Textile Designer, Lori Weitzner Design, Inc
Lori Weitzner, principal and Creative Director of Lori Weitzner Design is internationally known for her contributions to the world of textiles, wallcoverings, rugs, and passementerie. Expanding upon her textile background, she has recently launched a jewelry and accessory line under her own name. Her work is in the permanent collections of such museums as the Cooper- Hewitt in New York and The Victoria Albert in London. She is the recipient of more than twenty-five prestigious design awards and her work is featured regularly in the media, including Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, and The New York Times. She recently authored her first book, Ode to Color, The Ten Essential Palates for Living and Design, published by Harper Collins and lectures around the world on the effects of color on our well being.
Today we’re experiencing a day in the life of Lori Weitzner, who’s a textile designer and owner of her own design firm called Lori Weitzner Design Inc. She’s also the author of her book Ode to Color, which literally will just shatter your entire understanding of what color is.
You’re in for a treat here because this is a really jam-packed day. She’s meeting with her editors, she’s meeting with her designers and she’s also working on her new jewelry line. Plus we’re also going to learn what it took for her to get to where she is today!
Most people don’t know we exist. Textile designers, we kind of go under the radar and yet everything you do in your day involves us in some way, shape or form.
People go to work every single day. There’s the nine to fivers, the work from homers, the doers, the dreamers, the list goes on, but what does it take day in and day out to succeed in these careers? This is the experience a day in the life podcast. We’re your hosts, Krista Bo…
And Mat Po. The concept is simple. Each episode we take you through a day in the life of a different job, hour by hour. We call this ADITL, spelled A-D-I-T-L, which stands for a day in the life. So today we’re experiencing a day in the life of Lori Weitzner, who’s a textile designer and owner of her own design firm called Lori Weitzner Design inc. And she’s also the author of her book Ode to Color, which literally will just shatter your entire understanding of what color is.
New Speaker (01:14):
It’s like the Bible of all of these 10 color worlds. You’ll learn about it.
It’s so cool. And she has a cool test that you can take online to see what your ideal color palette is. We did it. You should do it too. Anyway, you’re in for a treat here because this is a really jam packed day. She’s meeting with her editors, she’s meeting with her designers and she’s also working on her new jewelry line, right? So we’re going to talk all about that.
New Speaker (01:37):
Plus we’re also going to learn what it took for her to get to where she is today, which is also a really big treat. Let’s jump right in.
Speaker 3 (01:44):
Baby, baby, baby, baby baby.
So it’s 7:40 on a Monday morning in New York city and as soon as she woke up, like most days, Laurie checked her phone, which she admits is not her favorite habit.
New Speaker (02:01):
As the rest of her family was also getting ready for the day. Lori whipped up her signature morning drink with fresh pineapple, Apple juice, freshly grated tumeric and ginger while sipping that she heard the doorbell ring time for her glam squad appointment every week. She pencils in a professional blowout to help her feel fabulous for the week ahead. So let’s meet this fabulous Lori and learn more about what she does and how she got started.
My name is Lori Weitzner. My company is Lori Weitzner designing and I guess my title would be founder and principal and creative director. The company is all about design for the home, mainly textiles, wall coverings, other kinds of products, rugs, dinnerware, even cards.
Could you give us a synopsis of who your most common customer is?
Yes, there are two folds. So interior designers and architects for sure are very important. Customers, clients, we would say to me, they buy our fabrics and wall coverings and rugs and so forth and use them for interiors, for homes as well as hotels and stores and other areas. But because I am diversified in the type of design I do, I also have the end user who just wants to put the some pretty things in their home who isn’t necessarily an interior designer or architect. And I also have, because I do these line of cards, people who, who just want to buy cards to send to people for, for different occasions. And even jewelry, which I’ve just started to design. That’s my latest venture.
And I just actually want to take a step back here and get your take on this. How do you define textile design for listeners who might not conceptualize it?
I was so, so glad you asked this question. Most people don’t know we exist textile designers, we kind of go under the radar and yet everything you do in your day involves us in some way, shape or form the patterns on the flooring that you’re walking on or the carpet that you’re walking on, the tie you might put on in the morning, the towels you use, the bedding, new sleep on. All of these are textiles that have to peak produced and designed by people. And that’s us. And it can be fashion, it can be home interiors, but it can also be things that, you know, medical products. There’s a broad range where we kind of live, but because we’re not known, there are other areas of design that are much more now fashion designers or you know, everyone knows who they are and what they do. And graphic designers pretty much I think, and architects, but textile designer. A lot of people say like, Oh, and what does that really actually mean? Now I didn’t know what textile design was or that it existed when I was in school.
