Interview: Carolyn Friedlander

Carolyn Friedlander is a Florida-based designer who specializes in quilt and sewing patterns. She just presented her second fabric collection with Robert Kaufman at the International Quilt Market in Houston this October. We were immediately drawn to the fresh, modern feel of Carolyn’s work which she describes as being inspired by “elements of art, architecture, and the history of quiltmaking.” Carolyn was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about her process and the experience of exhibiting at Quilt Market and working with Robert Kaufman!

Tell us a bit about your background in design. How did you find your way to designing patterns for the quilting market?

I have a degree in architecture and practiced that in St Louis, Missouri for a few years before I found quilting. When I discovered quilting, I was instantly obsessed, and over time I’ve been able to transition into the work that I do now. I love surface design and quilt making because it builds on many of my favorite things about architecture, but with so much more. Designing quilt patterns seemed like a good entry point into the industry, and I had plenty of ideas for quilts that I wanted to make.

Could you talk about the experience of exhibiting at Quilt Market? What were the most enjoyable parts of the show? Is there anything you would do different next time? Any words of wisdom for designers interested in exhibiting?

Exhibiting at Quilt Market is a fantastic experience. It is a lot of work, but I’ve found it to be a great way to get my designs into the market, show people who I am as a designer, and meet other people in the industry. The most enjoyable part of the show is connecting with the variety of people attending. It can be very productive as far as receiving feedback on your own work, as well as gaining insights into what is going on in the industry.

As for advice for designers interested in exhibiting, I would say that it is always good to know your goals and figure out the best strategy for achieving them. A lot can be accomplished by having a booth, but a lot can also be accomplished by attending as well. If you are exhibiting, make sure to start planning well in advance, and always be ready to handle surprises during set up. This year I had to build one of my booth walls against another wall. This forced some very creative maneuvering.

How did you come about the collection/license with Robert Kaufman? Did you cold email, have contacts, etc?

I was actually able to meet some of the folks from Robert Kaufman at my first market, but it should be encouraging for others to know that the most important step is the same for anyone, and that is to make a submission. They can’t say yes or no to something they haven’t seen. My contacts were a great help in pointing me in the right direction as far as where to send my submission. Then you just wait, cross your fingers, and hope that it gets accepted. I do not know how other companies operate, but that was my experience working with Robert Kaufman.

Could you tell us about your creative process in developing your collections?

I usually have a design simmering in my head for a little while before I start to explore it. When I’m ready to start working on it, I’m very hands on. I’ll do a lot of drawing and sketching to figure it out. My favorite design tools are very basic–paper, pens, pencils, colored pencils and markers. These are my favorite things to start designing with.

Do you have a favorite print type to create and if so why that print?

I definitely have an appreciation for all prints, but my favorites to create are the prints that I can imagine using the most. Lately, these have been heavily textural prints with a strong hand-drawn element. I always like it when you can see the hand of the designer in the work itself.

What are your favorite sources for design inspiration? Favorite print & pattern trends?

Finding inspiration in simple things and things outside of the industry is usually what I like the most. I feel very inspired living in rural Florida where we have lots of cattle, orange groves, and open space. Curiosity is also a big muse. A lot of what I design and make is the result of things that I am curious about. I am always interested in how things work and how they come together.

I also read a lot, some of which is totally unrelated, but I think that can be really helpful.

One of my favorite trends is print mixing. I love that!

Do you have any advice for aspiring designers hoping to break into the quilting industry or build a successful brand/business in the textile field?

My best advice for aspiring designers is something that I remind myself of often–you just need to get yourself out there and ask. The worst someone will say is no, and that really is not so bad. If you have ideas for a collection, get your ideas together and also make sure that you are showing people who you are as a designer.

Just be yourself.


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