Elizabeth Hamilton: A Bouquet of Fabric Inspirations

July 29, 2014

I often find myself looking to the garden for inspiration for my Elizabeth Hamilton Collection fabrics and wallcoverings. The colors, textures, and variations in leaf size and shape of different plants and flowers influence my renderings of traditional floral and brocade patterns, lending them a certain informality and casualness. I consider the juxtaposition of the elements, how some plants create a backdrop, and how the tones complement each other. My fabric groupings demonstrate this as I try to include a large print, a smaller print, a solid with texture, and a stripe. As I write this, it reminds me of planning plantings for decorative pots—a “thriller, a filler, and a spiller.” That begins to create the structure of the collection.

All photos courtesy of Elizabeth Hamilton

The Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park

A new collection starts with whatever patterns and images my husband, Peter Fasano, and I have amassed over the course of a few months. We are constantly noticing patterns everywhere we go—not just in gardens, but on china, in carpets, tiles, backgrounds of paintings, carved wood, everywhere! (What did we do before iPhones to capture the images!?!). We often find ourselves rummaging through piles of fabric scraps at tag sales, vintage clothing stores, and, of course, the treasure trove of fabrics that have taken up residence at our studio. After a few months of collecting we find ourselves turning out these fabrics as we start to pull together the patterns that speak to us.

Chesapeake in Fog and Taupe

Shangri-La in Hydrangea

I like living with colors that are pretty and muted. Blues, greens, and beiges are the most popular colors in my collection, so I try to weave those colors into any new pattern. I also love plum, lavender, cerise, and red, and I throw some of those colors into the collection, even though those may not end up being the most popular. The colors keep the process fun for me, and I’m always tickled when someone buys one of my favorites. One of my recent favorites is in the little group I did for “Persia” in Tangerine. A couple of the “Persia” colorways are a bit brighter than my normal palette, but I felt that they were fun and fresh and offered something a bit different.

Grand Shangri-La in Coral

Persia collection in Tangerine

As with a garden, I like the surprise of successful combinations that are unplanned as well as the freedom to be ruthless in editing choices that don’t work. That can mean jettisoning a favorite colorway if it doesn’t support the whole. It’s a challenge, but the fun part is the knowledge that once we finish one collection we can start planning the next one!

Elizabeth Hamilton is a fabric designer based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She and her partner/husband, Peter Fasano, have been creating hand-screened fabrics and wallpapers for more than thirty years, including their own designs as well as custom patterns for many prominent designers.

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