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My Life My Craft: Harmony Susalla of Harmony Art

Harmony Susalla is one of the most honest designers in the organic fabric community. She is true to herself and to her work, and she is dedicated to bringing good organic fabric to those who need and appreciate it. All of this is reflected in the quality of her fabric and design.

Harmony Art Organic Design, her organic fabric company, was listed as one of the top companies in both of our articles on organic fabric. The first, in the Spring 2009 Issue, written by Tara Boyd and Winnie Culp of Nearsea Naturals, as well as the current Summer 2011 issue, with our Organic Cotton Fabric Resources by Fiona Duthie, which includes a Selection Criteria section by Tara Boyd and Winnie Culp.

Harmony’s fabric.

photo selected from our Summer 2011 article photo shoot with Harmony’s Ten Flowers, Morning Dew, and Thirty Nine.

Here is an interview so our readers can get to know her better:

When did you start doing handwork?

It’s funny, but I am not sure where or when my crafty/arty side started to develop. I always loved to color and draw and create things. My earliest memories of doing art are from when I was a child and would go to work with my father. He worked at the Space Science Lab at U.C. Berkeley as an engineer designing layouts for circuit boards and such. He would set me up on his tall stool with paper and lots of colored pens and pencils. I would spend hours drawing and coloring while he worked.

At summer camp, I always picked the arts and crafts projects. I remember making cards for friends and family in third or fourth grade and signing the back of each one with “Harmony Art” and a copyright symbol …like I saw on Hallmark cards. So, it was the very young me who named my company. No one in my immediate family is particularly artistic or crafts oriented. The only art my mother ever created was the result of a painting class she took when she was pregnant with me.

Mom's painting

I like to think that seeing those paintings and knowing she created them had something to do with my own artistic bent. This painting of hers hangs in my home/studio (she painted a grand total of three paintings in that art class in 1968). I cherish it.

Home/studio

I did have a wonderful art teacher in high school who was very influential in supporting my own creative spark. Her name was Mrs. Hermann. She was a gem.

What were your interests when you started making things and how did you stumble upon fabric design?

For years, I made a lot of cards, particularly collages for Valentine’s Day. I spent a few years making beads out of FIMO clay and selling necklaces and earrings at Grateful Dead shows. I took art classes and did a bit of batik and tie-dye too. I worked at an after-school child-care program and dreamed up lots of art projects during that time of my life. I stumbled upon fabric design back in 1997 in a chance conversation with a second cousin. Here’s a link to the longer version of how Harmony Art Organic Design came to be: http://www.harmonyart.com/about/history.html

Can you share your story of how Harmony Art started and any advice you have for others who want to have their own textile business?

I guess my advice would be to start with a question: Why do you want to design textiles? If the answer is about seeing your own artwork on fabric, I would refer you to one of the ever-growing providers of digital printing services, such as Spoonflower, KarmaKraft, and AdaptiveTextiles just to name a few. The prices aren’t cheap, but the initial investment is manageable, and you can make that dream a reality with very inexpensive start-up costs.

If your reason for designing textiles is that you want to make money, well, that’s a different story altogether. Honestly, the easiest way to make money is to work for someone else. To start your own business takes a lot of cash, and the more successful you are the more money you will need to keep pouring into the company to keep up with demand. Having no business background, this was a very rude awakening for me. With the explosion of Etsy and digital printing, you can get your feet wet at a much more reasonable cost, but to produce a line of fabric that can compete price-wise with the big fabric houses is no easy, or cheap, task.

Working for another company designing textiles (which I did for five years) is a great way to get experience and have a steady stream of income. However, when designing for someone else, it is best to let go of your artistic ego and attachment. It really doesn’t matter what you like, as you are tasked to design what the client wants. I know many designers who struggle with designing to another’s tastes. To be successful and happy in the textile design industry while working for someone else, I would provide this advice (collectively gleaned from my time at the California School of Professional Fabric Design): Get over your “self.”

Where do you get your inspirations for your design?

Nature, nature, nature, nature, nature. If you go to Harmonyart.com and click on an individual design, such as Morning Dew, on the left you can read description of how I was inspired to create that particular print. Here’s a photo of dew drops hanging in a spider web, which inspired the Morning Dew print.

Morningdew

Do you teach fabric design or other design?

I don’t teach fabric or any other design, but I do have some interest in doing so. I have often imagined a one-week course of hiking, sketching, designing. Of course the program would also include dining on organic meals. Anyone interested? Contact me!

Can you tell us anything about your personal life?

Harmony Art is so woven into my personal life, it is often hard to know where one stops and the other begins. I make it a point to go hiking at least twice a week. An ideal week provides me at least five days of getting out there and looking for inspiration, but realistically, I am lucky if I get my standard two, with one extra hike to watch the sun set. I am lucky to live 2.2 miles (straight downhill) from a sweet Pacific Ocean beach. I will often run out the door to “catch the sunset” and hope to catch a ride back up the hill from my husband.

sus and me

Sus (husband) and me. I couldn't have created Harmony Art without his never-ending love, support and confidence in me.