Mhmm that’s a great segue into where we’re going next. So I want to start really with how you ended up in this industry, how you opened the door into this industry.
The very beginning is I wanted to be a painter and I applied to colleges to be a fine artist and I ended up at Syracuse as a fine artist and my professor asked what I was going to do to make a living when I got out of school and I said I was going to be a painter and he said, yes dear, but what are you going to do to make a living? And then he actually broke my heart and told me that number one, I wouldn’t make a living as a painter. And number two, even if I was a really good painter, I wouldn’t make a living. Basically. I wasn’t that good. He was very honest about it. But then in the next sentence he said, however you should switch your major to textile design because you have a really good sense of color and composition, and I said, what’s textile design? And he explained a bit about it and then I switched my major and luckily Syracuse had a really strong design school design department where there are lots of design majors. And it worked out for me.
It was that Syracuse in her design course where she learned that color is infinite, it’s three dimensional and there’s so much more of a science to it all. Then you would expect textile design can be broken into two disciplines. Weeding and print design. Laurie says it’s crucial to learn both because they do overlap. An example of an overlap is the concept of a repeat, which is pretty self explanatory. It’s when a design or a pattern on a textile repeats. Lori said the best designs are the ones where you don’t actually notice that repeat. Right when you’re looking at it. It’s more subtle. More on that a little later, but let’s get back into the day.
We’re at 10:00 AM on this day and Lori met with an editor at architectural digest. They meet on a frequent basis to catch up and exchange ideas slash updates on current projects. At this meeting they discussed a big upcoming show in Paris. Can you talk a little more broadly about your relationship as a designer, as a creative with publications? Like is it that important to you or are you more just about the pride in your work and like
It’s very important to me because from a business hat it’s important because I’m trying to build my brand and brand awareness and I need the press to do that. Does it mean that if I don’t get press, the things we’re creating aren’t good? Not at all. I don’t, not at all. But it’s very important that I have these relationships but I also learned so much from them. There are really great people. I love the, the, the discussions back and forth. So it’s not just about like, Oh I want to meet with this editor cause I hope that editor writes about my collection. It’s not. It used to be like that in the beginning because I wanted to like build, but now it’s just more about this wonderful exchange of ideas and learning what else they’re writing about and why and why is that relevant now.
And it helps me make sometimes business decisions based on the things they’re writing about. Our industry is very much changing very quickly and they’re at the cusp of it. I’m not, I’m in the white box sanctuary, so I need to learn more and not everything anymore. It gets written. I mean, they’re going, you know, there’s a lot of turmoil and print publication, which used to be the GoTo for design. What are they writing about online? What about the business of design? So it’s very important for so many reasons, but I have to just say they’re such nice people to let them really great people.
It’s now 11:00 AM Laurie was on our way back after white box sanctuary studio where a master’s student from Jefferson university’s textile design program was waiting for her. She likes to take the time to help the younger generation because if it wasn’t for her mentors throughout her career, she might not be where she is today, but first set the scene. Tell us about the white box
Sanctuary. It’s not a big space, but it’s a very calming space to contrast the urban concrete environment that we live and breathe in, which I love. It’s dynamic and it, I mean there’s nothing better than New York city, but as a designer I wanted to always have this creative tank and part of having that creative tank is the job description, but it’s also the space and what it looks like. It’s all white. The floors are also white because we work with color all day long. It’s the best way to analyze color. There’s music playing. You can wear what you want. Most times we have a lot of Pinboard up. We put up things that are inspiring to us and then we have a lot of surface tables to do our art. What’s really important to me in this business that I created is that the people who work for me can do their art.
And textile design is a commercial art field, which I think is closest to fine art because you can still paint and draw patterns with your hands. We use the computer when we need to, but we do things with it. We get our hands dirty and I love that. So when people interview with me for a job and they don’t bring anything that’s hand on, I say come back with hand things and we have file, flat files, tons flat files and, and them are filled with artwork that we’ve, we, we work on and keep and look at. And then we also have a sewing machine to make prototypes and stuff. Sometimes we’ll find even sewing paper and then we have these color drawers, which is my favorite thing. And there are, I think 16 right now. They need to be organized again, but they’re by colors, not just blue, green, red, but like, you know, the warms, the cools and they’re out all the time. We’re working with those. So it’s a very casual space, but I think it’s, it’s a nice space.
