Erin Dollar walked into the printmaking studio at UC Santa Cruz in 2006 and discovered, she said, "My jam. Once I found it, it is all I wanted to do."
Dollar, 27, has turned that jam into dough with Cotton & Flax, her line of silk-screened housewares. She sells her bold, graphic designs through Cottonandflax.com, at local craft fairs and in 13 boutiques, mostly in California. She also has some far-flung fans. "For whatever reason, people in New Zealand have gone crazy with this stuff," she said, adding that the Kiwis have found her online.
Just added to her line this week: printed trivets, $18 apiece, and patchwork pillow covers, $150, the latest picks in our Handmade Holidays gift guide -- unique, artisan-made goods highlighted every day through Christmas Eve.
"She has a good eye for keeping current," said Erinn Berkson, owner of the Firefly boutique on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, who carries Dollar's pillows and postcards. Berkson, like most of the retailers stocking Cotton & Flax, found Dollar at an indie craft fair. This was 2009 and Dollar was selling, among other things, whimsical beards made of yarn. "She is growing as a textile designer," Berkson said. "I really respect that she crafts everything herself," said Berkson.
Dollar credits her strong work ethic to the archaic and laborious printing methods such as lithography and intaglio that she learned back at Santa Cruz. Each Cotton & Flax piece begins with a pen-and-ink drawing. Then Dollar's bold brushstrokes, neat triangles and loopy lines are transferred to a silkscreen frame and printed onto the fabric. Dollar uses a cotton-linen mix (hence the name Cotton & Flax) for pillows, tea towels and napkins. Coasters and trivets are industrial felt.
The Portland, Ore., transplant prints and sews everything in a no-frills 550-square-foot Pasadena apartment shared with her boyfriend and their calico cat. (The boyfriend, Zac Ostrow, a PhD candidate in molecular biology at USC, inspired one of her popular designs the loopy chains, called DNA.)
"It's the triumph of living in a small space and working with what you have," Dollar said.
When online merchant One Kings Lane featured Dollar's work in a flash sale, five patchwork pillows sold out in the first hour. Dollar's work elevates craft, said Andrea Stanford, a vice president of merchandising at One Kings Lane. "That's really what we responded to."
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