This season we are excited to welcome Digital Fabrics to The Finders Keepers Sydney/Eora Market as our creative partner. This Sydney-based textile print house lives and breathes fabric, helping artists and designers bring their ideas to life. They’re popping up at the Sydney/ Eora Market with a fabric installation, AND we’ll be doing something extra special with some Finders Keepers fabric to show you how Digital Fabrics can help small businesses. Stay tuned!
We spoke to DF director Maria to learn how she went from TAFE student to Finders Keepers Market stallholder (way back in 2010!) and how that experience inspired her to start Digital Fabrics. We can’t wait to welcome Maria back with her beautiful business that allows creatives to design and print their own fabric, all in one place!
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Enter our competition here – entries close Wednesday, 17th November!
Can you tell us how you started Digital Fabrics?
I learned to love and appreciate textile crafts and fabrics from a young age by watching the women of my family handcraft many beautiful creations. Since then, creativity has been a part of my life in one way or another.
In 2010, the year I consider to be the epiphany of my textile career path, I completed Textile Design and Printing at TAFE. This course cemented my passion for working in the textile design space. At the end of the study, a group of women from my course and I formed the Textile Collective débuting with hand-printed fabrics and accessories at The Finders Keepers. It was at that market that I realised that I could do it. So I started to design and make textiles and sell them at local markets. That opportunity opened a whole new world to me.
I enjoyed that work a lot, but I learned that even though I love the hand-printing element of the business, the colour and size restrictions of the process brought limitations to my ideas. So in 2012, after some research and many phone calls, I jumped into the unknown, acquiring two sublimation printers, and started Digital Fabrics.
How has the business evolved?
Any business is a living, breathing, dynamic organism with needs, wants and values. It evolves, changes, and pivots. Digital Fabrics is no exception.
We began the Digital Fabrics journey from a tiny studio space in Alexandria, with cheap rent and a business plan that wasn’t a plan, to see where one year would take us and reassess at the end of the lease. Now we are in a much bigger space with many years of experience behind us, the latest technology and a supportive team. We’ve introduced natural fabric printing, which was a lengthy and challenging adjustment for the business. We also have our custom textile products-making service, where customers can print fabric and receive a final product.
During COVID, in support of local fabric designers and artists, we launched The Designer Project, offering beautiful print-to-order fabrics and textile products designed by Australian artists. Any designer can participate in the program earning a commission when fabric with their design is purchased. And as always, we still print and make for creatives fueled by a passion for creativity and designs; that is how it always will be.
What does creativity mean to you, and what inspires you?
Creativity is simply a practice of building or making something new or original that comes from within. It doesn’t matter what that practice looks like and what medium is used; as long you create something, it’s being creative. Everyone can be creative, and there is always time to start or try a new creative skill. Inspiration is truly everywhere. People and places inspire me at most, nature, art, literature, and everything else that evokes positive emotions, uplifts or ignites the desire to create.
What’s your favourite fabric?
Hands down, it’s our Cotton Voile! With the Australian Summer upon us, this fabric is divine for hot weather. It’s a casual fabric that oozes a delicate cottage romance; it’s breezy and wispy, an excellent summer companion. It’s for slow days in the garden, market wandering or a day at the beach. With every wash, it becomes softer, exposing its cozy, soothing texture. Cotton Voile is perfect for summer wear; sarong, long summer tunics, scarfs, relaxed bohemian-style blouses, skirts, and dresses.
What is the coolest fabric project you’ve worked on?
I truly appreciate every project that comes to our studio and the trust we receive from our clients. We print so many fantastic projects that it would be unfair to pick a favourite. It’s more about the project’s story or creativity rather than the finished results. Anything that awakens my emotional senses or grabs my attention to rethink or adjust my perspective is the coolest. Any projects that preserve a special memory or share a strong social message go into my “the coolest” basket.
Recently, it was a project preserving the memory of a grandma’s tablecloth. The family lost their grandma’s vintage tablecloth, after which they recreated the design and made copies of it for sharing among family members. It was a lovely way to preserve traditions and keep the family’s memory alive.
What is a helpful tip for designers wanting to print fabrics for the first time?
We are geeks for fabric design and printing and love chatting with people interested in what we do and how printing works. We suggest talking to your printer to get familiar with their print processes and practices. Learn and understand artwork setup specifications and requirements. Every print studio will have its artwork requirements based on the printing software and printers they use. If something needs to be clarified, always ask questions. Use optional services to make sure your artwork is print ready. For first-time clients, we recommend the file check option; this will eradicate any mistakes in the file setup process and strike-offs (swatch printing) to ensure you are happy with colours, print quality, the scale of your design and the chosen fabric. If you are after a particular colour, colour matching service might be necessary to help you to achieve that dream hue.
What does good business mean to you?
A good business is a sustainable business in all its aspects. It’s a business that doesn’t impact the world negatively. This is a great starting point, which should be further layered with an aim for a positive impact through building a business culture and processes that support it. Digital Fabrics is not there yet. Even simply by living our lives every second, we impact the world, and most of the time, our environmental impact is predominantly negative rather than not. So, running a business, especially a good one, is challenging.
I aim to focus on the things that I can change. With each step and decision, consider its impact and move towards better. This means taking care of the team, and myself, keeping our mental health in check and taking care of our customers. Bringing compassion into good customer service, understanding people’s needs, and assurance in our services go a long way, making our customers’ lives a little bit better.
Environmental impact is a big conversation around the studio. Even though the whole business concept is printing on demand without any leftover stock, producing only the required fabric, we still have some waste. Leftover pieces from our making services, miss-prints, and faulty fabrics. We recycle leftovers, and perhaps one day, we will have a fabric in stock woven from our pile of scraps. Implementing internal systems that help us minimise that impact is constantly adjusting. We also love supporting creatives and creative initiatives and living better through that. If anyone reading this has a great creative idea, get in touch!