Me on a hike

I find that being outside, surrounded by nature, keeps me sane and refills my artistic well. So, although I do it for “fun and fitness,” I also consider it time spent working, as I am always on the lookout for patterns or pattern ideas from nature. Having lived in the same rural environment for almost 10 years, I have come to appreciate the small changes that happen throughout each season.

Besides your web site, where can our readers find your products?

One of the great perks of Harmony Art has been getting to meet and work with so many wonderful people. I truly believe that I have the best customers in the world!

Here’s a link to the retailers who sell my fabrics

http://www.harmonyart.com/retailers.html

And here’s a link to some of the companies who use my fabrics in their product lines: http://www.harmonyart.com/products/index.html

Facebook Fan Page.

One thing that makes me a bit crazy is the single-use-plastic-bag phenomenon. Did you know that the average single-use plastic bag is used for only 12 minutes, and only one percent is ever recycled? Each year, people the world over use a total of 500 billion to one trillion single-use plastic bags. In fact, in the U.S., it is estimated that every five seconds 60,000 of these bags are used! Plastic bags break down into small, highly toxic chemical particles, which end up floating in our ocean water. These tiny particles are eaten by sea animals, and thus enter our food chain, which then threatens our health. Birds, fish, turtles and other animals consume larger pieces of these bags, as the plastic can be indistinguishable from other sources of food. Unable to digest these items, the creatures’ stomachs become bloated, often causing death by starvation, as plastic contains no nutrients and blocks passage of any other food that does.

GIVEAWAY

In an effort to assist you in quitting the single-use-plastic-bag addiction and help you transition to fabric bags, we will be giving away three organic cotton (Harmony Art fabric) Green Bag Lady reusable bags. The Green Bag Lady began as an eco-friendly art project in 2008, the brainchild of artist Teresa VanHatten-Granath. Teresa and her team of volunteer “Bagettes” sew reusable bags created out of donated fabric and give them away in exchange for a promise to refuse paper and plastic when shopping. The use of these bags worldwide is documented on her web site www.greenbaglady.org. She also has step-by-step tutorials, patterns, and a video on how to make your own fabric shopping bag.

 

Shopping Bags

Shopping Bags

Please enter comments on this post by Sunday, August 21st midnight pacific time, and a winner will be drawn at random. In addition, you will receive some of the fabric sent to us for our article’s photo shoot (shown above), which includes one yard of Ten Flowers, 1/4-yard of Morning Dew, and 1/4-yard of Thirty Nine, all at 110″ wide,  making this giveaway valued at least $90.  Good luck!

We have a winner!

Noelle   Submitted on 2011/08/20 at 3:36 pm

“This is so inspiring! I love all the designs and her method of working! I would LOVE to win this giveaway and show all sewing buddies her fabulous work!

Posted by Living Crafts on Aug 18, 2011 03:05 PM | 512 Comments

512 Responses to “My Life My Craft: Harmony Susalla of Harmony Art”

  1. Jean says:

    What an amazing and inspiring story! I love the patterns of your fabrics.

  2. Laura says:

    These look beautiful!

  3. Nancy says:

    I love these giveaways! Hopefully one of the days I will win one. Love the fabric. Thanks for the chance.

  4. MamaQ says:

    I appreciate how she is constantly in search of ideas and inspiration in nature through weekly hikes. I definitely want to incorporate more of that…
    Thanks for the inspiring story and sweet giveaway. I’d love one of those bags for my ever-growing stash! And the fabrics are beautiful – I could surely find some good use for those.

  5. Mary Whited says:

    What a wonderful and inspiring story! I am known affectionetly by my family and friends as THE BAG LADY.

  6. Taryn Oakley says:

    I hate plastic bags too! Three cheers for reusable!

  7. Brandy Rucker says:

    I have always been curious on how fabric patterns where designed. I enjoyed the interview and thanks for the giveaway.

  8. lexy cann says:

    My goodness, you really rock! I frankly am not as concerned with winning fabric–though, it’s lovely–as I am with giving you kudos for your careful approach to fabric creation. It is so hard on the environment yet, I do love my textiles! Thanks for reminding us all about the horrors of plastic usage. And for linking us to the baguettes! BTW, I live in Humboldt County–our scenery looks very much like your photos–we are so lucky!

  9. meg says:

    I love using fabric bags, they also make such wonderful gifts! Thank you for the give away

  10. Jen says:

    Great interview and beautiful fabric. I’d love to win this giveaway.

  11. Lisa says:

    Great interview……inspiring woman. Thank you.

