Made of Cloth
Marta Sulocka is a self-taught textile and pattern designer who works from a small studio in Essex, Vermont. She was born and raised in Poland but moved to the US more seven years ago after meeting her husband. Marta packed 24 years of my life into three suitcases and flew across the ocean.
How did you begin your work and get to where you are now? Was it overnight or did it take years of trial and error?
I grew up in a creative house, with my grandma always creating (painting, sewing, knitting) and my parents owning a clothing company, so I guess it was inevitable I ended up with passion for making. However, it wasn`t always like this. I have a master in sociology, never went to art school and all I know I learned myself - through trial and error and hundreds of hours of research and a lot of failure and persistence to get better and better. I still learn every day and believe that one must stay alert, open and always seek new knowledge to grow and improve. My passion for textiles, pattern design and interior design in general, has grown over the years. Something that started as a hobby has developed into a business. It was probably two years ago when I realized that this is my path, the thing I want to wake up to every day. Designing and printing simply makes me happy. It is not an easy road and I have moments of doubt on regular basis, but I still try to figure things out to grow my brand and I would not have it any other way.
What are tips you would give people when they are choosing textiles? What are the major misconceptions about picking and buying textiles?
Using textiles is an easy way to transform a space. They can be swapped seasonally, daily, weekly etc. I think that a lot of people are both, afraid of mixing patterns and don’t pay enough attention to color, scale and feel of the patterns they choose for their homes. I also believe that it`s worth investing in a few good quality pillows and throws. Those are items you use every day, they should be soft, comfortable, durable, cozy and add to the intimate and personal connection all of us have with our homes. One of my goals as a textile designer it to merge usability, design, form, and function. I want all my products to be easy to use and enjoyed daily, which is why I choose 100% linen as a base cloth. It gets softer with every wash, is durable, environmentally friendly, and simply beautiful.
You mention your European roots being source of inspiration. Can you elaborate on this? What was the moment where you said to yourself, "I love this and I want to invest time into making this happen"? Did you have this moment?
I started experimenting with pattern making and screen printing soon after my husband and I bought our house. I wanted to make the decor personal and unique but I couldn`t find any fabrics that would fit my aesthetic, feel organic, or be durable without being made of man-made materials. The more I experimented the more I fell in love with the tangible beauty of silk printing. There is something magical in knowing that every inch of cloth used for ordinary, daily activities has been hand screen printed by another human being. I made a little detour a year ago and decided to release my first collection of fabric by the yard as digitally printed patterns. Even though the fabrics are made in the USA, printed on 100% highest quality Belgian linen and meet all my production standards, they didn’t feel the same as hand screen printed cloth. I am back to my roots now and releasing my first collection of hand silk screened fabrics by the yard (pillows and table linens will be released soon after that). I am more excited about the new collection than I have ever been about any of my products.
I am European at heart and always will be. The architecture, culture, way of living are some things I miss every single day. I know my style and aesthetic have been shaped by my upbringing and is very often different than the American approach. I find it to be an advantage, I am proud to stand behind my heritage and make the American design scene more eclectic.
I love your patterns and color schemes. What inspires you and how do you prepare yourself to sit down and create. Walk readers through your production process. Is there anything unique about the process?
All my patterns start as sketches or experiments with shapes, textures and different mediums. Crackle, for example, started by covering a piece of linen with water/flour mix. After it dried, I rolled the fabric, creating "cracks" and poured liquid dye over it, letting it seep through, resulting in a unique pattern. It is one of the patterns that had to be digitally printed to retain the color variation within the pattern. It would be impossible to achieve the same effect by screen printing. After I am happy with a pattern/sketch/drawing, I scan it into the computer and create a repeat to be able to print it as a continuous yardage. The fabric is either digitally printed in Pennsylvania or hand silk screened by me in my small Vermont studio. I used to make my own screens for screen printing, however, I’ve decided lately to leave this part to the professionals. As a business owner and creative you must be in tune with the things you are good at and outsource what can be done better by someone else.
I think that one of the most important steps in my creative process and developing a new collection is curating a mood board. It`s a collection of patterns, colors, textures, inspiration, magazine/web images, hand mixed colors that come together as a cohesive unit. It allows me to see what works and what doesn’t. It allows me to see what is missing and what I have too much of. It changes a lot throughout the process but in the end, it is like a magical, condensed piece of art on its own. My color schemes are usually a little different with each collection but I am all about muted, neutral hues. I like calm, sophisticated, organic and modern schemes.
Describe how textiles can transform a room.
It is truly amazing how textiles can affect the feel of a room. Patterns, colors, and textures are the defining factors of a home. I like to ask people to think of a way they want to feel in a room and the way they want their guests to react when they walk in.
If the goal is to achieve a relaxed, sophisticated, calming feeling then choosing natural fabrics (linen, cotton, or wool) and neutral colors (whites, creams, greys, and a touch of black) will accomplish this. If you want people to feel energized in your living room then introducing geometrical, large scale patterns, saturated colors, and mixing different motifs is a great idea. There are endless possibilities and, in the end, you should feel good in your own home. Mix and match what you find beautiful and want to look at every single day.
photos by: Marta Sulocka