An interview with Jennifer Moore from Monaluna
Today we have a wonderful interview for you with Jennifer Moore, the talented designer behind the organic fabric company Monaluna! You love her for her charming fox prints (we can’t keep them on our shelves!) and now you can find out how Jennifer plans her designs, where she got the inspiration for her forthcoming collection, Modern Home (hint: there were llamas at her wedding!), and what it’s like to start a company with a three-week-old baby!
The Village Haberdashery: What motivated you to start your own company, Monaluna?
Jennifer Moore: I first began licensing my artwork for fabric in 2008, with the hopes of having it printed on organic cotton. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons it didn’t work out with the company I was working with, but I became increasingly convinced that the market needed more organic alternatives and environmentally sustainable options. I started out thinking small – that I would hand-screen fabrics on organic cotton in my apartment (ruled out due to lack of space), or maybe have it screened locally – but as I learned more about the process and the importance of promoting organic cotton, I got a little more ambitious, and decided to try it out on a larger scale.
TVH: You started Monaluna just after your daughter was born. What was that like?
JM: The first collection actually took 15 months from the very beginning until delivery, so when I started I had no idea that I would have a 3-week-old once the fabric finally arrived! When I figured out what the timing would be like I was worried, but it actually worked out very well. I hadn’t done a lot of pre-marketing, so customers found out about the collection in a gradual, word-of-mouth (and blog) kind of way, and I was able to fill orders and answer emails and take care of Anabelle. As she and the business grew it got a little harder – often I’d be nursing and trying to answer emails at the same time – but she was a pretty mellow baby, and was content to hang out with me a lot while I was working. After about a year, though, she started walking, and things got a lot harder. Now she goes to a preschool that she loves 4 days a week, and that allows me to work and then give her my full attention when we’re together.
TVH: What your method or process for designing fabric? What inspires your designs?
JM: I generally start a collection with an idea or a theme, and I spend a few weeks thinking about it and pulling together images and doodles on a design board. When I’m ready (or, more likely, when I realize that I have to get going if I ever want a new collection coming in), I start to paint. Sometimes I’ll do complete, full-color paintings, but often they’ll be small vignettes or even little samples of black and white geometric shapes. Then, usually, I scan these into photoshop and play with the layout and repeat, and eventually color, until I like the results. I usually have a palette picked out before I start to paint, but it often gets altered as I realize that I need to add shades in, or take them out. Finally, I spend time getting the prints to work together in a collection, playing with scale, deliberating with my husband, Dave, (who helps out a lot!) and editing things out. It’s a messy process, and the collections usually end up totally different from what I was picturing initially.
The inspirations can really come from anywhere, but often they’re rooted in nature and in a sense of place. I have found that I really pay attention to the world around me in a different way when I’m traveling, and those impressions often make their way into my artwork.
TVH: You have designed for Birch Fabrics and Robert Kaufman. How do you vary your approach for these different companies?
JM: I really do enjoy doing design work for other companies, because it allows me to do things a little differently than I’d do them for myself. There’s always an element of collaboration, and that can push me in different directions artistically. With Robert Kaufman, I would design the artwork, but they would usually alter the palette and scale to fit with their other offerings. When I work with Cynthia from Birch, she will often have a theme in mind, and it gives me a jumping-off point to try out a new direction. These days, though, I’ve been so busy keeping up with my own business that I’ve stopped doing any other design projects. It’s a good problem to have!
TVH: At Fall Quilt Market you’ll be unveiling Modern Home, which is a bit of a departure from the wonderful children’s collections you’re best known for. Tell us about it!
JM: When I started Modern Home I wanted it to be a little more personal, and it really started out being about my home and my life. In typical fashion, though, it took a turn and isn’t quite the reflection I thought it would be. Some elements are still there, though: there’s a print called Llama Love that was inspired by the llamas that my husband and I had at our wedding, and the cat sleeping on the back of the sofa in Living Room is a non-orange version of our cat Sadie. The print Cuppa Joe was inspired by the beautiful lines of our Chemex coffeepot that sits on our kitchen counter, and the print Window to my Heart started out being windows like those in our 100-year-old house, but ended up being a little more mid-century.
TVH: Do you like to sew? What are your favourite projects to make with your fabrics?
JM: I do like to sew, and I really wish I had more time for it! I always have a long list of sewing projects, but it’s rare that I have time to just sew for fun these days. When I do, it’s usually clothes for my daughter Anabelle, and sometimes simple baby quilts for friends. I almost always have some sewing project in mind when I’m designing my prints, and it’s always fun when I get to actually sew whatever that initial idea was. I just finished sewing a simple quilt from the Modern Home collection, and I’m really happy with how it came out!
Thank you Jennifer!