Back to the student waiting in her studio. The student was Laurie’s former intern and now in her last semester of school, Laurie was advising her on her final project. She visited the studio to share her progress with Lori and get some feedback on how she can improve.
The product was magnificent, it was spectacular, but she needed to pull together the concept so that the fabrics weren’t just pretty or interesting or beautiful, but that they made sense in a story because when you’re doing a thesis, it’s not just another nice design. You need to have a whole reason for it. And she had a concept and it was about these three emotions and how the textiles reflected that emotion. And I really loved that and I felt like two did, but the third didn’t. And she’s from another country in Asia and she came here not knowing anybody. Start to talk about that a little bit and what emotions came up for her coming here. The first one was like the wilderness end and then the second one was, it was sort of figuring it out. And then the third one with joy and I said, that’s your thesis and your textiles now reflect coming to America. Wow. She totally got it. She totally got it. She was so excited and she now knew what to do. So she, I didn’t do much, but just sometimes it’s just that little thing that will like make all the difference.
So you’re advising this student and you’re at the point of your career where you’re the mentor, but how does a young person, especially in this industry specifically find a mentor?
Be open. Sometimes it just comes to you, you know, it’s like the divine intervention type of idea, but if you’re not open, you won’t even see it. So you need to be open. You need to be aware that it’s something that you should have in some shape, way, shape, or form and then see what it happens. But if you are in touch enough with your strengths and weaknesses, then you could start to specifically look for someone that could help in that particular area and you have to be open for it in any way. It comes in like you may think, well, it needs to be someone from the industry, but then there was my cousin Stewart who knew nothing about design, who helped me more than anyone in design run my business so it doesn’t, it’s not always the way you think.
Lori’s career took plenty of twists and turns with tons of people guiding her along the way. The first happened right after graduation where she left her first job designing traditional tiny flowers for a large bedding company to be more creative and venture out on her own. Much to her parents’ dismay, her entrepreneurial spirit couldn’t be smothered.
They were like, you’re leading a good job with a good salary. You can afford your own apartment, you have health insurance and you don’t even have another job. And I had decided that I was going to freelance and try and sell the designs that were me and find the market for it. And if I couldn’t, if I was unsuccessful, I was going to give myself two years, I would go back to trying to be a fine artist on the side and go to law school.
You went, you want abroad for that. That’s the story I heard,
Found out. So I have my portfolio of designs, they call them croakies and our world. And you can sell them to bedding companies who need them or wrapping paper companies or textile companies. And they buy them and then they take them and they do something with them. So I went to all the companies I knew in New York here where I live, and I will tell you that no one would buy my designs here. They all said, Oh, these are very nice, but they’re too contemporary for us. You should go to Europe because the market there is, is more contemporary. And so someone told me about a trade show in Europe and when you’re young and you don’t think too much and you’re not so like boggled down with what people tell you you should or shouldn’t do, even your parents. I thought, well I’ll go to Europe.
What the heck? I had savings and there was a trade show in France and Lille, France called Aniquo where people go and they rent a booth and they sell their designs. I went with 49 designs, many of them hand painted on silk that they still have in my drawer and my flat file drawer and I barely spoke French but enough to get by. I was the only American, I was this young, I was young in broken English and I sold most of them.
New Speaker (15:21):
49 of them?!
Most of them. And I sold them over three days. Wow. Probably I was like the cheapest one. I’m sure. I never thought to ask what other people around me and the other booths for selling their designs for. I just like picked a number. So that was probably one thing. The other thing was, I mean, I was exposed to all these companies that come to you because it did.
The one good side to a trade show is they’re coming to you. You don’t have to go seek them out. I was selling to European companies who were making everything from upholstery fabrics to bedding to rugs to ceramics. But what was really interesting was in addition to selling to these European companies, those American companies who would not buy my things in America, saw me at this trade show in France and bought from me.
New Speaker (16:08):
Wow. Why do you think that is?
I was in France. All of a sudden I became something more, Oh, maybe we should take her into consideration. And also my design aesthetic. I say contemporary. When they said more contemporary than what was going on in the American market. It was, but it wasn’t Avantgarde, you know, and there, and the market was starting to opening up a bit more. And in those days, America really followed Europe.
