Los Angeles based designer Jill Sanford Burrows‘ line of clean, modern embroidered bedding is a new breath of fresh air in the world of home decor. Her collection today consists of three patterns: Riverbed, Streamline, and Field Day, each of them reflecting contemporary shapes. Her minimalist design aesthetic is enhanced even more by the fact that embroidery is the medium that brings her designs to life.
Years ago, Jill and I worked together at the same design agency in San Francisco. Her graphic design background has been instrumental in jump starting her career into designing textiles. I thought it would be great to have Jill share with us at CRAFT her design process and inspiration.
Natalie: What inspired you to start your own modern bedding business with Sanford Burrows?
Jill: I was living and working in London and found myself wanting to design something more tangible than what I had been designing in my career as a graphic designer. I wanted to design something that people would have an immediate response to that wasn’t driven by a marketing message. I decided to take a few fashion design classes, but I kept being drawn to home furnishings because I was so inspired by what I was seeing in London and around Europe. With all the great home design out there, though, I wasn’t finding bedding that hit just the right note. So I eventually decided to take the knowledge from the fashion design classes and use it to create the bedding line.
Natalie: Why did you choose to create embroidered bedding? How does the embroidery itself play in the process of design?
Jill: I love the texture and warmth that the embroidery creates. While the embroidery is done not done by hand, when you look at it on your bed, it serves as a reminder that humans are involved in the process, not just machines. I also wanted the design and color to be impactful, but not take over a room. Embroidery was the perfect medium to achieve this.
Nat: How has your graphic design background helped you in the design process for your bedding line?
Jill: It’s helped tremendously. I really did approach the bedding design as a graphic designer. I was looking at the whole bed as a canvas and focusing on “layout,” similar to designing the layout of a letterhead, an invitation or a website. I thought about how the eye would see the design as whole, as opposed to how the eye sees a repeated pattern, which is what most bedding consists of. In a repeated pattern, when you see one part of it, you know what the rest looks like automatically. With my design, you need to look at the whole bed to get the full picture. I use that kind of thinking in graphic design, too.
My graphic design career also helped me in the technical aspects of designing the bedding. I use the same programs that I do for graphic design. I can communicate my ideas so easily to my manufacturers by providing full-scale PDFs, and by taking photos of things and overlaying arrows and notes in Photoshop. Some of the people working on my line only speak Italian, so this kind of communication is so helpful.
Natalie: What’s your design approach and how do you find your inspiration?
Jill: I planned for my first few designs to be pretty minimal. I wanted to make a strong case for using a traditional craft in a modern way. I worked mostly with line drawings and relationships between simple shapes. As with most designers, my inspiration can come from almost anywhere. I take lots of photos when I travel, expose myself as much as possible to art, architecture and music. I just went to see an exhibit on Buckminster Fuller at the Whitney Museum and notes were taken! I also keep my eyes wide open throughout my day to day in Los Angeles. I just moved downtown, so I’m walking a lot more. I love being able to walk, even to run errands, because I see so many more details than I would otherwise.
Natalie: What are some upcoming projects you are working on this summer that we can look forward to in the coming year?
Jill: Soon, I’ll be working on adding new designs to the collection. I’ve been focusing on the business aspects of launching my line for so long now, I’m excited to get back into designing!
Interview with Designer Jill Sanford Burrows