“Do you think I’m hyper because I had a cup of coffee this morning for the first time in a long while, or was that interview just really amazing?” I asked my photographer, Darrin Cherry, as we departed Medici on Congress this past Sunday. I was having trouble discerning the feeling in my tummy at first, but quickly concluded that my excitement was the result of witnessing a magical connection between these two new friends.
Patti Fore is a new friend of mine here in Austin. She’s amazing because she’s not only a beautiful gal; she also has a heart the size of Texas. Patti was the chairman of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Blondes versus Brunettes fundraiser in 2012 and is now leading the charge to start a Pencils of Promise chapter in town. When Patti isn’t at work in her role as a PR maven for Hahn, Texas, she’s working as a role model for her adorable daughter, Kate, who also joined us for the chitchat. When I found out about Patti’s hobby of building furniture from iron and reclaimed wood, I knew I had to introduce her to my friend in textile design, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Mollen, creator of Stone Textile, has been featured in House Beautiful as well as leading online shelter magazines Lonny and my personal favorite, Rue. She was gracious enough to meet with us on a Sunday, just one day prior to the photo shoot for her fall collection’s look book.
Tara: Do you remember where we originally met, at the Tidbits event at Malverde last fall? There were hors d’oeuvres being passed but I didn’t want to eat; I wanted to feel your pillows and fabrics instead.
Elizabeth: I definitely remember that. Then we saw each other again in January at BlogShop.
T: You’re building a very successful brand these days. You’re from Chicago, went to UT, and then spent some time at Riser Goodwyn in LA. Take us through and tell us how you got to where you are today.
E: Sure. When I graduated from UT I had the opportunity to wear about 50 hats at a small boutique clothing company called Riser Goodwyn in LA, learning the business from my boss who had been a children’s clothing designer in the past. I spent about four years working for her in bridge market apparel for red carpet dresses then my husband’s job brought us to Austin. I was at the point where it was a great time to start my own company and decided on interiors. There are a lot of similarities between fashion and interiors and I wanted to incorporate pattern-making skills and my knowledge of how garments are made into my pillow designs. You’ll see a lot of dimension in my pillow designs that were influenced by clothing. I’ve got cowls, pleated ones, and a tuxedo pillow. They’re all inspired by dresses I’ve owned or that I’ve seen in vintage stores. I launched the company in November and have been going at it ever since.
Patti: Are you only online right now?
E: I’m at Urban Space and online. I’m happy that I made that connection with the store. I think it’s a great place for Stone to be because I like how modern that store is. I’m also in the process of branching out to about ten boutiques across the country.
T: What stores are your targets?
E: Mainly shops in Chicago, New York, Dallas, Atlanta. Do you know Pieces in Atlanta?
T: Yes, of course. Leigh’s done a great job with that store. I’d go there for a pick-me-up on occasion when I lived there.
E: They’ve expressed interest in the collection. There’s also a store in Chicago called Material Possessions that I’ve known forever, and there are a lot of great ones in Bucktown and Lincoln Park. Dallas has a lot of options too.
T: Is production done locally?
E: Manufacturing is done in California at places that I’ve worked with in the past. I take trips to the factory a few times per year to check in.
P: It’s great that your products are all made in the USA.
E: Absolutely, that’s very important to me. I think people are willing to go the extra mile and pay a little more when they know it’s made in the USA. Do you find that with your furniture? Do you have any pictures with you?
P: I’m just starting out actually. I made my first pieces, a coffee table and a side table, because I was unable to find the perfect chevron coffee table. My graphic designer friend, who has impeccable taste, suggested that I make and sell them. Simon Walker helped me create a logo design and I paid him with a table! I’m also working to complete the first collection and website by the end of the year. It’s called Forecast, a play on my last name.
E: Names are so important. That’s a great, strong one. I love the table with all of those different stains.
P: Thank you. It’s a very interesting process for me because I never thought about starting a business. I’m in public relations, which is totally different than making furniture, but I have always loved interior design. My hope is to eventually put the work in stores like Urban Space once I really get it off the ground.
E: Yeah, Urban Space has its own page devoted to Austin-based designers. You’re in PR so I’m sure you know how to reach out to places you want to be. I wish I knew more.
