I recently discovered the beautifully earthy textile designs of Kate Miller, founder of elworthy studio and I knew I had to share her work with you! Kate effortlessly combines neutral shades with bold designs, making her collections of fabric and wallpaper designs desirable for a range of interiors. I had the opportunity to interview Kate Miller and learn more about her design inspiration and road to success. You can find the interview below.
Textile designer and elworthy studio founder Kate Miller at home in her living room.
Jacquin: I really love your textile designs' earthy and sensual color palette. While the color palette is more neutral, the designs are still edgy, yet sophisticated. I think home owners would really like your collection! Tell us about how you developed elworthy studio's 'Decay Collection'. What was your process?
Kate: Thanks! You are totally right, the palette incorporates some soft jewel tones but overall, it is quite neutral and can work in so many different spaces. To create these designs, I used a rust-dyeing process and it was actually quite experimental! I wrapped rusted objects with pieces of fabric in a variety of ways, then allowed them to oxidize for a few days. The impressions left on the fabrics were textural and organic, but I felt they needed some refinement, so turned to the computer (Photoshop and Illustrator) to develop the patterns and incorporate a more varied color palette.
elworthy studio sells wallpaper, fabric, and throw pillows.
Home of elworthy studio founder & designer Kate Miller.
Jacquin: How was your experience decorating your home?
Kate: We’ve been in our current apartment for three years, and it is always evolving! It’s been fun and challenging to incorporate elements from our spacious, lofty apartment in Shanghai (we accumulated a lot of furniture over there and ended up having a container shipped over) into our smaller, San Francisco-style apartment, and combine those pieces with new ones from local designers and artists plus textiles and accessories I’ve picked up while traveling. Our home is definitely eclectic and I think that reflects our personalities well! We come from different countries and have each lived in multiple places and traveled extensively, so it is fitting that our space combines a variety of styles.
Kate's favorite elworthy studio element at home is her custom armchair. Fabric shown: Desert Alchemy.
Jacquin: What is your favorite elworthy studio element in your home right now?
Kate: The upholstered armchair in our living room! (shown above) A friend in Shanghai who worked in furniture distribution gave me this chair as a gift many years ago…she was working on producing a new style and this was her first prototype. I got to choose the upholstery…a vintage-inspired sage green floral. It wasn’t a true upholstery fabric, and I have a cat who uses furniture as scratching posts. As you can imagine, the chair needed some love, so I had it reupholstered in Desert Alchemy, one of the designs from the Decay Collection. I love how the fabric’s design and colors work with the rest of our living room.
Jacquin: I come from an environmental law background, so I was excited to see that your textiles are eco-friendly and sustainable. How has your experience been developing a textile brand with an environmental focus? Has it been challenging to execute your designs while sourcing natural dyes and fabrics, along with the various other business decisions that go along with an environmentally-friendly business model?
Kate: More challenging than I expected! I chose digital printing for my textiles and wall coverings because it is actually more eco-friendly than other printing processes. Digital printing also happened to be the best printing method to capture the detailed textures and color range of my designs, so it was a good match on both levels. Sourcing eco-friendly fabrics has been more difficult. At the moment my fabrics are made with all natural, sustainable fibers, but I am always searching for completely organic fabrics that work well for a variety of end uses and print well.
Just a couple weeks ago, I launched my accent pillow collection, which features the Decay Collection fabrics and exclusive inserts filled with alpaca fiber. I am the first designer to use alpaca in decorative pillows, and this came about because I wasn’t able to find an insert on the market that met all my requirements. Sometimes it takes some extra work and creativity to find the perfect solution, but it is well worth it…I like knowing that my pillows are completely safe for my clients homes!
Jacquin: You have a really interesting career background! How was your experience working at Bloomingdale's instrumental in launching your business today? What are some key things you learned while working in visual merchandising and the buying office for Bloomingdale's?
Kate: Haha, yes, it has been an indirect journey! My time at Bloomingdale’s was such a great foundation. I learned how to run a retail business, how to edit a collection, and then how to sell product through marketing and visual display. My experience with in-store styling and creating seasonal installations was a great education in color theory, combining patterns, and creating a cohesive overall effect. I draw from all these lessons on a regular basis.
Jacquin: How was your experience pursuing graduate studies in textile design? Were you surprised by anything when re-entering school for textile design or was the educational process as you expected?
Kate: It was a mixed experience. I went back to school with eight years industry experience under my belt…I hoped to learn specific technical skills, yet was in a three year program which included liberal arts requirements, portfolio development, and learning to work as a team. Not the right fit! I switched out of the MFA program and into Continuing Education so I could focus on taking the just courses I needed. After three semesters, I’d finished those courses and was eager to start my own line.
What I did love was learning various textile printing and digital design techniques, then having the total freedom to experiment and develop my own style. That said, nothing compares to learning on the job!
Photo Credit: Gina Benedetti
If you'd like to add elworthy studio's textile designs to your home decor, you can shop Kate Miller's latest designs at the elworthy studio website.