But it was really exciting and I honestly had just broken up with my boyfriend. There was no reason to go back home. So I stayed and a lot of wonderful things happen along the way where people offered me places to stay. And there was one point where I was staying in an apartment in Italy and I took my portfolio out every day cause I was creating more and more designs and I was selling them to companies. They’re like Missoni. And then once you sell to a name like that, you can call other people and say, yes, I’d like to show you my designs. I’ve then selling to companies like Missoni Oh, okay, we’ll see you. So I spent quite a bit of time there. Probably in total, it was a year, almost nine months, and I got home sick. That was the thing that brought me back.
So I came back to New York and I set up shop as a freelancer. I was making enough money to like work out of my apartment that I could pay for, not ask my parents to help me with, but I went back and did that show and another show like it in Germany for 15 years. Yeah.
And that’s where you made most of your business at that point?
A lot of business and a lot of contacts because then I would follow up with them during the year and not just see them once a year. And one very important client from Switzerland who had a bedding company who still does called a beautiful bedding company. He asked me if I wanted to come into Switzerland and work and every year for 15 years I went and worked for six weeks in Switzerland for their company. So there were so many likes, things that were serendipitous that happened, such good fortune. And I like to say a lot of luck and some people say, Oh, but the talent too. And I’m like, yes, of course it’s talent, but it’s luck. And it’s also taking chances to just go for it. And honestly, I was so young that taking risks, I didn’t think about it so much, but like now I probably would’ve thought about it too much and maybe not done those things. So when you’re younger, I don’t know if this applies to everybody, but I think you’re just, you take chances more easily.
You said you were a freelancer or you felt like a freelancer, when did you hit that transition where it stopped feeling like freelance and more like a business?
Great question. So I’m working out of my apartment selling designs where I can, and when you sell designs, they’re gone. You get a price for them that you need to pay your rent and that’s great, but then you have no control over them or what happens to them. And if they’re successful, you don’t benefit from that either. So I learned about licensing and a lot of the bigger, let’s say profile celebrities license, you know, you see their name on something and you know that they’re getting a percentage of the sales of that product. And I thought, I want to do that in my industry, in my world, I should. I mean that should be, so I had to transition it. The hardest is the first one that someone takes a chance on you. So that happened when Switzerland. So I’m always grateful for that because then you can go to the next person and say, well, I no longer sell designs out. Right. I licensed my designs. I certainly had help along the way from mentors of mine. Cousin, my cousin, who was a brilliant business guy, was helping me. You know, I had a lot of support and help, but I then decided I need to look at this as a business and not just me as a designer. The next step had to be to get out of my apartment.
As her first quote unquote studio. Lori rented a desk for $300 from an established design firm, which even today that’s a great way to get started. At the time she described it as feeling very transient and temporary, but it was a good starting point. Then came the white box sanctuary. This brings us to noon. Lori had a meeting with one of our designers just to review some of the custom fabrics for a project for a large hotel chain.
This is one of the largest orders they’ve ever received, which means there’s a lot of back and forth with the client and with the mills to make sure the design is perfect. To put into perspective the cycle of a project like this. The hotel is the client and the mills are vital partners in executing the design. AKA providing the fabric to then print the design. Lori and her team works on to deliver a beautiful piece. Again, lots of back and forth, but at least the clients are willing to work with her. She’s had experiences where clients in this space would straight up copy her.
What are the feelings surrounding in that moment?
Devastating! I walked into a hotel and my wall covering was all over the place and it wasn’t mine. Well, and it was a big name hotel and I was there staying there as a guest. And then another time at a huge hotel had bought 200 yards of a very beautiful fabric of mine that was quite expensive. And they call it a mockup room. It’s when they do a mockup and then once they approve it, then it, well, we never heard back again. So we figured it didn’t work out. But then I went and stayed in that hotel like two years later and, and it was my pattern everywhere, but it wasn’t my fabric. This was a very, very cheap, slippery, like Pollet, like you could slip off the bed polyester. But it was my design. It was very upsetting.
So how do you protect that meeting with big businesses like this? I’m sure it’s a, it’s an honor to even be considered. Is there some sort of contractual before you get into these meetings to protect?
