new: reprodepot book + interviews

by Grace Bonney

today i’m thrilled to be reviewing two great new design books. first up- reprodepot pattern book: flora and reprodepot pattern book: folk (chronicle, 2009).

as a huge fabric and pattern fan, i was really honored to be invited to write the forward to both of these books (and see the cute cover design that also created!). djerba of repro depot collected a really fantastic collection of 225 vintage-inspired fabrics for each book and has them available not only in book-form, but on an enclosed CD so you can print them out and use them in a great series of DIY projects created by mollie green of la familia green. i love to flip through a book and let patterns and colors wash over me, and these books are a great combination of pattern-fest and practical ideas. djerba’s pattern selections are really lovely and mollie’s projects are perfect for even the most casual crafter.

today i’m happy to share an interview with both djerba and mollie (after the jump below!) and, after this post, 2 diy projects from the book! stay tuned for the projects next- until then, i hope you’ll enjoy the interview with djerba and mollie below! click here and here to pick up the books, and here to find reprodepot book related notecards, stationery and journals.

CLICK HERE for the interviews after the jump!


Design*Sponge: Hi Djerba! For those reading who aren’t familiar with you and your work, could you please introduce yourself?

Djerba Goldfinger: Well, first of all, I’m pretty sure people are wondering whether Djerba Goldfinger is my real name and it really is my given name. My parents named me after the island of Djerba which is an island off the coast of Tunisia. Just to add, I was not conceived there! I am from an artistic family – my mother is an interior designer and a clothing designer and my father is a modern architect. While growing up I thought I would become a photographer, but when I went to art school (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) I fell in love with mixed media sculpture and textiles. My work focused on patchwork, embroidery and embellishment using vintage fabric and trim. I had been buying vintage fabrics and clothing since I was a teenager so it wasn’t much of a stretch.

D*S: How and why did you start Reprodepot?

DG: A lot of people ask me how I started and I love talking about it, but it is a long winded story. It is truly a case of “one thing leads to another”. After I got my BFA in 1994 I moved first to Brooklyn and then to Seattle. I was sewing quilts out of vintage fabric for myself, but I had a office job and was trying to figure out how to make a living as an artist. After I moved to Seattle I had an idea to make baby sized quilts and sell them locally. I know that is kind of a cliche now, but in 1998 I didn’t know anybody else who was doing it. I had just figured it would be easier and faster to make smaller sized quilts if I was going to sell them. I wanted to make them using vintage fabrics, but I didn’t want to use my stash. (Yes, I am very attached to my fabrics.)

I went to a local fabric store looking for suitable substitutes and discovered that quilting fabric companies were producing reproductions of 30’s feedsack fabrics. I was so excited! I bought 5 yards each of a number of different designs and went to work. I made about 20 of them under the name Plush and I was able to consign a few at some boutiques in the Seattle area. A few months later I called up some stores in New York to see if I could show them my quilts when I was going to be going there.

I was a fan of Denyse Schmidt’s and I knew that the Whitney Museum store sold her quilts. My quilts were most definitely not of the same caliber of Denyse’s, but she had blazed the way for quilting to be respected in NYC and the contemporary art world and so I figured maybe I could be taken seriously too.

I showed them to a few boutiques and the buyers liked them, but weren’t sure if they would sell. Then I finally lucked out. I went to the flagship location of the trendsetting line of boutiques, Calypso and the owner Christiane Celle happened to be there when I was showing my quilts to the buyer. She loved them and ordered them on the spot. I was ecstatic! I went back to Seattle and cranked out 6 hand-tied log cabin quilts within a week. (Note the obvious Denyse Schmidt influence!)

Meanwhile I had been selling records on Ebay to supplement my part time job and my budding quilt-making endeavor. I had some extra yardage of the fabrics I was using and so I decided to sell some of that as well. Pretty soon I had a good amount of customers who were buying fabrics from me. I wasn’t necessarily making much money off of the auctions, but at least I was making my money back for the extra fabric I had.

Then I happened to have a friend who had opened an online record store as a side business to his full time office job. He didn’t stick with it, but it gave me the idea to try opening a store myself. I thought, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. So I opened my website for business in August 1999 and it grew from there. Within a year I had stopped making quilts to sell and I was able to quit my part time job to devote my full days to shipping fabric to happy people around the world. And that’s how I started….. whew!

D*S. Why do you think you love patterns so much?

DG: When I was little my mother used to dress my sister and I in Marimekko tees and batik dresses she sewed herself. She had a stash of little colorful calicos and vintage buttons and we would make crafts with her using those items. She would also bring home small upholstery samples from Knoll and Designtex. My sister and I would play with them and use them as rugs in our dollhouse. Her aesthetic definitely made an indelible mark on me as a kid.

D*S: What inspired you to create these books?

DG: Jodi Warshaw (Senior Editor at Chronicle) had the idea to do the pattern books and I jumped at the chance to do them. I told her that I had a huge collection if vintage fabrics and I was interested in creating a collection of patterns based on a selection of them. Lucky for me she trusted me to pull it off!

