Thursday, July 23, 2009

Julie Paterson at Safari Living (+ interview!)

Julie Paterson of Cloth Fabric spoke to an enthralled audience of around 35 people at Safari Living in Melbourne last night.

Last night Safari Living in Prahran hosted an absolutely fantastic evening with Julie Paterson of Cloth Fabric. It was such a perfect, intimate, low-key event - Julie spoke to around 35 ladies (yep, not a boy in sight!) about setting up her business, the inner workings of Cloth Fabric, and her personal creative process... answering lots of questions patiently and thoughtfully.

Julie is such an inspiration - Cloth Fabric now employs 6 people and produces a variety of fabrics which are all hand printed in Australia - in a rusty tin shed in rural NSW, to be exact! Cloth supplies stockists all over Australia and exports internationally, as well as maintaining a retail shop in Sydney's Surry Hills. ('The overheads are a bit higher now I have a fancypants shop!' say Julie). Julie also produces custom pieces for boutique clients, and has recently gone into collaboration with Jamie Durie on a range of outdoor soft furnishings - 'He's alright, really' she says!

Despite her incredible notoriety and success, Julie was refreshingly candid about her challenges and achievements over the years, and won the crowd over with genuine charm and the odd self-deprecating jibe!

Thankyou so much to Julie for her time with this interview! If you're in Melbourne you really must get down to Safari Living to check out the full range! It's such a beautiful space brimming with colourful ceramics, textiles and general eye-candy... some photos of the shop are at the bottom of this post! :)

Top - Julie in her Sydney shop, Bottom - assorted Cloth paintings, fabrics and soft furnishings.

Assorted Cloth fabrics - and it's not all abstract and geometric you know! Julie also shared some of her contemporary floral prints, characterised by the oversized, robust shapes and striking colours. Top Left - Burlap stack (printed on recycled coffee bags), Top Right - Rough Rose, Bottom - Wattle.

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I had a crush on my art teacher when I was 16. She was a textile designer. I decided I was going to be like her and I am. Except I’m not blonde.

What have been some of your favourite designs, special projects or collaborations?

I love it when people buy my little paintings. It always gives me a bit of a buzz because really I just paint for myself. Secretly I would love to be a painter but I can't help but create textiles. So I make painting as the beginning of the creative process from which the textile ideas develop. The paintings are like my children – for a while they have to stay in the studio until they are old enough to go out alone. When they make it to the shop they get handed over to my staff who hang them in small groupings so they wont get lonely. And when they move on to a new family its always a special moment.

Some of Julie's paintings which she shared with us during her talk. Many of these works have formed the basis of her fabric ranges over the years... the one on the left is on a piece of old lino floor! I also love the little ones on rough weathered timber...

More of Julie's unique paintings

Where do you turn for inspiration – nature, travel, books, magazines or the web etc?

My inspiration comes from the everyday.

I carry a small sketchbook round all the time. I write in it a lot describing colours, atmospheres, buildings, the weather, people, sounds, images glanced at the edge of my vision all sorts of stuff that comes into view. I make small, quick summary line drawings and sometimes if I’ve got the time I will do little watercolour sketches.

I refer to these books constantly. Somehow I remember things I might have done years ago and refer back for the detail when the time is right. The information collected in these books is my raw unedited source material. I guess these books are the store houses for my creative memory.

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire?

Hard to be specific – I admire everyone who has an unwavering faith in their creative endeavours and is prepared to keep on producing the work they love regardless. And I love the restrained Japanese aesthetic, the pared back natural Scandinavian look and I love the raw direct emotion of central Australian aboriginal art.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Drive to the shop with the dog around 8.30 – 9am
Answer a few emails, make a few calls, have a meeting or two.
Work on some product development with my staff
Take the dog round the block at lunch time
Go to the studio do some creative stuff getting my hands dirty in the late afternoon
Do a bit of exercise or a swim if its nice before it gets too dark
And a bit more work in the evening if I feel like it.

LOVE Julie's re-worked piano stool, upholstered in Cloth fabric. When Julie revealed the hidden print under the seat during her talk there was a collective gasp in the audience! Such a beautiful detail!

What would be your dream creative project?

My favourite projects are boutique eco hotel developments where I get to work with the architect and designers collaboratively on all my favourite things - the artwork, fabrics, rugs and furniture.

What are you looking forward to?

Getting more time to paint and write.

Sydney questions!

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

Where I shop

The Typical -
Local artshops like Bondi Road Art,
dye specialist shops like Batik Oetoreo

The Unlikely -
In the back of my cupboards,
In the boot of my car
Just incase I left something there from last time

The Favourite -
Hardware shops
Stationary shops

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney ?

Jimbaran Indonesian in Randwick

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

On a perfect typical Saturday morning I would be in my studio
On a run of the mill Saturday morning I would be doing my laundry thinking about going to the studio.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

I don’t have any secrets because I'm hopeless at keeping them.

Julie answers questions at Safari, guests enjoy a closer look at her paintings.

How beautiful is Safari Living? I had forgotten how lovely it is. Must visit more often. How about those pendant lights???
Stunning colourful ceramics and glassware at Safari Living. I may or may not have broken one of these glasses accidentally last night. Agggh! Very embarrassing.

Safari Living

579 High Street
Prahran VIC

o3 9510 4500

Clothshop (Cloth Fabric retail shop)
35 Buckingham street
Surry Hills NSW

o2 9699 2266


  1. hi lucy, lovely to meet you last night. i agree, julie is an inspiration.
    i put a link in my blog to you.
    elizabeth :)

  2. Great interview with a textile designer I truly admire.

  3. Coth seems to be the maker/designer/shop of the moment, my work is now above the store and i can see myself mooching about there lots. The blue wattle print is my current fave.

    there are also some neat fabric scrap packs that are just waiting for some crafty ideas there. i like that nothing goes to waste

  4. oh dammit! how did I miss this??

  5. thanks so much for this interview. I have missed out on a spot for the evening at Safari, so it is nice to have an insight :)