It’s tough because there’s, first of all, we copyright all our designs, so that’s for sure. But even still, the idea of a lawsuit is it’s very difficult to do and it’s, it’s expensive. And the other challenge, and this is a tricky one, is some of these hotels give us business, but at the same time they do that. And so you don’t want to really mess up that Apple card. And that’s the challenge of being in a high end design business. It happens. I want to say again, there are companies that I have long relationships with where it never happens.
Now negotiating on selling your, your fabric to a buyer.
I don’t do that. You don’t do that.
But negotiating with the mill on how much they can produce for a certain price, is that something that you do?
Right. So my partners in my fabric and wall covering company, they’re called, their name is Pollock, and they have a president, Susan Whalen, who’s terrific and she will direct all of that. So I may go to the mail and say, look, we need it for this price. But Susan will tell me, look, Lori, in order to make this all work, here’s what we need to do. So I’m not doing that. I may be the messenger, but that’s about it.
Could you walk us through the scale of how you judge quality of different fabrics?
Sure. I mean, there’s look and there’s feel and there’s performance and all of it matters. And when I talk about performance, I mean like if it’s an upholstery, it needs to last a while. So we have rub tests where we actually have a machine that rubs and if it rubs 50,000 times and it doesn’t break the surface of the yarn, it’s a winner for contract use. That’s for contract use, residential use, it doesn’t matter. So there things like that, that all matter. We also do a line of indoor outdoor fabrics that are made from a hundred percent solution dyed acrylic, which means it can be out in the pouring rain and it’s fine. You can park catch up on it, red wine on it, fine. So there’s all, sometimes people need that. So there’s the performance factor. The aesthetic factor is that it just, it, it’s beautiful in my mind has got to be beautiful and the colors have to be balanced wide and the repeat has to look good. And the, the, the, the lines are just, you know, and I do have a certain aesthetic kind of brand identity. It’s, it’s somewhat general, hopefully, cause you don’t want to be too narrow, but it’s sort of in this modern romantic, organic kind of look. And then the third part is the hand. So I of course I’m a big fan of natural fibers and sometimes they’re perfect and sometimes they’re too expensive or they don’t drape as well.
It’s all part of the equation.
It’s very interesting to see your mindset on how you judge
What feels, what quality and and another really big component of what we do is pay attention to environmental and sustainability. And I have a big beef in our industry because we have so many companies saying, this is sustainable. What do the hell does that mean? Or this is green, this is a green fabric because it’s made from recycled polyester. I’ve got news from you for you. Just because this recycle polyester doesn’t mean it’s better for the environment.
Perhaps it’s even worse. I’m not saying it is, but it could be because the energy used to reclaim it, to break it down into, and then we make it into yarn again, could be more of an imprint on the environment than something new. And we have to, it’s so dangerous in our industry right now. We have to be careful of that. Those buzz words. In my world at Weitzner, the most sustainable is working with artisans and providing work for them and how they’re treated in the mills that they’re working in. And when people talk about sustainability, they sometimes forget that it’s about that aspect as well in the communities and the social aspects. So we try and do that, but we’re not going to say, Oh, everything’s recycled and that means it’s good. So every fabric or wall covering we do, we try and make it as environmentally conscious as possible.
Lori’s worked with over 65 mills and artisans around the world from Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, India, Belgium, France, Italy, and of course America. One continent she hasn’t tapped into yet but is itching to is Africa. Laurie said one of the best parts of working with these artisans and mills is the products and the materials are made from nature. Completely inherent.
1230 rolls around and Lori in a meeting with one of her other designers, Rachel, they were reviewing sketches for her new jewelry line to get the perfect design, color feel and presentation. Lori began her jewelry line so she could work more with embroidery and beating artisan. She partnered with in the past
And for 12 years, I’ve designed a line of past mentoree for a company called Samuel and sons. And for those don’t know what past memory is, it is trim and tassels and hold backs for curtains, for pillows. They’re decorative elements to add detail to home products. So I call that jewelry for the home, but every time I would do it and I say yes, it’s Julie for the home. I always think, Oh this would make a great bracelet, this would make a great choker. And finally I said, I keep talking about jewelry, I want to do it. They’re all hand made by and beaded, embroidered. They’re just beautiful. And so I just started, but I don’t know anything about this industry. So I feel like a child again, like having to learn cause fashion, beauty, it’s a whole different thing. We’ve had popups where I’m getting more attention now we’re getting into some retail stores and museum gift stores. I have a Shopify site that you can go to. So it’s starting to happen, but it’s the very early days. So we will see
After giving your thoughts to Rachel, Lori had to book it to Brooklyn for a meeting with an editor of her book Ode to color. Ode color is already published but they like to check in periodically both on a personal and professional level. She recently gave Lori and her team an opportunity to illustrate a new book called modern mystic, which isn’t exactly what Lori has done in the past, but she loves to expand our portfolio and has fun doing it.
