An interview with Umbrella Prints’ Amy Prior and Carly Schwerdt

Today I have an interview for you with Amy Prior and Carly Schwerdt, the brilliant duo behind the Australian textile house Umbrella Prints! Amy and Carly create beautiful hand screen printed fabric printed on organic hemp/cotton base cloth as well as organic quilting cotton collections. We just can’t get enough of their bold designs and fresh colour combinations!

Read on to learn more about what inspires Amy and Carly , find out what its like to design collaboratively and how you can get involved in their fabulous trimmings competition! In the shop you can find Umbrella Prints new collection Elephants Love Water.

The Village Haberdashery: What is the Umbrella Prints story?

Umbrella Prints: Umbrella Prints produce gorgeous pattern on quality 100% organic base cloths. We love creating unique patterns, unexpected combinations and beautiful colours. Our customers have a confidence in their own aesthetics and know that a beautiful fabric can change the way you feel.

TVH: How did the business come to be?

UP: We ran neighbouring businesses in a little street of shops in Adelaide, Carly an art studio and Amy a retail space selling her own hand printed fabrics. We used to chat in the doorway and soon discovered we shared more than a wall in that we share a design sympatico and a love of pattern, colour and art. Creating a channel for our ideas was important rather than starting a business but people loved our patterns and we jumped at the opportunity to turn our passions into our day jobs.

Credit: Nova @ A Cuppa and a Catch Up

TVH: What is it like to design fabric collaboratively? Who does what?

UP: It is nice to work with someone, to be able to generate ideas and momentum as well as share the ups and downs of running a busy studio. Amy’s background is in art whereas Carly’s is in design; though our skills and strengths crossover. Carly is direct and dynamic whilst Amy is intuitive and thoughtful. We almost always agree or can convince the other of a particular design direction. Bringing our own inspirations and findings to the studio can spark a new collection or idea; for example an assortment of Japanese incense sticks inspired our colour Lilac Wine. A creative partnership is a bit like a marriage; it works best when you listen, trust, share and think each other is the bee’s knees!

TVH: What is a typical day like for you and your business?

UP: Orders are done on the evening shift but we both love it when the sun is shining in the studio and the colours are vivid; that’s when we can look at the fabrics in the studio and take better photographs. Coffee, catchup, emails, chatting to customers, photo shoots, printing, window displays, deliveries, lifting, rolling fabric, testing, posting, reading, visits from friends, and a bit of dreaming is essential.

TVH: What inspires your designs and your aesthetic? How would you describe your style?

UP: We are inspired by playing, mixing and making connections over time. It is inspiring to look closer and notice details in things that may ordinarily be passed over. We work from a studio in Stepney; South Australia. There are a number of artists and designers working or running spaces in the area; there are vintage shops and old buildings, lots happening and inspiration is everywhere!

The mind plays with what it loves as Jung said. We put our heart out there and don’t play it safe with trends on the whole. A friend once said we were designer’s designers which was a huge compliment.  We attract a varied clientele which includes interior designers, stylists, arty people and quilter’s. We aim for generous colour and generous pattern…and are always searching for the right adjective to describe Umbrella Prints style without boxing it in mmmmm…..lush; yes lush.

Our Little Stone Flowers dress

TVH: Do you sew? What are your favourite projects to make with your own fabric?

UP: Amy likes to collect and curate with fabric more than sew; she is more likely to drape a lovely large piece of fabric over a couch than sew up a couple of cushions. Amy is known for her hand printed fabrics, her drawings and artworks created for exhibition. Amy loves to find the perfect fabric for a client’s home.

Carly loves sewing and loves working without a sewing pattern…her creations have been featured in many a book including the craft book anthology Softies. Her own book, Little Artist’s Handmade was published by Penguin in 2011. Carly loves to whip up a quick summer skirt to be worn that day.

TVH: What’s next for Umbrella Prints?

UP: We are looking forward to some exciting changes in the structure of our studio and retail space which will come to fruition in February 2013. It is always exciting to be designing our future collections of organic cotton and hemp/cotton as well as super gratifying to see what is out there being created with our recent collections including Elephants Love Water. The talented winners of the 3rd Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition where just announced and our next Trimmings Comp will be announced in late February 2013. We have been working on some large hand printed fabrics in the studio for clients and are really looking forward to making these pieces available to our stockists and retail customers.

Thank you Amy and Carly!

Can’t get enough Umbrella Prints? Follow them here!
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