Sandra Venus, former architect turned textile designer, is making things locally. From her locally inspired designs, to printing and sewing, every part of her process for making Sweetgum napkins and tea towels is done here in New England. Her new line of linen tea towels are beautiful - soft, 100% linen with simple, nature-inspired designs. They are both earthy and contemporary at the same time. I asked Sandra to provide some insight into her designs and process...
What is your design inspiration for the graphics printed on your pieces? What is your design and production process like?
The landscape of the region is my inspiration for the graphics printed on my textiles. The Reed pattern is my most popular pattern in our napkins. It was created by collecting salt marsh reeds near Crane Beach. I then brought the reeds back to my studio and arranged them in different ways and photographed various arrangements. The pattern repeat was then developed using graphic software on my computer. For other patterns I've started with sketches. The pattern called Grass is a series of mark making I did in my sketch book - it's a simple pattern, small in scale that creates a field of marks on the cloth- much like grass creates a field in the landscape. For the Chives pattern on our tea towels I used my herb garden as inspiration, again working with collected cuttings of the plant in the studio and taking photos of different arrangement. The final pattern was put into graphic software to then create the digital file for use by the screen printer we collaborate with.
Why is it important to you that your products are made in New England?
It's important to me to find ways to collaborate with local small manufacturing (screen printing shops, cut & sew workrooms) because New England is my home and I'd like to contribute in some way to helping to keep jobs here in the region. We have a deep, rich history in textiles here in New England and although Sweetgum is not milling fabric for the kitchen linens here in New England we are trying to support industry related to textiles in any way possible as a way to celebrate the region's historic role in the industrial revolution of the our country.
What are some of the things your customers love most about your products?
People love the natural fibers and the reference to the landscape of New England in the patterns. I think the Reed pattern is so appealing to people because it is abstract yet organic at the same time. We use natural fibers and are expanding out collection of 100% linen products in response to customer feedback.
Do you have new product lines in the works for the future?
A new product is a 100% cotton napkin made from fabric milled in the United Stated. This napkin will be the Reed pattern in Terra-cotta- a red, white and blue patterned napkin just in time for July 4th! These new 100% cotton, hand screen printed in Rhode Island-sewn in Ma napkins will retail for $$49.50 for a set of 4 napkins.
In the next few months we will be offering 100% linen napkins in response to customer feedback. Linen is a fiber that can be grown without the need for irrigation so it's eco-friendly. It also washes beautifully. The natural, slightly wrinkled look of linen lends a warm, casual and classic look to the kitchen. Our linen napkins will be offered in neutral colors for the fall.
See the entire Sweetgum product line and learn more about Sandra at