For fabric designer Michelle Engel Bencsko, creative dry spells aren't an issue. Her mind is overloaded with inspiration and ideas.
"I rarely have a moment where I'm at a loss for new ideas and itching with a burst of creativity," she says. "Time, know-how, and practicality then become my biggest obstacles. I only do a fraction of what I dream about doing. The rest is in notebooks that are all around my desk."
Bencsko's inspirations have already generated one collection for Cloud9 Fabrics, the organic cotton fabric company she and long-time friend Gina Pantastico run. "Our first collection, My Happy Garden, was conceived with babies and tots in mind, knowing that there were other moms like us, anxious for a product like ours," Bencsko says.
Cloud9's latest collection, Beyond the Sea, launches in April 2010, and another collection is expected in the fall. Bencsko says her collections start with a concept and run from there. "I tend to gravitate to nature themes: flora and fauna," she expounds. "I try to conceptualize something where I can use different elements, like a garden or the ocean, and there are lots of motifs to choose from.
"I am led by color and will almost immediately conceptualize something based on a pairing of beautiful hues. Color moves me and gets me going. Then I start filling in the pieces with themes that would work well within that story. I have lots of print ideas on deck and have many a scrap of paper with rough sketches of design motifs."
From there, Bencsko develops print ideas, plays with patterning, and selects colors for the designs. After finalizing designs and reviewing strike-offs from the fabric mill, she looks forward to the seeing the final product. "There is nothing like the moment when it arrives on your doorstep and you know it's actually as good as you hoped it would be," she says.
Bencsko isn't new to designing. She was the design director for a prominent private-label mens underwear company in New York City, and was used to stumbling onto products in stores and having that familiar recognition of "Hey, I made that!" After leaving that job to pursue her own projects and spend more time with her children, Bencsko finally felt the satisfaction of bringing to fruition designs and product lines that were completely her own.
"[Cloud9] was my own personal baby," Bencsko explains. "[Seeing my designs on a bolt of fabric] was a great moment. I felt very fulfilled and thrilled about the future."
Cloud9's latest collection, Beyond the Sea, releases this week and sports designs inspired by ocean life. Be on the lookout for more from Cloud9 this fall, and keep up with Bencsko on her blog, Cicada Daydream.