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Publication Date: 2018-04-19

Design Insights

In the Studio with Fabric Designer Michelle Pereira

Imagine doing work you love from the comfort of your home studio that's perched atop of Sonoma Mountain. That's what a work day is like for fabric designer Michelle Pereira, who takes pride in handcrafting textiles that are inspired by nature. Here, Pereira, who has worked as a fabric designer since 1997, shares about her commitment to producing eco-friendly textiles, mastering Shibori—the Japanese art of dyeing fabric—and what to expect from her designs in upcoming seasons.

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Q: How does your fine arts background in sculpture inform your work as a fabric designer? 

A: I see through an artist’s eye. I wasn't trained on computers, but studied drawing, painting, photography and sculpture. I'm a maker and an observer. I'm curious about the dimensional aspects of printing on cloth through color and pattern. I love making woodblocks for printing, as they are art pieces in and of themselves. I am enamored by the process of starting with a hand drawing and ending up with a functional piece that is integral in a collection of fabric. 

Q: Does living in Sonoma have an impact on the way you design, especially when it comes to color and pattern choices? 

A: It does many times over. My studio is on my small ranch atop of Sonoma Mountain. The hills are alive. There's natural beauty surrounding my studio, and the area is rich in color palettes that are always relevant to me. 

Q: Can you briefly explain your process of designing a fabric? How do you pinpoint a concept?

A: The concept starts with a notion, a question, maybe a preoccupation with a color, a shape, or a dimensional quality and their relationship to one another. I might see an exotic reptile, the skink, day after day in front of my studio with its electric periwinkle tail and think, “Wow, could I capture an essence of that with this Shibori print process I developed?” I think about how I can tweak it to achieve this feeling of exotic, line and movement. It goes from there to experimenting, sampling, and then creating yardage.

Q: What do you appreciate about the Shibori technique that you learned from fabric designer Mark Thomas? 

A: Mark Thomas taught me about the traditional aspects of Arashi Shibori techniques. Known as pole-dyeing, this process was used in his studio to create elaborate Shibori striped velvet collars for incredible over-the-top art-to-wear clothing fabric he printed. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about working with linen and velvet? 

A: The hand and functionality of linen is superb. Natural fibers work really well with our water-based paints. Linen and velvet are a nice duo in terms of range of functionality for interiors.

Q: Can you share about your commitment to being eco-friendly? 

A: I design, print, and produce everything locally in my studio. Belgian linen, my mainstay, is the original eco-fabric, going back ages. My manufacturer of Belgian linen puts 100% of water used to process the fabric back into the river habitat. I use a local paint company that creates ethically-sound products with minimal impact. We recycle everything possible in the studio. I source locally whenever possible and am always looking for new ways to reduce my studio’s carbon footprint.

Q: What's the most rewarding part of your work? 

A: The most rewarding part of my work is to create beautiful fabrics and work with outstanding designers and clients.

Q: What can we expect from your designs moving forward?

A: We are releasing beautiful double-wide linen sheers this month. There will be new prints to follow on these amazing grounds. We also have a new fabric wall piece coming out for holiday, which is exciting. I'm planning to focus on more drapery projects in upcoming seasons.

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