GORHAM, Maine — Inspiration can strike in many places. For Erin Flett, it all started with the idea of putting her art on to fabric – to create a gift for her daughter’s teacher. When she saw her own design stitched in to a pillow, she had her ‘aha’ moment. "I literally freaked out. I was like…. Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I want to do. It just was that simple."
Never mind that she didn’t know how to print how or to sew, and never felt a particular attachment to throw pillows.
"I saw it on fabric and a light bulb went off. And I was like…okay. I know I need to do this. It FELT like…this is it." You hear a lot about instinct when you talk with Erin Flett.
That intuition told her to start hand printing fabric with her bold, colorful designs – having them stitched in to pillows and selling them online. It was simply something she loved to do.
"It was very organic. Nothing was planned. It was really just for fun for me. Just something I was doing on the side. So on our kitchen table one night, the kids are like eating dinner and we’re trying to figure out how to silk screen, how to figure it out. Then we took the operation down in our basement, we set up shop, and that’s really how it started."
As a kid, Erin tagged along with her Mom on jaunts to scour antique stores and estate sales. Those trips instilled in her a love of all things vintage – so when she began printing her designs, she did so on barkcloth - a durable, textured, woven cotton popular back in the 40’s and 50’s. She paired her simple designs with the neutral fabrics and the business took off. "I’ve never been afraid of color. I’ve always gravitated towards color. I think it brings people joy. And I think people resonate with color."
Color that’s now, ten years later, printed on lampshades, glassware, wallpaper and countless sizes and styles of bags and pillows. The carefully sourced neutral cottons and linen allow those colors to pop.
What has evolved for Erin and her staff is a small manufacturing system – they only print what they sell, keeping inventory to a minimum. Erin just recently packed her bags and moved her studio to a prominent corner in Gorham, a space that has housed everything from an auto parts store to a theater. Upstairs – what was once a stage and audience is now her office and workspace. This is where much of the work is done .
The water based colors are hand printed on to individual pieces, hung to dry, and then stitched into the a wide variety of styles. (shots here, nat sound of the printing, washing, stitching, cutting ) Many of her stitchers also work from home.
Downstairs – a light-filled shop bursting with color. From this location her products ship world wide, to places like Hong Kong and Australia, as well as to hundreds of stores right in the US.
When you sit and talk with Erin Flett, she is intense and full of energy. Bringing life to her art is what drives her. "There’s nothing else I wanna do. Besides making these beautiful products. So there’s really not an option for me.'
The magic behind her success has been a determination as bold as her designs.
"Never giving up. Never ever giving up. I’m gonna cry. It’s literally waking up every morning and being like ‘alright, what do you have to do today to make this happen?' Every single day. If something that you’re doing makes you so happy and brings you so much joy and you know that this is what you want to do with your world and whatever it is -- the biggest thing is you have to just keep going. You have to listen to your heart. It’s like your compass."
To learn more about Erin Flett and her designs, you can visit her website at https://erinflett.com/. Her upcoming holiday sale will take place at 10 am on December 1st at the Robie Gym in Gorham.