When did you realize you have a passion for art and design?
I have a very distinct memory of when my mom got her first sewing machine. I was four and not only was I impressed I could sit in the drawers like a boat (which I got in trouble for) but this machine let you make things! My mom was a maker like my grandmother. I always wanted and asked to be doing whatever they were doing. Often with things my mom would say, “No, it’s okay, I’ll do it so if it messes up, it’s on me” but when I asked if I could sew, she said yes!
I was shocked but I took it very seriously. I made a pillow out of fortrell fabric. I added a hand sewn pocket, along with a hanky to go inside the pocket. I used all the fancy stitches on it. Since I was only four and didn’t know how to spell yet, I had my mom lightly write the words, I Love You, so I could trace them with my crayons. My mom has kept it for all these years. Who knew it would be the first Lysa Flower design!
Describe your aesthetic in 3 words.
I consider my aesthetic retro made modern, mixed with cheeky cheerfulness. A lot of that comes out in the design and colour but I think got my aesthetic from my youngest son when he was little. He had gotten frustrated with me and loudly declared, “Mommy! Stop murdering the FUNNESS!”. I don’t remember what we’re doing but I remember that stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ve always kept that saying in my head while I work, especially when it’s not working or I’m getting too tight. I feel like that’s what I spend my days doing now, trying to find the funness.
What was the inspiration behind your latest fabric collection?
I wish I could say it was a linear experience. Rebel Girl started several years ago with watching a documentary called The Punk Singer about Kathleen Hannah, from the 1990’s band Bikini Kill. That planted a seed. A few years later I was working on a quilt pattern and this idea of doing a pink leopard print popped into my brain. Which often happens, when I’m working on one, an idea will pop into my head about the other. I sent a message to my friend Jonna, “I think I need to do a pink Leopard print!”. She messaged back, “Yeah, YOU DO!”.
In 2019, I felt this need to be brave, to experiment and create some routines. I began blasting Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl when I got to the studio. I loved the energy of the song. Being creative is not for the faint of heart, and I needed / wanted the strength and energy of that song.
As I built out the collection, I researched beyond the documentary. I discovered Joan Jett produced the song Rebel Girl. That led me to thinking about the women that came before Bikini Kill, like The Runaways. Which led to thinking about the women who came after. The Beaches, Dream Wife and of course the iconic female drummer, Meg White from the White stripes. The drums in the collection are based on her set.
As a modern pattern designer, I’m mostly known for my cassette and Boombox designs. I’d like to take all the credit for the cassette print but it was Meghan, the Art Director at PBS Fabrics, that asked if I’d be open to doing them. I was ecstatic but it was also a hand smack to forehead moment. It was so obvious, but I was too close to it to see it. Which is why I love working and collaborating with Paintbrush Studio.
You teamed up with Paintbrush Studio Fabrics to create your line of textiles. What about PBS Fabrics made them a perfect partner for you?
I see PBS Fabrics like an indie record label. They have an amazing list of artists they work with and that was a big part of why I wanted to work with them. The collections I’ve seen come out of PBS felt diverse, exciting and inspired. Plus having sewn with their fabric I was impressed by the quality.
If you had to choose one favorite fabric from your entire line, what would it be and why?
Oof! That’s a hard one, that’s like asking which child do you love most! The leopard print was the first one I worked on. It started as a straight up leopard print (which is so unlike me) but as I began painting, I began experimenting by painting faces on them. As I painted them I thought about Joan Carter Cash, Patti Smith, Joan Jett... all the women who had dedicated their lives to their craft.
What are your current favorite trends in sewing?
My local guild, The Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and the Modern Quilt Guild are great for spotting trends. Although, I have to admit I tend to follow my interests and have been lucky enough that they resonate with people. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good trend report and mood board! However, I find if I try to stick too close to them my work becomes beige and doesn’t stand out.
What do you love most about creating a DIY project with your fabric?
I LOVE everything about it! Just the other day I was cutting into fabric that I designed and I thought, “I can’t believe this is my life!”. My brain is so happy designing projects, it never stops. It’s my happy place and when I see other people making I want to reach out and give them a high five!
I was given a quilt when I was four. My family had moved cities and the woman who looked after me gifted me a quilt. It became my connection to her, who I loved and adored. I slept with it all through my childhood. I didn’t realize it then but now I understand the power of connection and what a gift like that can mean between people. To think my fabric or patterns might be a tiny part of that connection is amazing and quite an honor.
