Kismet, serendipity, call it what you will—I was in the right place (showing my made-to-order quilts at a contemporary home furnishings show in NYC) at the right time (back in 2000 or thereabouts), when Garnet Hill approached me about designing a quilt for their catalog.
This was the heyday of their catalog—always featuring beautiful covers and items to covet – and the team responsible, Greg Covell and Diane Brush, were lovely and kind. My only experience with licensing at that point was a typeface I created and sold when at RISD, so I didn’t have a lot to go on. I struggled with the advisability of offering my quilt designs at a much lower price point than my made-to-order quilts. Would it be confusing, or a conflict? I finally agreed after many discussions with friends and advisors, but was nervous about ensuring I could protect my work and “brand”. GH didn’t have a standard contract, but said I should write down whatever terms or conditions I wanted.
One thing I asked for—and I’m not certain why—was to meet with whomever they contracted to make my designs for the catalog. That request ended up changing the course of my career in ways I could never have imagined!
Many months later, GH arranged for me to meet Sarita Handa and her daughter Suparna, of Sarita Handa Exports (SHE), a well-respected woman-owned manufacturer in India. They were in town for the textile shows, so we met at their hotel. I was nervous and I’m sure I blathered on, tripping over my words. Suparna gently interrupted me at one point and asked when my birthday was. When I told her, she nodded knowingly (approvingly?) and said “Ah, an Aires – I thought so.”
I immediately relaxed – this didn’t feel out of my realm! I knew a little bit about astrology, but I also knew it was an important part of Indian culture, and can influence decisions about partnerships and timing. If the stars were aligning, who was I to stand in the way? Over the next few years, I made a handful of designs for Garnet Hill, and while it wasn’t especially lucrative, it helped to introduce my work to a wider audience.
Fast forward a few years, and Sarita’s team reached out – they were interested in a DSQ-branded partnership. Those were heady days, and so rewarding in every way. I had the opportunity to travel to India (first and only time flying first class!) and fell in love with the entire family and company. Sarita is a designer herself, and made sure the details of my designs were carefully honored, and I think it shows in the work. I was so proud of all the quilts we produced together, and still hear from customers about how much they cherish their DS for SH quilts.
We produced quilts for catalogs including Sundance, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel, and eventually worked with sales reps and set up a warehouse to be able to sell to smaller boutique shops.
While we had great success with the line, we also made mistakes – it was a new way of working for both SHE and myself, and sadly, we were unable to overcome the effects of the recession of 2008.
Fast forward a few MORE years, and our partnership has evolved, as has the environment of retail and production. Concern about climate change and our environment makes supporting sustainable practices essential. Our new DS X SH collection quilts will be produced in small batches. This scale is achievable for a small business like mine, and by designing for subtle fabric substitutions using marketplace fabrics, rather than needing to conform to the scale of more typical manufacturing practices of producing thousands of yards of every fabric in a quilt, our production process is kinder to our environment.
It seems the stars are once again aligned, and I’m very excited to be working again with my friends at SHE to offer beauty, comfort, and inspiration for the everyday. We’re launching with designs from our past partnership, recolored and offered in very limited, sustainably produced small batches. Preview the collection (details subject to change!) and sign up to reserve one for yourself!
One for the Road: Sometimes you just need to trust the stars and take a leap!