April Home and Living Guest Editor Rebecca Atwood needs no introduction, but in case you aren’t familiar allow us to fill you in: Though only two years into her business, Rebecca has been hugely successful as an independent textile designer and has worked with businesses all over the globe. Her career began at Anthropolgie, and these days, she creates a homeware line of pillows, fabrics, and accessories – all of which beautifully represent Rebecca’s simple, subdued aesthetic. Here, Rebecca tells us what it takes to be a small business owner and shares with us a look at her life in Brooklyn. You don’t want to miss this, Clementines!
At this point, you’re a textile designer, pattern designer, product designer, and even a fine artist. Would you say that being a designer is part of who you are at your core? Is it something you always wanted to do?
Yes I’d definitely say it’s who I am at my core. I’ve always been drawing, painting, snapping pictures, collecting interesting objects, and just looking. When I was younger I wanted to be a painter like Monet or Van Gogh. My parents were very encouraging and supportive of my interests, which I am so thankful for.
How did your time working at larger companies like Anthropologie influence you as a designer and small business owner?
My prior work experience was really essential to my development as a designer. I had actually majored in painting when I started at Anthropologie, so that was really my training ground in product design and development. It was also great to work at a company that was a nice balance between a corporate company and a smaller, creative one. When I later worked with other companies, it gave me a point of reference that allowed me to understand both.
After that I worked primarily for a small consulting firm were I learned so much about working with different companies, sourcing, production, and client relationships. It was a pretty small company, so it actually gave me a good framework for understanding how I might do something on my own.
You place a lot of value on the art of “craft and making.” We love that, and at Clementine Daily we believe in the importance of focusing on the slow and intentional. Do you bring the same level of intention to everything you do, both with work and outside of work?
I certainly try to, but I’ll admit starting a business can be all consuming. I have very limited time outside of that, so I have to let a lot of other things go. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and sometimes that means I’m not cooking dinner myself but ordering take-out. I try to prioritize and spend my time focused on what matters most for me to do myself.
I also take this approach of being more intentional with the items that I own. My husband and I live in Brooklyn, which means we have a bit more space than Manhattan, but still very little. It means we have less stuff, and I like that.
Yoga is also an important part of my life, and while I don’t always get there as much as I’d like, it’s again about making time to slow down and focus – but on myself. For me it becomes about living in my whole body and not just my head.
You’ve become a celebrity of sorts in the world of home and design. What does it mean to you as an artist to be able to create work that truly affects people, and to do it professionally? That’s a dream for so many.
I wouldn’t call myself a celebrity of sorts, but am flattered that I’ve earned respect within the industry. I’ve been designing products for almost eight years now, but starting my own line with products I truly believe in has been really wonderful and meaningful for me. It’s been so nice to step away a bit from the way I had been designing product before (for other retailers – much more trend driven) and think about the way we all live with and use products, and the kinds of products I truly want in my own home. For me this is really all about making the best product I can aesthetically while also producing it responsibly. I think we live in a world where we have to think of both aspects of this.
As a working artist, do you have any tips on maintaining creativity?
For me maintaining creativity is actually all about building in some type of structure and organization as I’m not just a creative but I also have a business to run. By planning out my calendar and projects in advance, I then feel freed to be creative in that moment when I’m working on that particular project. I try to even build in time to my calendar just to paint. It doesn’t always happen, but it does make a difference in finding the time. As practical as it may sound, creativity is all about showing up consistently to do the work.
We love following you on Instagram because you guide your followers through the process of design and creation. Sometimes what’s going on behind the camera isn’t as beautiful as what ends up on a feed, so what’s something about your job that might surprise your customers and followers?
That’s certainly true! Often you’ll see one pretty corner, but we’re drowning in pillow inserts, or there are boxes piled up as high as me ready to be shipped. Everything is done right in our studio, so it’s always a bit crazy. It’s just myself, Nellie (our studio & wholesale manager) and often an intern, so really my business is very small still. Often I think people believe I paint all day, or am just doing creative work. In reality, the creative bit is a small fraction of what I do on the day to day. I used to design a lot more when I worked for other companies as that was the bulk of my job responsibility.
Any advice for how to manage a schedule that’s as busy as we imagine yours to be?
I’m a big believer in trying to work slowly and steadily, and front load as much as you can. Google calendar is a lifesaver, and I also have a massive master to-do list in excel. I write everything down in there and if it’s something I don’t have time to do now I move it to a week, month, or quarter from now so I won’t forget. I try to set weekly and daily priorities, breaking down similar tasks/projects to maximize work flow. Slack has also become a great office tool for keeping on top of things.
The Rebecca Atwood brand feels beautiful, balanced, and relaxed. We’re guessing some of that stems from who you are as a designer and as a person, so in an effort to get inside of your everyday life, what’s the last thing you do before you go to bed, and the first thing you do when you wake up?
The last thing I do before I go to bed is usually to stretch and then put on lotion. The first thing I do when I wake up is to get the water boiling to make coffee in my French press. Coffee is essential in the morning!
You’ve successfully built your own business and have worked with retailers of all sizes internationally. What do you still want to accomplish?
I think it’s really important to say here (for all those people who have said I’m an overnight-success) that I’m still in the early days of my business! We’ve just hit two years, so there’s lots I want to accomplish. I want to grow my business to be a go-to in the home-décor space. I see things evolving naturally as we see what works and what doesn’t and what our customer wants. I also want to just live a full life – and make time to really enjoy it with my husband, friends and family.
What are your plans for the rest of 2015?
Well it’s a full year’s work, that’s for sure! I’m actually in the process of writing my first book that’s all about how to use pattern in your home. That’s going to take up a big chunk of time, as we’re just starting to do our shoots. I’m also working on expanding the collection into some exciting categories for 2016 including wallpaper, which is what I’m designing now. There are a few other big things in the pipeline, but that’s all I can say for now (stay tuned!)…
p.s. Consider adding in some of Rebecca's designs the next time you decide to dress up your bedroom.