  12. Noelle says:

    This is so inspiring! I love all the designs and her method of working! I would LOVE to win this giveaway and show all sewing buddies her fabulous work!

  13. Kim says:

    “I have come to appreciate the small changes that happen throughout each season.”

    I too love each season of the year and find much inspiration in each of them.

  14. domestic diva says:

    I have one of her bags and love it. I’d love to have a couple more to share with others.

  15. Jen M says:

    Beautiful!

  16. Joan Johnson says:

    Gorgeous and inspiring! I would love to win! Thank you for all you do!

  17. Kath says:

    Beautiful bags! Would love to win one. Thanks :)

  18. I have loved Harmony Susalla’s from the very beginning. The Ten Flowers fabric is definitely one of my favorites! So happy to see that the organic fabric industry has continued to grow over the years!

  19. erica says:

    This is a wonderful giveaway, thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the artist and LOVE her work!

  20. Thank you for your giveaway. They are beautiful..

  21. Mollie says:

    Thank you! Wonderful story–work/inspiration like this is so encouraging–

  22. Jelena says:

    Wonderful interview, thanks for sharing.

  23. Kristine says:

    Nature nature nature nature nature. You need look no further. Beautiful fabric. Thank you.

  24. Maren says:

    Beautiful, inspiring work!

  25. Jana says:

    Since I’ve been making things for my baby daughter, I’ve been doing lots of research on organic fabrics and yarns. Your fabrics are beautiful and fun to work with!

  26. robin says:

    We could all do without all the plastic bags! Thanks for making a difference! :)

  27. Pamela says:

    Plastic is so pervasive. Even though we bring cloth bags 99% of the time, there is still that random time we forget them at home. Then there’s the plastic bags that items like bread are pre-wrapped in. I can’t believe how much accumulates even when trying to avoid it, but we try to reuse and recycle what we can.
    I would love to win these pretty bags! They are much cuter than my old canvas ones.

    • Harmony says:

      YES! I totally agree with you. In fact, earlier this year we began baking our own bread to avoid the plastic bags that bread comes wrapped it. It’s cheaper, super easy and much better tasting. The Green Bag Lady has a write up on how to make it on her blog… you’ll have to scroll back in time a few months to find it. :)

  28. Alicia Heffington says:

    Great interview and a very inspiring woman!

  29. Merne says:

    Loved your descriptions on how you started Harmony Art as well as the way you find inspiration. Yes, one use plastic bags are very bad for our planet. and anything we can do to replace these with fabric bags is a good thing.

  30. Laurie Lemmlie-Leung says:

    Love the Bag Lady and the Baguettes’ commitment, love your designs and your commitment, great article!

  31. Roxanne Anthony says:

    love your work. blessings and luck to you

  32. Dyepotgirl says:

    What great fabric. I really love the purple fabric at the beginning of the article. I’ll have to find your fabric in my area.

  33. VT Patty says:

    Beautiful fabric! I hope I’m lucky!

  34. lisa says:

    Your lovely fabrics spire me to get quilting again.

    The bags are nice and will probably hold up better to washing. In effort to avoid plastic/paper, it is important to remember to wash reusable bags to avoid food poisoning.

  35. Jennifer says:

    I’m a fabric junkie.

  36. Lisa says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for the chance to win!

  37. Shana says:

    Beautiful bags — much more attractive (in so many ways) than plastic!

  38. Rosalyn Schultze says:

    It is apparent that nature feeds your artistic soul–mine too. Aren’t we fortunate to have it at our disposal regardless of where we live. Continue creating your wonderful fabrics. I would love to have your bags, not only for inspiration, but for carrying my treasures.

  39. wendy says:

    What inspiring fabric – I can picture where the patterns will fit in our new home.

  40. Lola says:

    Beautiful fabrics and great interview!

  41. Erin says:

    Inspired!!

  42. I wish fabric this beautiful, and a magazine as bountiful as Living Craft were available when my daughter was very young… ah what I would have made…. and still can!

  43. Julie says:

    Lovely story and bags!

  44. Elise says:

    With 6 kids in school, I could make great use of the bags, and the fabric is lovely too.

  45. Carolyn says:

    How cool. What an inspiration! So glad that not only does she produce beautiful fabrics, but also promotes environmental awareness. Thank you for hosting this giveaway!

  46. Nettie Black says:

    Exquisite! Thanks for the giveaway.

  47. Michele says:

    Wonderful article, the fabric is gorgeous! So are those bags! Thank you for sharing this information and the opportunity!

  48. Czeske says:

    What an inspirational story–and woman.
    Thanks for the work you do in raising consciousness!
    Best wishes.

  49. barefoot mama says:

    This would be such a wonderful gift!!! Thanks, barefoot five

  50. Cynthia Sternberg says:

    Amazing! I love the fabric!

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