The loveliness of LUprints
One-on-one with LUprints textile and print designer, Ulla Clark.
Did LUprints actually get started for Slow Food Cycle’s totes back in 2006?
Yes, Lisa Komuro [of Sumire Design] and I had met earlier that year and became instant friends. We wanted to combine our skills and collaborate on a fun project and the Slow Food Cycle inspired us to print tote bags (Lisa designed the print, I printed them) and sell, with proceeds split between SFC & Pemby Arts Council. Just before the event Lisa and I were inspired to also print some fun kitchen linens; teatowels, oven mitts, placemats, and shirts, and sell at the cycle as well as Feast of Fields at Sturdy’s farm. The items were a hit, and throughout the following winter we grew the line into LUprints Home Textiles and hit the Whistler Farmer’s market the next summer. That fall, Lisa and Chris started the wheels turning on Mount Currie Coffee Co. (as well as Lisa’s web design business getting very busy), so Lisa retired from LUprints and I continued on, attending tradeshows, opening an online store, and starting a wholesale relationship with a number of stores across Canada.
How did you end up in Pemberton?
I came to visit some friends up here in 2002 and when I drove into Pemberton I instantly fell in love. It reminded me of Switzerland with the large open valley, surrounded by tall peaks. Luckily I also fell in love with a guy who was living here, and stumbled upon a forestry job here around the same time, so it quickly became my new home.
What makes Pemberton a good place to base your business?
Number one would be for the ease of combining work with play. It is so easy to work for a few hours, jump on my bike and go for a quick ride, and be back to work the rest of day. Everything is just so close (mountains, ski hill, lakes) making it a great place for people who love that joint lifestyle. Vancouver is also nice and close, so shipping to and from here for business is pretty reasonable. Not to mention a fantastic community that supports and promotes eachother thru’ word of mouth.
What are the pros and cons of working out of your own home studio?
Pros: Flexible schedule, low overhead, low stress, convenient, beautiful surroundings.
Cons: Staying focused can be a challenge, leaving the house tasks until after work, it can be isolating, easy to be distracted, often answering emails/working after hours.
What’s your education?
I went to college and then University for Forestry (Selkirk College in the Kootenays and then UBC), and spent about 10 years working in that field. In 2006, I started training in screenprinting on the side, and within about a year it took over and became my full-time profession. I now provide printing for many local businesses (Limelight Screenprinting) as well as produce/sell LUprints Home Textiles.
Is there a book that is the ultimate reference for you?
I have a lot of reference material for screenprinting that is pretty boring/techinical, but has helped me immensely. I love vintage textile books with patterns from the 50’s to 70’s, they always seems to provide inspiration, especially for the amazing colours. A lot of my textile designs are also influenced by Scandinavian design/print, which I feel is based on simple bold patterns, often depicting nature. I don’t have a lot of structure that I follow for making the prints/patterns, as I do not have formal training for this, so most of time I will just work to scale on my computer until the design(s) fit together and can be repeated on a large scale.
Why the commitment to eco-design? What kind of challenges has that thrown your way?
When I started screenprinting I wanted to use eco-friendly products mainly for my own health, as I was going to be exposed to them every day. As I began my research I realised there was a whole group of people out there dedicated to bringing change to the industry thru creating products that worked just as well as all the traditional ones, but were eco-friendly. Often at the same price, or just slightly higher, so it made sense to me to go this route. Since I was using eco-friendly inks it also made sense to choose natural fabrics to print onto, and to make every aspect of my shop as green as I could, with what products are available. It just tied in well with my lifestyle, and what I believe in, so it was an easy choice. I feel like the challenges are so outweighed by the benefits that they hardly exist or are worth mentioning. And I don’t have anything to compare them to as I have always done things this way. It also attracts a whole other consumer to my products who will only purchase things that are eco-friendly, and I think if it does not effect the end price by very much then most people are happy to know they are buying something that was made under those principles.
What kind of collaborations have you been part of?
Last year I colllaborated with Indigo/Chapters on a pillow line for their stores. It was an awesome learning experience and fun to see them in stores. Lisa Komuro designed for LUprints in the first year, but we have not collaborated recently. I would love to do something with her again though. I have also worked with Frances Dickinson (aka Frances Felt), with printing for her clothing line, as well as some new product designs for LUprints. She is such a skilled craftperson, that she has really helped me with my business, and new developments for it.
What is currently inspiring you?
A recent trip to Japan this past winter was a huge inspiration. I feel like I am still processing what I saw. Design is all around you over there, and the history of textiles and print dates back centuries. The Japanese aesthetic is very clean and bold, quite similar to Scandinavia actually, and a lot of Indigo Blues mixed with white vintage fabric really caught my eye. I felt like everywhere I looked there were prints and designs, on signs, banners, carved into wood, or even the streetlights are shaped like large flowers, it is just such a part of their life that it seems to blend in perfectly.
What’s next for LUprints?
There are a few new products under development for the upcoming year, duvet covers and pillow shams are in the works. They will be made from Organic fabrics, and will feature bold designs from the current collection, as well as a new print coming out this fall….check out luprints.com sometime this summer for details 🙂