P: Thanks; I will definitely be able to transfer those skills. It seems like you’ve gotten some great coverage in Lonny and Rue, and REAL in Austin so you know what you’re doing too!
E: Thank you.
T: Tell us about the Pillow Project. What exactly is it and how does it work?
E: My family has always liked to give back to the community and it just made sense to do something for others while I was in the process of getting myself out there. I’m a firm karma believer. I started going to children’s hospitals with a bucket of art supplies and 12”x12” pillowcases and everyone gets to decorate their own pillow. We stuff them for the kids and they really enjoy it because it gives them something to be excited about even when they’re in the hospital for an extended period of time. We’ve done it twice at the Dell Children’s Hospital and we’ll be doing another one before the holidays. I’m always open for people to come help if you’re interested and Kate would enjoy it too since she likes to draw. It’d be great to meet up again.
P & T: Absolutely. Sounds like a great time to us!
T: Patti’s also involved in some serious charity work for children through an organization called Pencils of Promise.
P: Right. A good friend of mine is a teacher and recently approached me about starting an Austin chapter of PoP, which is based out of NYC. The premise is educating children in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Laos where these kids have zero access to education. They are going to start building schools in Ghana in 2013. It’s a great concept because $25 educates a student for a year and $25,000 builds and sustains a school for an entire year. Our first event at Icenhauer’s was a big success. Michael Icenhauer was so generous- he gave everyone a mimosa that donated to the cause. I’ve been involved in other things before, most recently with the Alzheimer’s Association, but it’s very nice to be involved in Pencils of Promise because we just found out we’ll be able to send some of our Austin team members to go see some schools.
E: Let us know what’s next so we can support you!
P: We definitely will be doing some monthly events and are trying to plan one, maybe two, big events for the year. Stay tuned.
T: I’m sure that creating Stone Textile has presented some significant challenges. Between designing products, maintaining a blog, and decorating homes, you balance a busy lifestyle. What do you struggle with?
E: It’s hard to balance life and work when my studio is in my house. I’ve had to adjust to not having anyone to watch over and make sure everything on my lists is complete. It’s always the little things that you wish you would have done differently but you learn from those things. I need to just go with it and learn from my mistakes and not be so hard on myself when I make a tiny mistake. I need to be more open too because I’m generally pretty shy. The thing is, this is my company, and I need to do whatever it takes to get my name out there because no one else is going to. That’s hard but I’m learning from it every day. As I go on, the easier it gets and the more fun it gets!
T: I’m sure it’s difficult to call it a day when your business is yours, and only you know what additional tasks could be done before the end of the day.
E: Exactly. I’m always working on the weekends and I will meet with clients whenever they need to. It’s a different mindset from working 9-5 like I did at my last job. I never would have met with you on a Sunday.
T: What kind of tools and technologies help you run your business? How do you stay organized?
E: For organization I rely on Google calendar synced on my iPad and iPhone but I’m an old-school list-maker too. I always have my to-do lists because I like the process of writing things out. Benjamin Moore Color Capture is a fantastic resource to use with my clients because I’ve found that paints can scare people. Photoshop is where I create mood boards for clients.
P: Me too, I’m the same way. I’ve got to write things down. I’ve heard that writing your list at the end of the day is somewhat a relaxing thing to do because it calms and preps you for the next day. I think that helps me.
Darrin: Do you use Illustrator?
E: That’s on my list! Do you know it? I’ll be calling you for a tutorial.
D: There are all kinds of tutorials. One that I recommend for Photoshop that’s really funny is a Youtube channel called You Suck at Photoshop. He’s hilarious. It’s like comedy defensive driving, but for Photoshop.
T: There are tons of resources on Pugly Pixel too. As far as your decorating services go, you’ve got several local clients, and one in NYC. Exciting!
E: Yes, a friend from childhood connected me with her friend and I’m helping with their new apartment. I added an interiors portion to the company about a year ago and I love it. We placed her furniture orders recently and I’ll head back to do the install in a few weeks.
P: Do you currently have any clients here in Austin?
E: Yes, all residential right now. I’ve done commercial before but residential seems to be my preference. My current client really trusted me with paint color. We’re doing this dark ‘Phillipsburg blue’ by Benjamin Moore with some modern and vintage aspects. We went to the Round Top flea and found some old luggage that we are going to stack to use as end tables. I’m excited to see how the dark browns and blues mesh for the finished product. I always give my clients one fun option and one safe option. They went for the fun one, so I’m even more excited!