D*S: Why did you chose to focus on floral and folk patterns?

DG: That was Jodi’s idea. (Isn’t she smart?) I sent her a group of patterns that were heavy on the folk look and she decided that it would be great to split them up into two books with the two themes (although all the designs are cohesive). It is very helpful to have a great editor like Jodi working with you. I was going for a collection that had a comfortable and vaguely familiar feel. Like long lost friends. I think I achieved that. I am super happy with how the collections turned out.

D*S: What do you think the big trends in patterns are right now?

DG: That is a tough question! There are tons of individual trends going on right now in pattern design and what is popular in stationery design may not fit for fashion or interior and vice versa. Obviously hand drawn or hand painted artwork based patterns are popular right now and I am a big fan of those. The well known illustrator Julia Rothman designed the Reprodepot books (with her design company Also) and her own patterns are an excellent example of that style. I am hoping that trend will continue for quite a while.

D*S: What do you hope people will take away from your books?

DG: For myself, patterns can inspire me to be creative and I hope people who use this book will feel the same. I tried to create a cohesive collection of patterns that could work well together or on their own. There are thousands of combinations. The possibilities are practically limitless!

D*S: How do you find all the fabric/patterns that you used in the book, or for the store?

DG: For the book, I culled the designs from my vintage fabric collection. I have been collecting fabric patterns for over 20 years so there was a lot to go through!
For the store I buy primarily from quilting fabric manufacturers. The fabrics are more affordable than decorator fabrics (geared towards the interior design market) and the prints can be super fun!

D*S: What’s next for you after this?

DG: A nap and then some fun time with my 5 year old daughter and husband!

As for Reprodepot, I recently came into the possession of some fantastic vintage fabrics in large enough quantities to be able to sell in the store. Look for those for sale on the website within the next couple of weeks. After that… um, do I have to think that far ahead?


Design*Sponge: I love your diy projects in the new Repro Depot books- how did the patterns in each book inspire your projects?

Mollie Green: Thanks Grace! Like Djerba, I also love textile design—all surface pattern really. When I was growing up my mother had a small children’s clothing line. Everything was handmade, and she used a lot of Liberty of London fabric. I loved sifting through those bolts, and many of the book’s patterns remind me of those prints. I wanted the projects to showcase the patterns and provide a clever use for them.

D*S: i loved the way you really let the patterns shine in each project- rather than using them as accents- do you have a favorite source for finding great patterned paper or fabric?

MG: For my cards, I use quite a bit of origami paper from Paperboy, an awesome card store here in Chicago. The scale and randomness of those patterns is amazing. I’ve collected large sheets of handmade or decorative paper for years. Paper Source is a great resource for that. I’m particularly fond of Japanese Yuzen, Seltzer and Snow and Graham‘s gift wrap sheets, Indian screen printed paper, Nepalese batiks, and anything funny or with a dog or cat on it. As for fabric, my favorites are Marimekko via Kiitos Marimekko in Manhattan, Skinny Laminx via etsy, Otomi embroidery (best scored when in Mexico), traditional Provencal patterns–like Pierre Deux, and Japanese Kokka fabrics from Purl in Soho. And quilting quarters are great—they’re kinda like origami fabric—-so many options! I also like to trove flea markets and thrift stores for fabric.

D*S: Did you have a favorite project in the book, and why?

MG: It’s hard for me not to say the greeting cards! I love cards. They are little canvases to me. But the Japanese stab bound book is probably my favorite. It makes me nostalgic for my days making artist’s books in art school.

D*S: Have you used patterned paper like this in your home in any way?

MG: I recently lined our linen closet shelves with Indian screen printed paper from the aforementioned Paperboy. Way cuter than contact paper. I’ve also utilized the party decoration project many times. Now you have me looking around the house thinking of other ways to use paper…

D*S: What do you hope people take away from the project you’ve created for the book?

MG: I hope they make the projects, and use them or give them as gifts. I love when people tell me about sending my cards to friends or relatives—instead of just saving them in a box. (Or maybe I should say in addition to saving some in a box—which I also do.) I love the idea that I can sit in my little studio and make something or design something and send it out into the world for another person to make it their own—add their personal touch to it.

D*S: What’s next for you with La Familia Green?

MG: Thanks for asking! Right now it’s all about Halloween and Christmas. I’m starting to gradually take on more custom work, which is fun. I’ve been working with clients who want invitations or save the dates or announcements that are handmade and witty and colorful. It’s fun to incorporate something personal about the sender into the design. Eventually I’ll have a custom portfolio on my website. I’ve also begun to design for cardstore.com—La Familia Green designs will be available VERY soon. It’s a cool site. Users can choose from various stationery designers’ templates, and upload their own photo and text. The finished product is digitally printed and shipped to the user. Easy and cute. I would also love love love to branch off into textile design—-big suprise, huh?!


Thank you to Djerba and Mollie for their time- be sure to check out their books right here and here. And you can find Reprodepot book related notecards, stationery and journals right here!

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