While studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year — a city famous for its love of beautiful design — Catherine “Ellis” Price decided that creating textiles was her calling.
The first textile designs she made, one for a wallpaper and the other for a fabric, were inspired by the Danish landscape — the old canals and the rolling farmland, divided into tidy rows. “I wanted to connect the two landscapes, farming and water,” she said.
Designing patterns — for blankets, rugs, pillows, tea towels, napkins, etc. — incorporates Price’s interests in printmaking, drawing, and photography. Plus it appeals to her down-to-earth side.
“In a sense, textile design is more practical [than fine arts],” she said. “It is something you live with everyday and use everyday. And I think it is pretty interesting how you can do so much with a simple design, like stripes. It might be simple, but you can still create something beautiful and transform a space.”
After she returned to Maine last winter (she is from Freeport, Maine), Price began to look around to see whether there were textile designers working locally she could learn from through an internship. She discovered Erin Flett, who has a small studio in the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook. The huge brick factory, which stopped operating in 1957, manufactured cotton warp for nearly 100 years, and now Flett has re-started the tradition of textile work in the building.
Price said Flett’s aesthetic resonated with her. “I really was drawn to her design because it incorporated a little bit of Scandinavian design. It is minimalist and some of her pieces are very modern,” she explained.
Price applied for and received a “funded internship” grant, the Robert S. Goodfriend Summer Internship fellowship, from Bowdoin’s Career Planning Office to intern with Flett this summer. The Goodfriend fellowship encourages students to develop business skills and increase their exposure to the business world.
Besides receiving artistic guidance from Flett, Price says she’s learned some of the ins and outs on how to run a small business. Flett makes all her products in-house, silkscreen printing her goods before packing and shipping them to customers. Flett receives many orders from her webpage and from Etsy, both of which Price helps to update.
In addition to assisting Flett, Price is designing three of her own pillows this summer, which she will both print and sew. One is based on the lines of a red cabbage, another reflects the design of a favorite silver bracelet. She says she finds ideas all around her. “I’m inspired by everything, even the smallest of things,” she said.