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hunt+gather: Re-inspired Design

Design Trends

On a recent trip to New York City, NY for the PremiereVision and Indigo-Salon NYC textile design to-the-trade shows, I found a jewel among the textile firms - hunt+gather studio.

As a textile print design studio, the artistic textiles and colorful patterns are trend-forward, bold and fun. Following the trade show, I interviewed Lesley Merola Moya, founder and owner of hunt+gather studio, to find out more about her work, inspiration and life in Taos, New Mexico.

Please describe your design studio and how you began your studio:
hunt+gather studio is a textile print design studio. We create artwork that can be used for home furnishings, fashion or any surface design. The designs are sold as a fabric swatch and digital file. I began this from my home studio almost two years ago after moving from the East Coast to Taos, New Mexico, with my husband who is from here.

I had been working in corporate home furnishings and fashion as a textile designer for about 10 years and really started to feel like my creativity was being stunted on a daily basis, only working on and creating designs for one specific client every single day. Working in corporate fashion, everything moves so quickly that there is no time for in-house textile designers to be creating originals all day. My role was very technical and I mostly only did repeats, color separations and design tweaks on other people's designs. We would buy many prints each season from different studios around the world and work from that artwork. All the years I spent going to print design shows like Indigo (formerly Directions) Printsource and visiting print design studios really got me thinking after a while!

I always wanted to be on the other side of the business doing more of the creating, and for the last few years that I worked in NYC, I dreamt of having my own business and being my own boss. The 9 to 6-plus, Monday through Friday typical NYC work week with little or no breaks and commute was really starting to drain me and the work I was doing was not what I had hoped for after graduating college. Moving up the ladder in corporate fashion usually means less creativity, more managing and meetings, and less hands-on. Those were really the only goals I would have been offered if I were to move up, which was going in the opposite direction of my original goals!

I began hunt+gather by doing freelance textile design for fashion companies mostly in NYC, Philadelphia and L.A. and creating my own artwork on the side for the print collection. I just started compiling designs little by little and now work with about 15 different designers who all have their own style that I feel fits into our aesthetic. We are still considered a very small studio, we will have over 1,000 designs by our fall/winter 2014 collection, but I would like to grow a little bit every year. I do feel that keeping it small is only beneficial - we have gotten a lot of compliments from clients that say they love us because we are fresh and not so "cookie cutter"

I still do a lot of freelance design service work and create original designs for projects for companies in the fashion industry as well as running hunt+gather studio and I have a rep who shows the collection in person in L.A. and NYC.

Who are some of your clients?
Most of our clients are in the women's fashion industry, although we have sold to a few home furnishings companies. We sell a lot to the junior's surf wear, swimwear-type brands, which is a lot of fun and something I am really excited about - but also to higher-end clients. I think we have a good range of designs that can fit into many categories.

Who/What inspires you?
When I design, I am always inspired by nature first - it is where the best color palettes come from and the most organic and interesting shapes. Print and pattern can be found everywhere in nature - it's not just florals, which I actually don't really enjoy creating very much. It could be the texture from the bark of a tree or moss growing on a rock. I am really inspired by insects and birds especially - there are crazy beetles out there with the most amazing patterns on their wings!

I have always been attracted to really fine details and symmetry in nature and anything under a microscope. Ernst Haeckel illustrations have been a huge inspiration since I discovered him before college. To this day I can sit down and look at one of his books and still be completely mesmerized! I aslo love fine artists who create sort of an allover flow of abstract texture and art that is really obsessive like Yoyoi Kusama. Her net paintings are some of my favorites.

I am inspired by fashion, too of course, but not in the same way. I am a lot more into vintage fashion and antiques for inspiration. I do get really excited when the runway shows come out after fashion week and am drawn to completely different designers each time - whoever has the most interesting collection of prints!

Now that more digital prints are being created I really love seeing those, Basso and Brooke are absolutely amazing, and I love Clover Canyon.

