Exploring Avant Garde Textile & Wallpaper Design with San Francisco-Based elworthy studio
Kate Miller is the talented designer and artist behind San Francisco-based elworthy studio, creating nonconformist, environmentally-conscious textiles and wallpapers. She’s known for her earthy color palette and avant garde designs, inspired by natural beauty and urban grit.
Kate has diverse experience in design and retail, an eye for style, and a unique ability to predict what’s next. Eager to explore an artistic outlet to express her creativity, she left the fashion industry to pursue her studies in textile design, opening her world. Kate shares her inspiration behind elworthy studio designs, the design scene in San Francisco, and tips on how to source the right wallpaper & fabric for a space.
Kate – how did you get where you are today?
I first gained experience working for two very different retail fashion companies; a large, established corporation (Bloomingdale’s) and a small but rapidly growing start-up (Indochino). Working for these companies on the opposite ends of the spectrum gave me a great business education while allowing me to develop my personal style and aesthetic.
During my time at Indochino, I ended up managing the fashion and textile designers and discovered my love for textile design! I went back to school for textile design to hone my technical skills, and once I had the skills I needed, I made the decision to launch elworthy studio.
elworthy studio produces nonconformist wallpapers and fabrics…which techniques, materials and palettes do you like to use and why?
I take an experimental approach to designing, exploring a variety of fine art and craft processes and applying them to textile/wallcovering design. I have one collection that was created by dyeing fabric with rusted objects, and another that was based entirely on original prints I made using alternative photography.
I’m drawn to earthy palettes for sure, and by that, I most definitely do NOT mean shades of beige and brown. I absolutely love color and feature it prominently in my designs, but the colors I choose are typically softer and less saturated. That said, I was recently craving some bolder hues so I introduced a new design in two colorways that are quite bright!
“San Francisco has such a great juxtaposition of natural beauty and urban grit, and that opposition served as a muse for the past collections.”
All pieces in your collection are made-to-order using environmentally responsible production practices…what’s your creative process like from idea to finish?
I’ve been lucky in that I don’t have to look hard for inspiration…it usually strikes me in a sudden and profound way! Once I have a source of inspiration, I connect it with a process. In the past, the processes were rust-dyeing and alternative photography. Lately, I’ve reconnected with my painterly side and am working with mark-making and printmaking techniques. I let intuition guide me during this tactile part of the process, keeping it loose and experimental (rather than getting fixated on what I want the finished designs or collection to “look” like). I usually create a large body of work, then edit and refine what I feel are the best design ideas.
Once I’ve created a design by hand, I scan it and turn to digital techniques to create the finished repeat prints and various colorways. From there, I send the files out to my suppliers to start the sampling process. This can take a while, especially getting the color just right! Once the samples are approved, it is ready to go into production.
“I let intuition guide me during this tactile part of the process, keeping it loose and experimental.”
What are the modern day textile and wallpaper trends you are into right now?
I am currently really loving textured fabrics and wall coverings…embroidery, beading and leather. Digital printing is the best fit for my designs and business right now, but it is inspiring to see the possibilities of layering and creating three dimensional decor…maybe in the future!
Can you name some spaces featuring elworthy studio textiles/wallpaper that you are particularly proud of?
We just installed wallpaper on two feature walls in our new home, so I am pretty psyched about those! Another favorite installation is a Bay Area workspace that features my wallpaper, textiles, and some original photographic prints from my Clair Obscur collection.
How do you use the city of San Francisco as a source of inspiration?
San Francisco has such a great juxtaposition of natural beauty and urban grit, and that opposition served as a muse for the past collections. My husband and I moved down the coast to Half Moon Bay a few months ago so now I have a new muse! The landscapes and native plants of this area are my current inspiration.
What’s the design scene like in San Francisco?
Super supportive. There aren’t a ton of other textile/wallpaper designers in SF but I’ve gotten to know a few. We are always happy to help each other or serve as a sounding board…it’s really nice to be part of a community that is about supporting each other rather than competing!
I’ve also gotten to know many interior designers who really like sourcing local products for their clients (and it seems like more clients are shifting towards featuring local art and design in their homes, yay!).
Who are some local interior designers you like to work with?
Ahh, so many! I love the Bay Area designers. Special mention to Evars + Anderson…I’ve done a bunch of projects with them including a collaboration for their new furniture line Moxiemade. They are great to work with – talented, fun, and smart. And still many more that I’m dying to work with (I’m looking at you Kristen Pena)!
How do you typically work with interior designers?
My line is usually shown to designers by my Showrooms or road reps, so I don’t always get to interact with designers. That said, I’ve done many presentations for design firms or had designers come to me for studio visits. Those opportunities are a treat…I love meeting my clients face-to-face and sharing my process with them.
What are 3 tips of “best practices” you can offer interior designers for choosing the right textile or wallpaper for a space?
1. Consider scale. I love rooms with layered pattern, but this works best when you include prints of different scales. We can easily customize the scale of our prints to suit your project.
2. Feature walls! I get so many wallpaper orders for powder rooms and laundry rooms. This tells me that people love pattern but are afraid to go big. Feature walls are the perfect middle ground here – one wallpapered wall behind a dining room table or bed can have the same transformative effect on a space and serve double duty as artwork. Ceilings are also a great place to add color and pattern without committing to full room wallpaper.
3. Try custom. So many artisan brands, including elworthy studio, are happy to collaborate with designers to create something bespoke. Many of our designs can be printed in custom colors and it’s as simple as sending us a paint color or Pantone reference! We can also create a custom design from scratch.