What projects are on your “must make” list right now?
Right now I’m designing a raw edge appliqué quilt pattern of my roller skates... because I MUST make it! I NEED my roller skates to be a quilt!
As for on my to do list:
- Holly Clarke’s (@holdmyseamripper) Shining Quilt for my husband. He’s a huge fan of the movie. As soon as her pattern for her Tsuro quilt comes out, it will quickly be added to the list. She also designed the free pattern for Rebel Girl!
- Berene Campbell’s (@happysewlucky) Tattoo Pattern. I was in the same quilt bee where she designed the first heart block that became part of the Tattoo series. Her work is brilliant and I love her social consciousness.
- Lindsey Neill’s (@penandpaperpatterns) Sewology. I discovered Lindsay’s work by seeing my cassette quilt next to hers in an article about Quiltcon 2016. I’ve been smitten with her work ever since.
- Devon Lott’s (@missmake) Looper quilt. Such a brilliant design and she’s just as great as her patterns! Her Looper educational video is one of the best things I have ever seen! She also loves to roller skate!
- Latifah Saafir’s (@latifahsaafirstudios) Glam Clam Quilt. I took her workshop a few years ago and cut about one million too many pieces. The quilt turned out great but yeah now I have a whole lot-a sewing ahead of me. Good thing it’s such a great pattern!
- Natalie Santini’s (@sewhungryhippie) Eyeball and Banana Bags. I recently ripped through Natalie’s shop and grabbed a ton of patterns but I am especially excited to make the eyeball and banana bags!
What other blogs/brands/designers inspire you most?
I absolutely love the blog, The Jealous Curator. She also has a podcast where she interviews artists. I’ve learned and been inspired so much from it. I also was lucky enough to be featured on it in January of 2020! Dream come true!
I’m completely smitten with Ampersand Studio. I think they’re an amazing brand and knowing they design for PBS fabric was a big draw for me. They’re playful and I love their colours. Oh gosh, I just love everything they do! There is such a huge list of designers. Amy Butler was the first to inspire me. I remember seeing her first collection, Gypsy Caravan, and thinking to myself, “I have to do this one day!”.
Elizabeth Olwen - she’s also a Canadian designer. Her work is so identifiably hers. You can tell in an instant it’s her work. I also love how she pushes herself to experiment with lettering and figures, even though she’s mostly known for her florals.
However, the first designer to stop my clock was Melody Miller. She’s had my attention since her Viewfinders. They changed everything for me. I’ve been following her designs ever since and I think it’s super impressive with what she accomplished in the ten years she’s been designing. Cotton + Steel’s launch was super exciting and it was a dream come true being invited to make my Boombox sewing cover for Kim Kight’s Snap to Grid collection in 2017. I love how they’ve reinvented themselves as Ruby Star Society. It’s all so well done!
What’s coming up for you in 2021? What’s next?
I have a few sewing patterns coming out in Love Patchwork and Quilting in 2021: my Boom Box nesting bags, sewn from my Let the Good Times Roll collection and a chenille Rebel Girl quilt pattern. I have several sewing patterns that were written for magazines that I can now publish on my own. I want to get those out to the world in 2021. Then it’s focusing on designing more and more fabric collections!
What do you love to do when you aren’t designing and creating?
I love chatting with people about designing and creating. I love visiting with other creatives and finding out about their process. I also love going to galleries and when I can combine visiting with creative friends while going to galleries, well that’s just the BEST! Before Covid-19, my husband and I would travel to San Francisco and LA once a year (for video game conferences - my husband makes games). I loved getting out of my own space and roaming around those cities, watching people, and getting glimpses of graffiti. I also love movies and documentaries. I love people’s stories.
Tell us one thing people might now know about you.
I’ve driven a Zamboni (in fact I just checked this one off my bucket list). In Canada hockey is huge and riding on a Zamboni would have been great but I got to drive the Zamboni! I’ve been hugged by a massive sea lion (terrifying and humbling) and I can climb a 15-foot rope. Climbing a rope is a really big deal for me because I was the kid in gym class that could never do it! I’ve worked really hard to get strong enough to be able to do it. It’s not pretty or fast but I can do it! Next is to work on the pretty and fast part. I know that’s three things... Thank you for indulging me!
Shop all Lysa Flower fabric collections here