Lulie Wallace is scrolling through designs she’s fashioned into patterns on her laptop: “There’s a million of them, there’s tons,” she says, smiling.
“I’ve licensed things before to places like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters- but what I’ve really been wanting to see is whole patterns [based on her work]- and it turns out there’s this whole field called surface design. It turns out a lot of illustrators are in surface design. And a lot of artists.”
We’re sitting in Redux’s classroom at two wooden tables tucked together just shy of the center of the room. Big boxes of Wallace’s goods are stacked to one side, ready to ship out. The AC blows down to one side of us warmishly, and if we turn to one side we can see into Wallace’s studio.
The burlap doors are still pinned back from her recent show, and from here I can see walls filled from floor to ceiling with cheerful canvases: flowers in patterned pots and pitchers, cheerful tablescapes. One shows a table strewn with flower cuttings and a pair of scissors. Wallace’s work is whimsical and folksy, with a largely pastel palette; each one beachy and full of sunshine like Wallace herself, who is wriggling in her chair beside me, happily vibrating in flip flops and cut offs as she scrolls.
“I love seeing art come off the canvas. I mean, you look at a blouse, you look at a bedspread- they’re forms of everyday art, art you can actually use. So my idea is to approach people who are already working with fabric and have them use my patterns. There are five collaborators I’d really like to work with- I call them my dreamweavers.” She smiles when I ask who her dreamweavers are. “Let’s call them a local clothing company, a kids clothing line, maybe a badass stationary line.” A friend of hers comes into the classroom wielding a box of cupcakes; Lulie dives in delightedly. “Fabric is so nice because it doesn’t take a lot of money to see the art form to fruition. And I can do fabric to order. I can do it by the yard.”
So how does this work, turning one of her canvases into a pattern?
“I sketch with a very fine illustrator pen and then I scan into an ordinary printer. I use Adobe Illustrator and photoshop. I applied to get a UGA fabric design student to come in and intern here this summer, and she’s teaching me all the technical stuff I wouldn’t have known. She’s super proficient in photoshop.”
Machinery whines from a studio on the other side of the gallery.
“It’s like a giant carpenter bee,” I say- and then wince as the whine gives way to hammering.
Wallace laughs. “That’s Kaminer. [A jewelry designer.] We call her Haminer.” Something on her screen suddenly catches her eye, and Lulie Wallace leans into her computer, concentrating.
I excuse myself for a few minutes to explore her studio, leaving Wallace to work. Behind the burlap doors I find a large wheelie cart piled high with brushes, paints, used palettes. A pair of old-fashioned sunglasses perch owlishly above a small carton of maple almond butter in squeezie packs. An emergency stash? More palettes, paints, brushes.
Underneath all this is the aforementioned printer; ordinary, as Wallace said, and on the other side of the cart is a jumble of shoes, some tupperware, and a beach towel. The walls are covered with canvases, and a tall metal chair sits in one corner, splattered with paint. It is facing her newest piece, featuring a brightly colored table setting. When I come back out into the classroom, Wallace is scrolling again.
“Its so fun to scan your stuff in,” she says. “There’s so many color manipulation possibilities. Things you could never do ordinarily with a canvas- you can change the color palette in an instant, completely changing the personality of a pattern. Same design, but with a different color. We call that ‘color-ways.’”
“It is.” Wallace looks up as her intern, Brooke Davidson, sails into the studio. Davidson’s sunny blonde hair is tied up and smoothed back by a wide black headband.
Davidson explains she primarily works in photoshop. “You try to create a repeat where you don’t notice the tile. When I look at fabric I can see if its’ got a good repeat or not.”
“Can you look at fabric and pick out the tile?”
“Kind of, sometimes. There’s also this thing you can do called a half drop repeat, where the pattern kind of continues down, and so the next one fits into it a little lower.”
I ask her how she likes her internship.
“It’s been really fun, I love Charleston so much! I wish I could stay, but I have to go back and student teach. But maybe someday!”
We talk about the possibility of her getting a studio here, and of further collaborations with Lulie. She’s been working with Wallace to help her develop “a portfolio of a ton of repeats. And I’ve been painting a lot this summer, I’m been so inspired by,” she sweeps her hands around us, “all this! I’m doing abstract stuff, playing with layers. It’s cellular, almost. And Lulie gives me so much good advice. She said next week maybe I could even bring my stuff in, we can play around with it in photoshop. Have you seen the lunchboxes she does?”
Davidson takes me around to the side of Lulie Wallace’s studio; more canvases, more boxes of product. She pulls out an old fashioned metal lunch box coated in one of Wallace’s cheery design.
“Yeah, she’s great,” Brooke says, grinning.
But cupcake break is over, and now Wallace and Davidson seem itchy to get back to work. We hug goodbye, and I leave them still happily chattering and scrolling away under the air conditioner.