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The Ins and Outs of Collaboration with Rebecca Atwood & Sarah Laskow

by Caitlin Kelch

Atwood-+-Laskow

We’ve always been huge fans of surface and pattern designer, Rebecca Atwood, and her ever-growing line of textiles, home goods and wallpaper. Her recent book, Living With Pattern, is a much-loved edition filled with approachable homes layered in various scales, colors and materials of pattern. Recently, Rebecca collaborated with longtime friend Sarah Laskow on a range of bespoke pillows made from Rebecca’s textiles and Sarah’s hand embroidery work. We had chance to catch up with both women and ask them about the collaboration. You can see the full collection up close and personal after the jump!

Image above: Rebecca Atwood & Sarah Laskow in the studio

Can you tell us how your latest collaboration came about?

Rebecca Atwood: Moving beyond print to explore new techniques has been a goal of mine. I’m fascinated with how we can create pattern through structure, stitching, fibers, and texture. One of the things I love most about textiles is that they are meant to be used, touched, and shared and I wanted to expand our language of techniques beyond surface transformation. Working with Sarah, one of my best friends since college, was such a natural fit to start exploring these ideas. Prior to starting my own line, I’d worked with Sarah for developing embellishment and fabric manipulation samples for home products and so I knew we worked well together. It was a very natural decision for us to collaborate.

Sarah Laskow: Rebecca and I have been friends since college and I have had the joy of watching her line come about over the past few years. As her product began to expand beyond prints, we started talking about how she could add embroidery and embellishment into the collection. I was honored that she wanted to start with a collaboration of one-of-a-kind pillows!

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Click through to see more behind-the-scenes details from the collaboration process and the full line in the slideshow, with close-ups of Sarah’s beautiful embroidery! –Caitlin

What was the most rewarding part of the collaboration?

RA: Working with a friend who knows you so well was the best part for me. The process was very intuitive. To start, Sarah created embroidery swatches she thought would resonate with my aesthetic. For example, she already knew I was a fan of sashiko and brought some swatches showing how that could connect with my prints. From there I gave feedback on what I liked the most — [on] one swatch, it was actually the reverse side. I gave her prints to play with, we talked color, and it all evolved from there. Once we had nailed the techniques, I created a quick sketch for each pillow and Sarah embroidered them before they were sewn into pillows here in Brooklyn.

SL: How naturally it came together! I [made] a whole bunch of small development swatches of embroideries for Rebecca. From those initial swatches, she [chose] which to pair with which of her prints. Also which would work best for which pillow size. We regrouped again and decided on embroidery placement and colors, and that was it!

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Was there an element of the collaboration that required compromise? Tell us how it came together in the end.

RA: With the collaboration I didn’t feel that there were any compromises. It was a very collaborative process. I respect Sarah’s eye and wanted that to come through with these pillows as well as my own point of view.

SL: I really didn’t feel like I had to compromise on anything. We both brought such different strengths to the project that I knew exactly when to defer to Rebecca. She is the more experienced businesswoman. But I never felt like the design was compromised.

How does this collaborative project differ from your previous collaborations?

RA: This was a very personal collaboration since we are such good friends. It’s been almost fifteen years since we met, and Sarah just knows my aesthetic so well and vice versa. My last collaboration, with method home, was really wonderful but totally different. While this was very personal — meeting after work to review designs while also catching up on our lives — working with method was much more structured. They’re a big company, so they had systems in place and I worked with a team there for different aspects of the project including design, fragrance, marketing, and PR. Method inspired me because they’re constantly improving what they’re doing and are a big company that can have real impact. Both collaborations have inspired me in different ways.

SL: This was my first formal collaboration since leaving the fashion industry and pursing contemporary embroidery full-time. I hope they are all this easy.

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What growth in your own process came as a result of working with a partner?

RA: Working with Sarah on these embroideries inspired me to start working on embroideries that we could produce on a larger scale. Mixing print with embroidery is something you’ll see in a collection that comes out in May.

SL: My process was not really focused on an end product. I develop my embroideries without a defined final use. Rebecca is much more product focused and she has taught me a lot about how to take scattered ideas and shape them into a collection.

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What advice do you have for others considering a collaboration?

RA: Outline the details upfront. Even if you’re working with friends, or it’s a dream project, it’s so important to set expectations so everyone is on the same page. The creative side of me always wants to dive in and get started, but having a written agreement of some kind is essential. Each party should know what is expected of them in terms of deliverables, usage of design, design process, financial obligations, and marketing. I’ve been very lucky to work on some great collaborations, from this one to the two collections for method home last year. What made both of them successful was that we had clear expectations, good communication, and a respect for one another’s work.

SL: Define what each party is bringing to the collaboration. Especially when it [comes] to time and financials. The design inspiration is the spark that brings you together, but the details might get complicated and won’t necessarily be equal. Better to define those upfront.

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And finally, what’s your next collection or project looking like?

RA: There’s so much in the pipeline. These pillows are really the beginning of our expansion into new fabric techniques. This spring we’ll be introducing a wide range of woven fabrics as well as embroidered fabrics.

SL: I have just launched my first shop. Like I said, Rebecca really [pushes] me to think about my work as a product and a collection. Excited to share this small selection of one-of-a-kind, framed embroideries.

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