T: I’ve always been curious about how designers come up with the way they charge their clients.
E: Everyone does it differently and there are many options. You can upcharge furniture or charge hourly. I find that it’s better to charge hourly when working with a client with a smaller budget because it seems somewhat silly to upcharge, for example, a West Elm table. For designers that work on a full home at one time, their charging is probably a lot different. I think it’d be interesting to take a power course on how designers decide how to charge.
T: Have you heard of Alt Summit?
E: Yes I have! I wanted to go but registration sold out in an hour.
T: That’s what happened to me too. They do offer live online classes on a variety of subjects and the fee is pretty small. I just signed up for one myself. I wonder if they’d ever consider “designers and their fees: how much to charge for professional help” as a topic.
E: You should recommend that. Great idea.
T: In Atlanta, the high-end show room is ADAC. Are there any in Austin? Also, what certifications do you hold?
E: There’s one called Stockton Hicks Laffey that’s open to the trade. I have my CID and that’s for an interior decorator or stylist. I use this term because I don’t want to offend anyone that went to school for years and earned his or her AISD credentials that way. There are endless credentials that you can add on to your skill level, like eco-friendly certifications.
T: Tell us a little bit about your next collection.
E: Tomorrow I’m doing product shots for the new fall line. I’m doing a lot of leathers, jewel tones such as plum and navy, and a new print. I’m excited about the new collection, especially the tribe print.
T: What’s the process of coming up with a new print?
E: I freehand it, then play on Photoshop, then send it to the factory in LA.
T: You make it sound so easy!
P: How long did it take you to create this collection from start to finish?
E: I feel like there’s a ton less pressure with interiors as far as timelines are concerned. When I was in fashion, there were deadlines all the time because you had to get your looks ready for stores or fashion shows. I started with the new ideas in May and went through a few rounds of sending notes back and forth to LA. I set a goal to have everything for fall done this week so I can go away for 12 days and not have to think about it!
T: What else is involved in the collection? What about your tabletop line?
E: I sell fabric by the yard and sell coasters that are made out of wood…
P: These look like they are laser cut. Do you do that here in town?
E: Yes, I do. There are some great companies in Austin that do it. This is my diamond print that I bought into tabletop with chargers, coasters, and napkin rings. I also do napkins and placemats in a similar diamond print in mint green.
T: Who are your mentors in the business?
E: I look up to the design bloggers that have kept writing consistently for so many years. I also really admire Kelly Wearstler. My boss was friendly with her in LA and I got to meet her at her house once. It’s one of those moments that I will remember forever.
T: I love the Washington state home that Kelly designed that’s in this month’s Elle Décor. It’s unbelievable.
E: Yes, I know that house!
T: Now for the token closing questions. Who do you bring to your ideal dinner party?
E: It’d be a combination of work and personal. My mom, who is one of my design mentors, and I’d like to bring my grandmother, whom I named the company after. I’d also bring editors from Elle Décor and House Beautiful and just hear their opinions over a fun lunch with lots of champagne.
T: How would you describe Austin in three words?
E: Techie, hip, friendly.
I’ve really enjoyed the past two years here because I couldn’t imagine starting my business in any other city, even my hometown. People are out to help here. They just care. Like your table, Patti, you’re lucky that you live in Austin because that’s something that is going to take off. I’m doing the photo shoot for our fall line and I actually would love to use one of your tables, if you don’t mind. Everything in the shoot will be local: I’m renting some vintage sofas and lamps from here and there. Collaborating with you would be perfect because I love the brown tones from the woods that you use and the modern/vintage feel. I’d link to your site in the look-book. Wouldn’t that be fun?
P: Absolutely, I’d love it! Thank you so much. This is going to be great.
And with that, you have it: new friends and an upcoming collaboration. Patti and Elizabeth continued their conversation about the specific table sizes she has been looking for, and has now found, for her fall collection shoot. We are all looking forward to the outcome and the images will be linked here from Stone Textile as soon as the line launches. Congratulations, ladies and cheers to the future of Forecast Designs and Stone Textile.