My editor is my, or one of my angels and I believe they’re are like angels who just sort of are there to help you along that are actually aren’t here on earth. And then there are those that are here and she’s one of them. This is a big time editor from Harper Collins who took a meeting with me a few years back and it was all just an introduction to help advise me. I never in my wildest dreams thought she would be the one to do the book, but she took a liking to me I suppose, and she didn’t really like the book proposal I had given her, but instead of stopping there, she said, can I come visit you at your studio? And I said, okay. So she came to my studio and she asked a lot of questions and after two hours she said, I want to do a book with you, but this is not the book that you’re proposing.
This is not at all. She said, you’re trying to write the book of what you think people want to read and not the book of what you want to say. And I’m in the studio, Lori, and you’ve got a lot you’d need to say, Oh, she’s right.
Amazing. She said, come back in a month and tell me what you want to say in a book and don’t give me another fancy book proposal.
When she said that, did you have this feeling of like, I know what I want to say.
No, you need us feeling like, Oh dear God, what am I going to do?
Okay, so then tell me what you had to do.
So I was free frozen for a few days and then I went to black or wherever and I went and I thought, well I can’t do another fancy book proposal. So I decided to buy a box and then it was what color box.
So it took me another two hours to decide on the color. And then I picked purple and I went back to the studio and for the next month I just started throwing things in box and I through yarns, watches and pictures and I started to write some quotes and poetry and I just, I dunno, I just like didn’t think too hard because I didn’t know if I had thought too hard, I wasn’t coming up with anything. Sometimes when you’re thinking too hard, you just have to stop. I’m just like back up. So I threw all this stuff in the box and by the end of the month I looked at and I thought, Oh my God, it’s organized by these color worlds. Like, it’s totally there. And that’s when it hit me. Oh my God, this book is in a textile design book. I spoke this about color and what is color and how does it affect us and how do we use it and what are the cultural anecdotes about these colors and what does pop culture say about these colors and how does it affect like the world at large and me personally and blah blah blah blah blah.
And I brought the box down to her and she said she’ll look at it soon and get back to me. And three months went by and I didn’t hear a thing from her and I thought she hates it cause it was like a personal diary. Two more months go by. So I knew it was like she hated it. And then all of a sudden I get this email that pops up on my iPhone, which I have blown up on my bulletin board or the office and it says, Hey doll, want to write a book cause we want to publish it. Exclamation point. Harpercollins.
Oh so cool. The title of the book is ode to color the 10 essential pallets for living and design. And each of the 10 chapters in the book presents, explains, and historically and personally contextualizes 10 color worlds. And those color worlds are Waterside, silver, light garden party, night shadows, whisper earthly at ease out loud alchemy and fragrant woods. The idea is to immerse yourself in these color worlds and learn how color can affect your mood, memory, design, and culture.
I want readers to take this book and look at it as a journey for themselves. So my main message here is find what works
For you and what resonates for you and use color as a tool and what you need may be different from what your friend needs, from what your mother needs, from what your lover needs and understand color synesthetic li meaning all of the senses combined. So you’re not just looking at it, but you’re experiencing it. And the book is an experiential book. Six months after the book published, I created a color test. I’ve had over 12,000 people take this test and it’s easy to take. You go online. It’s just there. It’s 18 questions, but at the end of it, it gives you a result of what your color, ropes or worlds are. This is not necessarily what you like. It’s not necessarily what you already have in your home. It’s color that may help you to enhance your life. And so when you or anybody takes the test, the first thing is it’s a, it’s a marker.
