Australian designer Saffron Craig produces vibrant, whimsical and contemporary fabrics for quilting, crafting, interiors and clothing. Already widely known for her Owls and Fairies ranges, Saffron introduces us to her newest designs in the Bird Tree Range; and offers CHA members the change to WIN a Fat Quarter pack (see below)! But first, Saffron shares with CHA members her wisdom about being an Australian designer, business partner and parent.
I understand that you have a background in fashion design, but that you were dissatisfied with the fabrics available on the market. When did the light go on in your head that you could do it yourself? How exciting was it? What happened?
I suppose I have a mindset of “I can do that!” which is what it took to print fabrics. I was creating hand painted silk dresses at the time, the paint was going everywhere and it took hours to paint one metre; I laugh because now I could have it digitally printed.
I wanted to create fabrics with my illustrations on them, fun fabrics with clean neat lines using my sense of colour. I suppose it helped that I had the studio space and the ideas to start. I do love to challenge myself.
In one of my first projects I hand printed fabric for an entire day and turned that fabric into one quilt. The paint was so thick in places I could not put the sewing machine needle through the three layers of the quilt without snapping the thread. As much as I love the process of screen-printing I knew I could not print fabrics by myself, as it is too limiting and very time consuming. I loved the end result, which was the fabric with my illustrations on it. It made me so happy so I focused on that.
Aside from your existing design background, did you have to learn any new skills to enable you to get the design from your head onto the fabric? Did you try different processes and techniques?
I have a degree in designs so I built on that. I use skills that I have learnt, like sketching, drawing, colour, design. Getting my illustrations onto fabrics has seen me learn a lot of new skills; becoming competent on the computer to start with.
The designs often grow as I take them from my imagination and put them on paper, I change the scale and the colours. My drawing skill is what makes most of my designs. I know that the design will look better on fabric than on paper.
Four years ago I taught myself to make my first quilt. Quilting is very addictive for me. After years of fitting dresses, it’s pure heaven to make a square and use limitless blocks, colours, patterns, so I am addicted. A couple of years ago I started to design quilts in my own fabrics and then I had to learn to write the patterns, photograph the quilts then and blog about them.
Now that you have refined your process, how long does it typically take to create a new range; from concept to the fabrics arriving in shops?
My new range is called Bird Tree. The design of the Bird Tree was sketched in spring 2009. I started to put the designs into a range in February 2010. I sent the files to the printer in March and received the strike off in April. I made changes to the colour and received new strike-offs two weeks after that. I approved the new colours and we started to take orders for the fabrics. When we knew people liked the designs and would support us by placing pre-orders we placed an order with the printer. We usually see the first few metres arrive within 20-30 days. In this case, for an idea to be a fabric for sale on the shelves, it has taken over twelve months. So I really am excited when I get to create with new ranges.
What program do you use to create your fabric designs? Have you always used it?
I work lot in Illustrator and I have had to learn to be very technical and accurate on the computer. I have to push myself to totally finish each design, as I am far from being a perfectionist. I would say two years ago I had no clue how to use Illustrator.
With the support around you including your business partners who take care of production and distribution, do you need to partake in any the business side of the operations?
I am very hands-on in all stages of the business. I oversee every stage of the production of my fabrics. I approve everything and there is often a lot of too-ing and fro-ing. I am also involved in the business. I come up with new ideas for products, and advertising.
Though the website is managed by my Husband Patrick I do run the online shop which requires me to manage orders, post orders, answer emails, write blogs, photograph everything. I also design and make quilts as well as the children clothing; I just finished my first children’s pattern.
We do help with the wholesaling; I recently went to the trade show and was very involved in all aspects. We have another trade show booked for Melbourne in November.
I am a mother on Thursdays, Fridays and the weekends so I spend three days a week on the business. With nights and early mornings for emailing and now social media is taking up hours every day.
Usually my creative time is spent designing fabrics. Most creatives who also run a business will attribute long nights and many hours to be conducive to running a business. They will also attest to not spending much time actually designing but time is spent thinking, planning, communicating, managing and organising my business. In my case my daughter gets a lot of my time as well.
I have a creative project I am doing, writing a children’s book, which is 4 illustrations away from being finished.
What are your top tips for the Aussie small business entrepreneur?
- Keep the focus on what is your big picture.
- Stay true to yourself.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Indeed be a positive person. (One negative comment will need 9 positives to be counteracted.)
- I think you are the creator of your own life so make it beautiful.
- Oh yes. Manifestations boards really do work! Really truly they do. They help you decide what you like.
...and finally: Which creative mind do you most admire and why?
I admire any one with focus and determination. I admire oh so many creative minds and spend a lot of time reading books, blogs, magazines and being inspired by all kind of visionaries and philosophers.
WIN a Bird Tree FQ Pack!
To enter, simply tell us in 25 words or less:
What's your favourite bird and why?
To enter, write your answer in the comments below this blog post.
Competition closes Saturday 28th August at 9pm EST.
1 winner will be selected, and notification made by 9pm Sunday 29th August via email and on the blog.
This competition is open to Australian residents only.