as well! This collection is fabulous for lots of different handmade Christmas gifts from throw pillows & quilts to clothing and bags! Shop our Patterns and get inspired!!