Yesterday was a pretty unproductive day; besides keeping the baby fed, clothed, and happy (a feat which should not be underestimated, I realize, yet somehow feels oddly dissatisfying as far as checking things off the to-do list), I ended up staring off into space most of the day due to a serious case of Busy Brain. Busy Brain is just what I call having too many ideas + the inability to focus or execute on any of them, a negative side effect of having an overactive creative mind, and it can be paralyzing and frustrating. Since I began assessing and diagnosing this malady in myself, I have learned that many other creative people share it as well.
However, during one of Hugo’s naps, I did manage to listen to Abby Glassenberg’s latest podcast which is an interview with Gina Pantastico and Michelle Engel Bencsko of Cloud9 Fabrics. I swear this has got to be the best While She Naps podcast Abby has ever done; I really, really enjoyed this one. I’ve been trying to figure out if I feel this way only because I’m completely biased (I am a Cloud9 Collective Designer) but I truly believe it’s more a testament to Michelle and Gina’s amazing story plus Abby’s awesome interviewing skills. This is a modern success story about two talented and ambitious women, taking a leap of faith and starting this really cool company. I loved getting a look behind the scenes in this interview.
Years ago, long before Cloud9 Fabrics or Made By Rae, I was a faithful reader of Michelle’s blog, Cicado Studio, which no longer exists online as far as I can tell. I remember when Michelle announced that she and Gina were starting Cloud9, and I remember being so freaking excited over the concept of an organic fabric company and even more excited that their designs were so modern; at that time it seemed like every organic textile was required to be the color of undyed hemp. I also remember the note on their brand new Cloud9 website that said, essentially “Hey guys, we’ve gotten a ton of requests but we can’t take on new designers at this time; we’ve got our hands full with this whole starting a new business thing, so we’re going to start with our own designs and see where that takes us!” and I remember feeling a little bit disappointed. Maybe you didn’t know this, but before I ever dreamed of designing sewing patterns, I dreamed of designing fabric.
In 2012, when I finally got my shit together enough to patch together a rough fabric design portfolio and bring it to the first Quilt Market I ever attended, I showed my designs to a small handful of people, including Melody Miller and Rashida Coleman-Hale, who encouraged me to bring them to Michelle at Cloud9. I don’t think I would have ever had the nerve to approach her out of the blue unless those two had pushed me to do it, and for that I am eternally grateful to them. I felt my aesthetic was a dead match for Cloud9, but to have others affirm that was really encouraging. And even though nothing really happened right away, I understand now — after listening to Michelle talk about what she looks for in new designers — that just putting myself on their radar was the first (very important) step. It wasn’t about the portfolio (I will readily admit, my portfolio pretty much sucked), it was about introducing myself and my work. Almost a year later, after working together on a Tsuru-Geranium collaboration, Michelle decided I might be a good fit as a Cloud9 designer and the rest is history.
I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I see my name on the selvage of my fabric along with Cloud9. My designs are printed on real fabric that is sold in real fabric stores. It’s such a huge thrill and I feel so immensely lucky. Being a fabric designer has also legitimized my brand and my business in a way that making digital sewing patterns never really could; I’m not sure I anticipated that happening but it certainly is true. My mom can walk into Pacific Fabrics and tell the lady at the cutting counter that her daughter designed that fabric (even if that lady couldn’t care less, true story). There’s something about that that makes me feel just a little bit happy and proud. I imagine this must be similar to how authors feel when they finally hold an actual book in their hand; the thing they have been working on virtually for so long finally turning into a physical reality.
Anyway, Hugo is upstairs complaining loudly because his nap is over and I’m still typing away, so I’ll wrap it up by saying this: I love working with Gina and Michelle. I love Cloud9’s modern look, the company ethic, their cool story, and the fact that they are both so down to earth and I highly recommend listening to their While She Naps podcast interview with Abby!
And: more on my latest Cloud9 fabric collection, Small World, soon!