There’s a lot to be said for keeping things simple. Erin Dollar, the designer and maker behind Cotton & Flax, certainly knows this. With a business based upon two humble materials, Erin has made a living—and gained a following—guided by the dictum of less is more. Cotton & Flax started as a way for Erin to explore her passions for printmaking and textile design, her modern patterns silkscreened onto pillows and tea towels. Today, she has expanded her collection to include notebooks, napkins, coasters, and more. Despite the growth of her company, Erin still likes to keep things small, whether it be with the limited palettes she uses every season or the compactness of her tidy LA studio. Photographer Jessica Comingore recently dropped this light-filled space for a behind-the-scenes look. Take a peek below + shop Cotton & Flax at west elm LA!
Tell us a little about yourselves and your work
My name is Erin Dollar, and I’m and pattern designer and artist who runs a textile home goods company called Cotton & Flax. My studio is in the vibrant Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA, where I hand-silkscreen print every product in the collection with my original pattern designs. All the pieces I create for Cotton & Flax are made using natural materials like wool felt and linen blend fabrics, which make a beautiful base for my modern pattern designs.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
Fun and challenging. Fun, because there is an amazing community of designers, makers, and artists creating work in America right now, and it’s incredibly inspiring to see new products and designs coming out of my community. It’s very motivating to watch other designers creating beautiful, forward-thinking work; it pushes me to be more creative and to think bigger for my own designs. It’s challenging to be a maker in America, because it can be tricky to find manufacturing partners who are a good fit for a small business like mine. I’m lucky to have found some incredible production help through a local sewing house, which has helped me to grow my business significantly.
Tell us about your studio space.
I just moved into my studio in Highland Park in the Spring, and the past few months have been such a refreshing time in my creative life. My new space is twice the size of my old space, so I can spread out and work on larger projects. I also have a lot more room to keep inventory, which means I can have products out on display. It’s so nice to see all my work together – in the old studio it was mostly packed away in a closet to save space.
I have two giant tables lined up end-to-end, where I can cut fabric, sew samples, and spread out to draw new designs, or even work on larger projects like quilts! It’s the largest desk I’ve ever had, and I love it.
The light here is fantastic — for the first month, I didn’t even have my pendant lights plugged in, because it was naturally so bright during the day. My friend Bianca from Chaparral Studio helped me source lots of plants for the studio, which help me feel more relaxed while I’m at work. I have three other studio-mates who occupy the same building – Keiko Brodeur, Malachi Ward, and Lisa Butterworth. Their creative energy motivates me, and keeps me on task during the day.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
One of the things I love about running Cotton & Flax is that my days never look exactly the same. Generally, I handle administrative tasks in the morning (email, packing orders, bookkeeping), production tasks (screenprinting, sewing samples) in the afternoon, and creative or design-focused work in the evening. I’ve been thinking lately that it might be a good idea to flip this schedule around, so that I’m tackling the creative work first thing, when I’m feeling fresh.
After a few years of running a business, I feel very strongly about is taking time away from work. In the beginning, I rarely took weekends off, and would often work into the wee hours shipping orders or editing product photos. This led to periods of burnout and exhaustion, and I’ve been adopting a more humane schedule for 2016 to create a sustainable approach to my work schedule. Not to say that there aren’t still late nights sometimes, but I’ve stopped trying to answer emails at midnight.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I love to visit the library at the local art/design school, to comb through the stacks and learn more about art history. I’m a bit of a weirdo in LA, in that I’ve never owned a car — this means that I’m constantly walking around or taking the metro around the city, which allows me to notice little details (color, patterns, textures) that inspire my work overall. Inspiration is a tricky thing, but I find that when I make time to rest and recharge by exploring the city, talking with friends, and drawing in my sketchbook, new ideas always flow through sooner or later.
Why do you love Los Angeles?
This city is like nowhere else I’ve ever lived. It’s incredibly diverse, and the constant sunshine has instilled a sense of positivity in me that has helped me feel more confident in my creative pursuits. In the six years I’ve lived here, I’ve found a wonderful community of creative friends who have encouraged me and supported me throughout the life of my business. LA might be the most inspiring city to be an artist or designer right now, just because of the sheer amount of amazing work coming out of this city. I feel lucky to be part of this community.