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Today we’re featuring another hugely talented graduate in our Alumni profile series, Yolanda Zarins, who was recently commissioned to present work at the VIVID (Vibrant Visions In Design) exhibition as part of the Decor+Design Show in Melbourne.


Image: Yolanda Zarins – courtesy Chris Phelps Photography

Yolanda graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Textile Design from RMIT, and now runs a small textile studio in Hobart, Tasmania. “I am the happiest on bush wanderings, bursting with admiration for my surroundings and full of ideas. Many of my textiles pay homage to the natural landscape in Tasmania, fragments of which often live in my imagination for months, before translating onto cloth. I delight in glimpses and memories of a wild land finding a final home indoors, becoming part of an interior environment.”

We caught up with her for a quick chat just after the launch of her limited edition collection for VIVID:

Image: VIVID design exhibition – courtesy VIVID + Elleni Toumpas Photography


Image: VIVID design exhibition – courtesy VIVID + Elleni Toumpas Photography

What is your current role?

Owner of my very small business, Yolanda Zarins Designs.  I started working for myself in April, 2015 after working in arts production and graphic design for two years and making small runs of my own work in spare time.  I still work as a contractor as a graphic designer for organisations and private clients, but now get to spend the bulk of my time printing, dyeing and making fabrics from beautiful materials for sale online, at markets, custom orders and for local retailers.


Tell me a little bit about your background – how did you come to textiles and where has it led you?

I came into textiles knowing very little about what it was.  I completed high school in Tasmania, and at the time, there were no textile courses at school or folio courses to help with university entry.  One of my art teachers in grade 12 suggested that I look into textile design as most of my artistic output  was based on pattern and fabric.  I was really excited when I researched what a textile designer did (because I had no idea!), and that something that felt so normal and fun to me had the potential to be a career!  I am really fortunate how naturally the whole journey progressed, and it is incredible how much I have learned, enjoyed and discovered considering how naïve I was about it all.


How do you define your style?

Free spirited and authentic.  My style is very much defined by what I am capable of doing with the space and equipment I have. My set up is very lo-fi with a print table, sewing machine and dye buckets.  Having restrictions has allowed me to develop my style thoughtfully and slowly, creating unique, one of a kind and limited edition fabrics and products.

Image: Yolanda Zarins process in progress – Chris Phelps Photography

What does a typical working day involve?

This is my first year of running my business, and every day, week and month is different and often challenging.  A typical day in the studio involves an early start, emailing, scheduling meetings, ordering raw materials, keeping up with my production timelines to stock retailers, markets and online orders, book keeping and promoting my work.  At the moment, it’s all run by me, so there is a lot of admin, which I actually don’t mind.  I have learned a lot about small business and how things are going to work for me in the coming years. It would be nice to have more time to experiment and draw, though!  My aim is to employ someone to help with admin and sewing in a few years time so I can have more time to develop designs and new ideas.


What are the rewards of your job/work?

Even though this year so far has been a lot of work , I find it easy to stay motivated because I have enjoyed it so much.  The best thing so far has been customers being really excited to buy my work, commenting about how different it is and being interested in how something has been made.  Being able to say ‘yes’ and having time to undertake unique projects and opportunities (custom orders, exhibiting in a trade show) is really uplifting and makes me feel like I am moving in the right direction.


Are there particular artists or designers you admire? What is it about them that you admire?

Working for a local community arts organisation, Kickstart Arts, for the past 2 years, I have met many talented artists who work with communities to make people happier, increase their literacy, improve their health and invite them to share their unique and beautiful stories.  The artists I got to meet and work with during this time were from dance, theatre, music, film making and visual arts backgrounds, and all brought something different to working with people from different backgrounds, many of who had never made art before. There is a lot to admire about artists working with communities, but I especially love that they have an approach that art is for everyone and that each person has something to offer creatively.  Being from a design background, where participation can sometimes be exclusive, this was really refreshing, and made me think about my work , and life, really differently.


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Image: ‘Knocklofty’ by Yolanda Zarins – Chris Phelps Photography


How do you stay inspired?

Getting out and about on bush walks is refreshing and inspiring in developing new prints.  My most recent collection, ‘Knocklofty’, is named after a bush reserve 10 minutes drive from my home.  Prints and colours in the collection were drawn from landscape, mood and plant details I observed in the area. My favourite print in this collection, ‘Trail’ is based on meandering through the reserve tracks.


What did you take out of your Textile Design training?

The RMIT BA course was intense and challenging!  Every project was a stretch of my ability and  I was constantly put out of my comfort zone.  Knowing this, and knowing I graduated is reassuring when I take on a big project or it takes me time to figure something out.

In my final year, I did work experience at three very different companies including Warwick Fabrics, Brintons and Ella Sanders.  This gave me a  good taster of a designers role working in a textile studio for a big company compared to a designer operating a small business.  I am really happy I took advantage of work experience and volunteering as much as I did while I was still studying to see what the industry is really like. It was an invaluable experience for me.

Image: ‘Frond’ tea towel by Yolanda Zarins – Chris Phelps Photography


What was your career dream or goal when you graduated? Have your expectations changed?

I wanted to be free to keep making and being creative when I graduated, so working for myself has been a satisfying step as I get to do that every day. I expected things to progress and move faster than they did. I have a lot of ideas about things to make, but it took me a long to get the confidence to actually make work and put my name to it.  As I go on, I am realising it is a good thing that my business is growing slowly, as there is heaps to learn and adapt to along the way.


What do you find most exciting about the industry today?

Access to information and access to technology.  Designers have all the resources they need at their fingertips, and if they can’t figure something out or afford something they need, it is possible to collaborate and innovate to get a solution.


What role do you think design will play in the future? What are its potentials and its challenges?

While access to information is great, it means that everyone has similar information, so designers need to be more innovative and creative that ever before to be successful and remain unique.  It might be one of the best times to be a designer, but also the most challenging.  I think there is a lot of potential in collaborating and talking with other designers and learning from each others approaches.  My boyfriend studies game design, which I love talking about with him.  It is a fascinating industry to me because of what is being produced by small time, indie studios doing amazing things, such as creating complex algorithms that mimc nature to generate diverse, never ending universes, so they don’t have to employ 300 staff to create artwork and programming for something so detailed.  I think its amazing!


If you could get access to anything in the world, what would it be and how would you change it?

I would want everyone in the world, from all countries to be able to contribute and access information related to technology and design.  So many designers are really protective about how they make things, but I think that is not a good way forward and people should share everything so that design can keep getting more innovative and extraordinary.

Image: ‘Pozo’ by Yolanda Zarins – Chris Phelps Photography


If I was to give you a piece of fabric what would you do with it? Quick! 

I would use it as a chance to play and experiment! I have a lot of fabric in the studio most of the time, but it all gets made into products I need to sell.  I don’t have the luxury of testing new things all the time, making mistakes and happy accidents, but it is the funnest part of the design process.


What are you looking forward to?

I am applying for a grant at the moment to get a sample quantity of my designs printed into yardage by an Australian studio so I can have a go at wholesaling my designs to trade customers for interior decorating and soft furnishings.  A year ago this was a far away dream of mine, but getting time to get stuck into my business and make plans has got me closer to the goal a lot faster than I thought possible.

Thanks Yolanda for taking the time to share with us your insights – we’ll be following future projects with keen interest!

Follow Yolanda’s practice (and of course buy her products online!) via all the links:

Web: Yolandazarins.com

blog:  http://yolandazarins.blogspot.com.au/

instagram: @yolandazarins

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yolandazarinsdesigns

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