It’s a guide. It’s to get you thinking. I get a lot of emails about it. A lot of them are example, they get earthly. Earthly is a very heavy color world. It’s a lot of the, and Russ and think India, those kind of earth towns, they’re beautiful colors, but sometimes they’re overwhelming in a space. And so they’ll say, well, what do I do? I got earthly, I don’t understand. And I said, well, first of all, earthly. It’s about passion. When you, if you get earthly, it means you’ve got dreams but you’re not fulfilling them. You need to start fulfilling them. And these kinds of colors will help you do that because they will cocoon you so that you feel protected. To be able to feel you can take a risk. So what do you do? Start with lighting a candle. You don’t need to paint your walls. Terracotta, light a candle because fire is part of earthly and it’s ignition and it will start igniting you toward what you need to do.
Three 30 Lauria rise back to her studio to unexpected but fantastic news. The San Francisco craft museum invited Lori and her team to do a pop up exhibit of their new jewelry line next month.
Speaking of museums, Laurie has a wall covering of hers in the Cooper Hewitt museum called newsworthy and it’s made of recycled newspaper gathered from all over the world. Newsworthy is also available for consumers to purchase through her company. Weitzner will Pharrel even has it in his home.
It’s opportunities like these that exposes Laurie’s talents and allows her to diversify her income. Speaking of opportunities, and.
You’ve also worked with a lot of reputable designers and companies with different products that you’ve had. Can you talk to me a little bit briefly about your partnership with Jack Larson?
Oh, that was a big break for me. I had come back from Europe and the European companies were all doing these wonderful things, but I wanted to live in New York and the market in the America, which had been super traditional, was starting to open up more and be more contemporary, but all the way through, there were maybe one or two companies that were always doing their own thing. That was more, I will say timeless as opposed to contemporary. I think that’s a better definition. As a textile designer, there’s only one idol you can have really in America there, there are more in Europe and it’s Jacqueline or Larson. I just loved everything he ever did, but I could never get an appointment to see him and it would have been my dream, dream job. But then eventually in three different publications, a design that I had done for a European company was next to his design.
So I ripped out those magazine articles and I sent them to him with a handwritten letter and it said, dear Mr. Larson, as you can see, I am next to you in print on these occasions. I would love the opportunity one day to be next to you in person. Best regards, Laurie Weitzner. Three days later I got a call from his assistant crystal T Mr. Larson would like to see you.
And I met him. He was wonderful. I was very nervous. I showed him my portfolio. He was very complimentary and that was it. It was the end like, okay, well I got to meet them at least. But then a year later he called me because there was an opening in the studio for a job. I had been building my freelance business. I had that studio space, but it was Jack Larson. I had already started building up this freelance business more. I was going to Switzerland every year designing the betting people had told me it’s not the easiest place to work. And I thought, Oh shoot, what do I do here? What do I do? And so I thought about it a lot and then it went out to lunch with a friend and this is why it’s also good to reach out to people for advice. And she said, what do you want to do?
Like, if, if anything were possible, play that game with me for a minute. Not [inaudible], you know, what do you think is possible, but what would you want to do if anything were possible? And I said, Oh, I want to design collections for Jack Larson, but I don’t want to work there full time because I want to keep my freelance business and I want my name on the collections, which is something that had never happened there before. And I want ads and I want to travel the country promoting the questions with the trunk show and I want to want and that I like just went off and she goes, go for it.
So I went in there and I’m so nervous and when I’m nervous, my upper lip sweats and I also talk and don’t stop talking. And Jack Larson doesn’t talk unless he has something to say. So he’s silent sitting behind this immaculate desk. He’s actually chewing on a little fiber because all of us textile designers actually eat fiber every once in a while. I know that sounds crazy. So he’s like chewing on a piece of silk and I’m just like, duh, duh, duh, and I can do this for you and blah, blah, blah. And I just go on and on exactly how I did at lunch with my girlfriend. And he just looks at me and I looking at him and I’m thinking, I have nothing else to say. And if I don’t get a tissue for my, and he just says, it’s going to fall into my mouth.
It’s gonna fall into my mouth. He said, that sounds fine. And that was it. That was it. Was it great. And for six years, I designed collections for him autonomously. I got my name on them next to his, I traveled the country with trunk shows, every collection and launched and sold. I learned and worked with mills around the world, but not just tech, not just industrial males, but artisans, because that was Jack’s passion. It was so, so amazing for me in so many ways. And was it difficult? There are some times, sure. But I had also set up a situation where I wasn’t there all the time and I think it was a three day at Jack studio and two days in my own studio and it was wonderful. And then I started to make a little bit of money so I could move up from a desk to a little bit of a bigger space.
