I first met Claire Oswalt in 2007 when my friend, the clothing designer Jesse Kamm told me about a wonderful artist who happened to be one of her best friends. Claire and I instantly clicked and had a great run working together at the gallery, where we collaborated on two solo shows. During one of our coffee dates last year Claire spilled the beans that she was started a quilting company with her friend, the art director Eliza Kenan. Then she reached into her bag and pulled out the happiest pile of quilted textiles I had ever seen. I loved the idea.
In the past several years both women have had become mothers and there is no doubt that this lifestyle change has informed the launch of their now coveted collection of quilts, Hopewell. Jeana Sohn and I dropped by their new studio to see what the designers were up to. And they agreed to answer a few questions about building their business, where they seek design inspiration and what makes working creatively in LA so damn great right now. AND they are offering LA in Bloom readers a 15% discount on all quilts purchased on their website though March, 7, 2014 (enter coupon code LAINBLOOM at checkout).
HBT: What led you to start a quilting company?
Eliza: I’ve been quilting for 12 years and Claire has been painting for at least that long. We had wanted to collaborate for a long time and loved the idea of seeing what would happen when we intersected my architectural background with her intuitive color palette. We both have small children and saw quilts as a beautiful and functional product that could add color and warmth to a space.
HBT: What are your design influences or inspirations?
Eliza: My friends and the landscapes around me. I love being surrounded by people that make things: filmmakers, animators, clothing designers, the quilters in the LA Modern Quilt Guild, and my 5 year old daughter. Los Angeles is full of amazing artists and designers, to list names would take hours. My art history influences are easier to list; Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, Anni Albers, Gunta Stolzl, Sheila Hicks, Charlotte Perriand, Eileen Gray, Isadora Duncan.
HBT: What are your five favorite things about having a small business in LA?
Claire: 1. COMMUNITY
The creative community in LA is a growing network of artists and friends that is ever inspiring one another, collaborating with one another, and supporting one another. It’s a special scene of which we are grateful to be a part.
It may be a running joke, but the 75 degree weather is truly unbeatable. Some work days are spent in our backyards painting or cutting fabric. It changes our moods, thus changing the way we work.
Eliza and I live in the canyons, on the edge of Griffith Park. Coyotes, hawks, and rabbits are part of our daily landscape. It’s rare to have such natural beauty right on the outskirts of urban sprawl, and after a day stuck in traffic or with your head buried in your computer, it’s nice to be reminded that we are a part of something larger.
Downtown LA is a cornucopia of all things imaginable. Neighboring the garment district makes it that much easier to keep our products not only made in the USA, but made right here in LA!
Let’s be honest, it’s worth listing twice.
HBT: What advice would you give for people who want to start a small business?
Claire: Don’t assess the difficulty of what lay before you, just jump in with both feet and learn as you go. You will surprise yourself at what you can achieve.
HBT: What’s next for Hopewell?
Claire: Not only do we have a new collection of quilts soon to come out, but we are working diligently to expand our product line. We’re really excited about introducing a few children’s garments, as well as throws, floor pillows, and paper goods. To get notified when these products become available, as well as information on sales, please email us at [email protected] and ask us to add you to our mailing list.
Photography by Jeana Sohn