Oobi Designer & Founder Alexandra Riggs has written a fascinating and insightful reflection on her behind-the-scenes thought processes. Giving us an even deeper look into the world of Oobi and the creative development she undertakes when designing the Oobi range. What a treat !!
Below is Part two of this fascinating behind the scenes look.
FABRIC PRINTING AND THE FAMOUS “OOBI FABRIC LIBRARY”
So about 10 years ago I started designing and printing my own fabric and I have (over the years) created a fantastic library of prints. I am also a HUGE collector of vintage fabrics and trims, I’ve got beautiful framed pictures in my house of old sleeves and beautiful old buttons too... But I digress... So let’s say I want to make a quilt. I find that you need at least 7 different fabrics for a good mix. But each fabric can’t be too matchy-matchy. There needs to be an element in there that almost throws it out of whack. That gives a point of interest.
Then there needs to be enough fabric to ensure that there’s a tonal symmetry too. So we’re looking at about 4 fabrics that really need to match. So, that’s 4 that match (give-or-take), one that needs to throw it out just a wee bit, and then 2 which are ‘up for grabs’ which means that there needs to be a bit of a mixture of both.
THEN there’s the problem where you can’t have just all dots. A quilt that is just polkadots looks boring. A quilt that’s only floral is also a bit blah. In terms of graphic appeal there needs to be a good balance of florals or patterns like cars or elephants, some stripe, perhaps some check, a bit of vintage (either Oobi or a reprint of an old fabric) plus maybe something else. Then there’s the fun element. I used racing check in the boy’s racing car quilt last season because that creates a cute little story. I could have used a gingham but it HAD to be racer! And it totally works. But on the flipside I drew a little tree for the elephant quilt and it was a bit cheesy so I didn’t go with it. I also wanted that quilt to be unisex so the tree felt a bit more feminine and I had to move on.
There also needs to be textural appeal – how soft the fabrics are, which ones go on the back, etc. Then there ALSO needs to be a border and then, crucially, you have to make sure that the right prints go next to the right prints, otherwise you can end up with too many stripes together or too many dots together.
Each panel has to be cut and sewn individually and we work it and rework it and probably work it again. I have about 20 samples made of each quilt before I feel that it’s right. I also have to be really steely and strong because nobody wants to make 20 samples of anything and at 9pm when I’m asking my production manager and good friend Bek to change one panel for me just to take a look... It’s hard to ask anyone to do that! She very rarely rolls her eyes.
On top of that, I like the quilts to go with the range and I like to try and include other accessories that look nice with the quilts. So the buntings are a similar feat where the fabrics and the order need to be just right. Creating the quilts takes up a lot of time and sometimes I’ll design a fabric to do in sampling meterage (that’s just a few metres and is too expensive to do for a dress, for example, but if we cut that into squares we can make it work) just for the quilt! That’s interesting for me because sometimes I’ll do a print for a quilt and people will love it and ask for it and the I know that I can go into production for that fabric – it is excellent research.
All-up, each quilt probably takes over 2 weeks to sample and 10 years worth of fabric designing :). Hmmm... If I think about it I guess 50 – 100 hours at a minimum. When I stop and think about that, it’s extraordinary.
Oh! And one last funny thing. I have a friend who has a child and I was invited to her 2 year birthday picnic. My friend loves Oobi and I know she loves the quilts so I brought two for her to choose from. She chose one and I turned to my husband and said “I’ve only got one quilt, let’s keep this one and use it for picnics”. So we unrolled our quilt and laid it on the ground and sat on it in the grass. A woman at the party ran over to me and said “oh no, please pick that up off the grass, do you have ANY IDEA how much these are worth?”. Well... Of course we gave her ours and all had a bit of a laugh when she went bright red in the face when I told her I designed it. I have a feeling I made her day though, even with her slightly damp grass-laid new quilt.