It all started to work and it’s all because of this one girlfriend at lunch saying to me, what would you want to do if you could do anything? Don’t think about what’s possible. Just think about what you would want to do and to allow me to do that free fall in a way or stream of conscious is a better way to term it and then had the to go in there and ask for it. Now when I look back and I write about this all in my book, [inaudible] if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here today with you. If I done that, there’s so many things that wouldn’t have happened. What was it that actually propelled me? And I think it was when she said, [inaudible], what do you have to lose? What’s the worst thing that can happen? The worst thing that can happen is he says no and throws me out. Okay. See that through. See that happening and what I learned is when I’m afraid of something, I actually play it out. Worst case scenario in my head and I realized that I survive it, so it’s helped me in the forever, continues to help me not be afraid to ask for things and not be fearful of rejection because if there’s rejection around the corner’s going to be something else.
It’s now five 30 and at this point the studio is pretty quiet. Most of the designers went home already, which means this is Laurie’s time to play catch up. She doesn’t like to answer emails on her phone and usually doesn’t have time to go through her inbox during the day. So she takes some time to respond to every email so there’s nothing unread. I have it. She admits isn’t great because she could spend more time on this than she’d like.
Laurie also reviewed some color work left on the table for a past Mentari project and checked out the beginnings of artwork for their next textile collection. All inspired by Islamic architecture as creative director for Weitzner, the textile wall covering company she sold. She works on collections twice a year. Each centered around a different theme.
Otherwise it’s just too open ended. We know we need some velvets, we know we need some prints or whatever, but then we need to fit it into a concept that resonates with people that make sense where we can tell the story to your students. Exactly. We throw around ideas. Sometimes they’re inspired by nature or you know, we’ve had so many concepts in the past that we’ve utilized. Sometimes it’s more obstruct, like music is inspiration. Sometimes it’s very specific like B’s on teen architecture. It’s kind of, but we do that before we really start doing artwork and then we spend about three weeks to four weeks creating artwork related to the theme that will then be translated into a textile that’s either woven or printed or I’ll walk covering. So we are taking this artwork that I’m very proud to say we do by hand in the studio over a period of time with music playing.
And then we bring it to the mail and say, can you do this? And weave it with, make this velvet, make this part satin. So we’ll take the architecture, which is breathtaking. Islamic art. They’re the arches and the gardens and the shadow and light that play from the mosques and things like that and take those patterns and create repeated pattern out of them. So what you can expect to see is classic forms, but down in contemporary renditions, we never do anything too traditional for Weitzner, but we like to be inspired by traditional things. So we can take those, Oh, those are short. The tiles. I mean the Islamic tiles are magnificent, but then we’ll do it like in a loose hand or we’ll weave it where it’s eroded.
Laurie packed up her magazine she hadn’t read yet and exited the white box sanctuary by six 37 ish. She’s home shortly after to spend time with her husband and children without her husband’s presence as a father and his support of her endeavors. Lori definitely wouldn’t be where she is today. She admitted.
For aspiring textile designers. What is your biggest piece of advice for those people?
If you have a style and not everyone does, if you have a style, pursue it and push it as much as you can to find the way that fits your style. Put yourself in the box if you’re comfortable in the box and that’s what you do and that’s what you do well, there’s nothing wrong with that. If I could paint guash flatly like my teacher wanted me to and if I could do those traditional paintings the way my teacher at Syracuse wanted me to, instead of the hand painted silk which I loved, which he didn’t think was good, then I probably would have been a different type of textile designer. I couldn’t, so I found my way. There’s no right or wrong, but don’t sell yourself short. If you have a voice that’s personal that you think has validity, you get it out there.
And the other thing I’d like to say for the fine artists out there who might be listening that if you need to make a living and you’re not quite making it as a fine artist, textile design is not a bad way to go. Where can people follow you? Get in touch with you. Yes. Thank you. Thank you. My Instagram handle is Lori Weitzner and Facebook is Lori Weitzner design. And my studio is Lori Weitzner design inc and my book is Oh to color and if you want to take the color test, it’s just Laurie Weitzner ode to call.
So you just experienced a day in the life of Lori Weitzner. Check out the show notes that has all the pictures and links in everything we discussed in this episode at https://aditl.jobs. If you liked this episode, please take some time to rate, review, subscribe and share with a friend. Also find us on https://instagram.com/acouplewithapodcast and DM us. What job and career you want to experience next.