It's not all weddings, baby announcements, and Christmas cards around here. From early on, one of my favorite things to celebrate in print has been small businesses and the creative entrepreneurs behind them.
Over six years ago, I had the privilege to print the first run of business cards and stationery for a dear friend, and fellow small businesswoman, Heather Simmons of tallulah faire. It's been a joy to have a front seat watching her women's clothing and accessories line evolve over time, and I was delighted to recently get the chance to have her business collateral back on press in the Four Hats studio.
But, I didn't want to stop at just sharing the result! I wanted to also showcase the works of her hands! Read more about her own creative journey, and how she's pivoted with it in new directions as she grows with her business.
Tell me a little bit about your business. What do you do and make?
I'm a maker of things. "Faire" is a French verb that means 'to do or to make' and I love how loose and yet how exact that is. My current product lines include fiber art, textiles, mixed media art, pillows, apparel, jewelry, and accessories. I'll make pretty much anything I can get my hands on! My work is centered on the action of making, and all the pretty things are just wonderful byproducts of that endeavor.
How did you get to where you are with your art? What jobs, decisions led you to decide to start Tallulah?
Tallulah officially launched in 2011, but making things has been my passion since I was a child. Both my mother and father are artistic and raised my siblings and me to appreciate art and beauty and music and wildlife. So I was always a busy little helper at home, learning to cross stitch and sew and watercolor.
I was very athletic throughout school and played sports as well as practiced ballet. Once I went to college, there was no longer an outlet for my energy and I felt myself becoming extremely restless. I made a purse for my sister during my freshman year, and a woman stopped us in a fancy department store in Atlanta just dying to know where she'd gotten the bag. That's when I realized other people might actually buy my work.
I honed my craft and practiced and made a lot of really bad art. Then I won an entrepreneurship grant during grad school, which allowed me to quit my day job and focus on design full time. I participated in three runway seasons and focused solely on the apparel line that won the grant.
How has your art/process changed since you started?
My work has changed dramatically since 2011. Spending all of my creative energy solely on apparel felt claustrophobic. I felt very confined in my work, with no time or room for other creative endeavors. If you're an artist, you know how important it is to just piddle around for awhile and to be able to make something that doesn't necessarily have to become a finished, sellable product. I'd somehow created my own fast and furious factory, and couldn't get off the conveyor belt.
I now make acrylic paintings and pillows and clutches, etc, which have all turned into their own unique product lines. It feels good to have multiple series happening simultaneously. I think this is something I knew I needed the whole time, which is why I called my company tallulah faire instead of just tallulah, the apparel line. My website now contains everything I make, not just women's clothing.
Where do you work? What is your studio like?
My studio is currently in my basement, and it's just the best thing ever. I have plenty of space and lighting, plus I'm at home so I can run a load of laundry or work in pajamas all day and no one knows. My dog Oscar gets to hang out with me too, which is a big plus!
What inspires/informs your work?
I know this sounds cheesy, but I can find inspiration in almost anything. It happens daily. I'm like a hallmark card I'm so sappy. A beautiful sunset, the way light filters through leaves when you tilt your head back and look up, a really saturated color. All these things make me deliriously happy! There are days when I create a huge body of work because there's just so much inspiration to draw from.
I also love Instagram. I intentionally don't follow artists whose work is similar to my work to prevent unintentional copying from happening (because it's so easy to accidentally do, even subconsciously!). Instead I follow photographers, interior decorators, ceramicists and letterpress-ers for inspiration in color combinations and form. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a wall in Morocco that pairs pink with yellow and brown and I think "aha! That would be so cool in watercolor!" and then that becomes the basis for my next piece.
What are some of the most important lessons you've learned through your creative journey? Or, what would you tell someone just starting out?
Since I've been doing this professionally for over six years now, I think I have enough perspective to give advice to anyone just starting out. First, don't be so hard on yourself. You will fail and make bad art and make poor business decisions that will set you back so far you'll be impressed with yourself and your ability to single-handedly ruin your finances in one quick motion. But don't give up. People always quit right before it gets better. Hang in there and persevere! If your passion is truly your passion, you won't be able to stop anyway.
Find Heather online at www.tallulahfaire.com .
Heather Williams is the founder and owner of tallulah faire, a women's clothing and accessories line (established in 2011). Originally launched as an apparel-only brand, tallulah faire now includes various product lines and a monthly blog with a focus on design, fashion, and delightful moments from everyday life. Heather also consults with creative businesses around the country.
When she's not creating, Heather works out of her design studio in Birmingham, Alabama. Her adventures with her husband and chocolate lab, randomly found treasures, and the great outdoors serve as inspiration on a daily basis.