Interviews

Behind the Scenes with Textile Designer Rebecca Atwood

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Rebecca Atwood, a Brooklyn-based textile designer, is one of the very first people I ever collaborated with, back when I featured my bedroom in our former condo (here). I remember being in absolute awe of her work back then, and am pleased to admit that absolutely nothing has changed since.  It has been an absolute pleasure to watch her business grow and flourish at a rapid pace over the years. And I’m so thrilled to have her here today to kick off a new series of mine. It’s one in which aims at showcasing some of the incredible talent that exists out there, with a focus on female entrepreneurs and talented makers. Here’s a behind the scenes peek at Rebecca’s process, the secrets to her success, and what we can expect to see in the coming months. 

If there are any other makers or entrepreneurs you’d like me to feature in this new series, please let me know in the comments below. 

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How did you launch your business?
I started small. I began with a collection of pillows that I hand painted, printed, and dyed myself and had sewn in the garment district. We sold out in about 2 months and I knew we had a connection with our customer and then I started to look into local production options. I had solid career experience before this so relied a lot on what I had already learned in regards to design, brand building, sourcing, and production. I also did a lot of research on what I didn’t know—like Quickbooks. I had saved money to do a proper photoshoot and launch my website so that everything looked professional when I launched.

What was more complicated than you expected when starting your business?
There is that saying “you don’t know what you don’t know,” and with starting your own business there are always things you don’t know. Even now, almost five years in there are still things I encounter that throw me for a loop and have me back reading books, researching, talking to people, and learning.

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You began your business with pillows, and have expanded your offerings from there. How did you choose what to move forward with at each turn?
It’s been a pretty natural evolution. After pillows we launched fabric by the yard, mostly because we were going to be printing fabric for pillows. From fabric we went to wallpaper because we could use the same distribution as our fabric line, and we knew our interior designer clients were looking for wallpaper from us. Next, we will be launching bedding. I wanted to get back to a product that was “finished” as opposed to fabric or wallpaper. I love to sleep and believe so much of feeling good is about getting a good night sleep. I want to help create this peaceful place for our customers.

What’s the most popular wallpaper design in your shop, and how did that design come about?
A favorite wallpaper of ours is Marble in Cloud. It began a hand marbled paper. I love the technique Suminagashi—it’s a Japanese marbling technique that means “floating ink.” It’s a meditative process—almost hypnotic—and I love that that calm feeling comes across in the final product. I also love that the final design can fit into so many different spaces. It can read traditional or modern, depending on the surrounding décor.

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Where is your workspace and what do you love most about it?
Our studio is in this large complex of old warehouse buildings called Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. We have an open space with a wall of windows that let in lots of sunshine. We each have our own desks (a team of four, including myself) and then we have two larger tables for meetings and working on creative projects. We have a lot of storage as space is limited. I always want more wall space so we made the fronts of our cabinets pinnable—they’re made out of homosote. The thing I love most about our workspace would have to be my team. They make it a great place to be.

How do you stay organized?
We have a lot of systems in place for staying organized, but it’s a constant battle. In the studio we have a large 18-month calendar on the wall made of individual white boards that is for all of the big picture stuff. We also have spreadsheet for keeping track of actionable items that relate to these bigger items. Then for the day-to-day we have Google calendar as well as Asana, which is essentially an online to-do list. It’s nice because you can assign tasks to other team members. I am definitely still a paper and pen or pencil person though and usually write out my day in my notebook so I can prioritize what is most important that I accomplish that day.

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What colors, textures, and materials are inspiring you at the moment?
I just got back from Japan, so that’s a big influence right now. I’m feeling green and richer colors that can also layer well with the color palette of our existing designs. Since my next book is also about color it has me exploring new color combinations and we’ll be adding in more multi-colored patterns to play around with color further. This past year we introduced woven fabrics for the first time, and now I’m constantly looking at different textures and how we can translate them into fabric. I think we’ll likely explore velvet soon.

When it comes to your own home, what do you like your space to feel like?
Living in a busy city, I want my home to feel calm and comforting. For me, that ties to my childhood growing up on Cape Cod. I lived in small coastal town and could walk to the beach in about 15 minutes. I want my home to be personal, so I always think it’s important to find pieces that really speak to you. If you love it then you can make it work. The weird and unexpected combinations are usually the best.

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What was the experience of writing your first book like?
Challenging! It was one of the most challenging creative projects I had ever taken on because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I like to be in my space working, but I found it extremely inspiring to visit all of homes for this book and meet the people who created them. I loved learning about their story and how they decorated. I think about it more as creating a book, versus writing a book, because there is so much that goes into it beyond writing. It’s not just the writing, but the planning, coordinating, creative thinking, and photo shoots. You’re creating something out of nothing. For the content that wasn’t in someone’s home, we had to find a way to visualize a concept. The actual writing of the book was the most difficult for me. While I know what I want to say, it’s hard to get that down on a page. I’m working on my second book now, and decided to work with a ghostwriter this time. It’s still a lot of work and writing, but it’s more enjoyable for me.

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What upcoming project are you most excited to work on right now?
I am most excited about the launch of our first bedding collection. This has been a dream of mine since I began my own line, and we have been working on it for over a year. The collection launches February 2018.

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for…

My family.

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Designer, Studio & Textiles: Rebecca Atwood | Photography: Tory Williams

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  • Michelle
    November 22, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Wow I LOVE, LOVE hearing about small business owners and their journey! I look forward to more of your posts like this in the future.

    My best,
    Michelle

    • Jacquelyn Clark
      December 6, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Thank you, Michelle. I’m so glad the response has been so positive! I’m excited to introduce more talented folks in the industry

  • Holly | Avenue Design Studio
    November 22, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Adore this feature and I too am absolutely in awe of Rebecca Atwood’s work. Can’t wait to see her new line of bed linens, how exciting. Lovely interview, Jacquelyn! Love Holly & Hedda x

    • Jacquelyn Clark
      December 6, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Thank you so much, Holly. I’m excited to feature more talented women in our industry!

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