Being in New Mexico has really inspired me a lot, as the landscape is so different from what I am used to seeing every day and the light is always so great. I always tell the story about unpacking my things when I first got here. All the colors looked so different to me! It blew me away! Clothes that I had forever looked different and even my bedding which is all white looked a different shade of white to me! There is a reason why artists like Georgia O'Keefe were drawn to Northern New Mexico!

I love looking at design blogs and Pinterest but often find that for me it's like inspiration overload and I start to freak out. I would rather just go on a hike and discover little things that inspire me in nature, take a trip to a few thrift stores and then combine that with what is trending in the design world at the moment.

What was your training in textile design? How did you get into this segment of the design world?
I had never thought too much about textile design before. I have been creating art since I first held a crayon and it was really the only thing I ever wanted to do but as much as I was always drawn to print and pattern I never gave it much thought as a career. I never thought "Wow, there is someone who actually does nothing but textile and surface design for a living!" I was taking some classes at a community college, and one of our projects was to create a textile design. I remember being really into it and I believe I used gouache for the first time which is strange to me because no one ever told me that was what I was supposed to use, it just seemed like the best thing to me! (Gouache is what was typically used on hand-painted textile designs.)

After that I went to FIT in NYC (The Fashion Institute of Technology) for fine arts. I loved every second of it, but my professors were always trying to get me to loosen up. I was always painting too tightly and always painting some sort of symmetry or pattern, even if I was given a 6-foot canvas! I was never painting anything with deep meaning or anything with a story behind it that I could explain, I just painted what I wanted to see hanging on my wall or what I thought looked good! I started losing confidence and near the end of my last semester I really started freaking out about what I was going to do and how I was going to pay my rent. We were only trained to be artists to sell work in galleries and I just didn't see that happening or I was too scared to pursue it maybe.

One day I was thinking really hard about this and walking aimlessly through the halls at FIT when I passed by the textile/surface design department and saw the students work in the display windows. A HUGE lightbulb went off over my head! THIS was what I was supposed to be doing! It just all came together at once, I had always been interested in fashion and interior design, but I knew I did not want to be a fashion designer or an interior decorator, I was obsessed with pattern, the Fibonacci theory, Tetris was my favorite game, I loved puzzles and making things fit. This was a way to combine everything together! That was it, I signed up, had my interview for the textile surface design major and I got in. I am thankful that I had my degree in fine arts as well, as I think it just makes for a more rounded education, and it goes hand in hand with textile design. Also, these days with everything being so digital its a good reminder to get off the computer and get out the paints and pencils, which I think is the best way to design, at least in the beginning stages even if it has to become digital in the end.

Please describe your latest collection.
Well, the latest collection was for spring/summer 2013, which was about 300 designs. We are now working on fall/winter 2014. The fashion world always works a year ahead and we work a year ahead of them so that we can present the latest season that they are working on when they need it. It is hard to describe the collection because it's not one, cohesive thing. It definitely has an overall look that I guess is very hunt+gather, but we have to have such a range of ideas so that there is something for everyone in there. I always tell my artists to try to stay somewhat on trend, especially for color, but to stick with what they love doing the most so they are not forcing anything.

I have some artists who do nothing but hand-painted florals, some who do nothing but hand-drawn geometrics or who use block printing and screen printing techniques, and some who do a lot of overall textures or animal skins. I think they all come together to form a pretty cool collection and I love how it turned out. I think it's a good balance between more of an organic handmade feel and digital prints and gives the client some options when they are thinking about their end result and especially their printing needs. I think as time goes on and we have done a few more seasons the overall look will just become more and more recognizable, but I think this takes time, as with any artistic endeavor. It can take a while to form a definite style but I think we have a really good head start and I am proud of where we have come in under two years!

Many thanks to Lesley for taking time out to talk all things design-inpired!

To learn more about Lesley and hunt+gather studio, here are the links:


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All photography courtesy and permission of hunt+gather studio