Many designers focus on a specific area. Robin Ann Meyer excels in creating patterns for two vastly different areas—home textiles and scarves. We recently caught up with the Minnesota based artist to learn more about her designs and creative process.
Meyer studied abroad, earning a BA in Illustration from the University College Falmouth in England and her MFA in Fine Art from Spain’s la Universidad Complutense. She recommends the experience of living outside of your own culture and environment.
“It builds confidence in your ability to adapt as well as give a greater appreciation for others and perspective on yourself,” she said.
After graduating, she never intended to work in textiles. “I started looking for work, and the recession hit. It was the only industry hiring and providing steady work at the time. One company I worked with early on sent me to a textile software training, and from then on, I was hooked—totally in love!”
Meyer eventually wound up working at a large New York City-based design firm. Although the company had firm design rules, she still enjoyed seeing projects with her designs being featured in magazines and chain stores.
Meyer would wind up relocating to Minneapolis, where she noticed that there was a big difference in the art and design scenes. “Minneapolis is more craft-focused than New York City. The NYC art market is seen as a way to invest financially,” she added. “That doesn’t exist here. People buy things because they like and want them, full stop.”
The other difference she has noticed is in the design aesthetics. “There are more innovative techniques and pushing of boundaries in NYC since it is the center for the fine art industry. Sometimes people buy really crazy stuff! Minneapolis has a thriving and well supported arts community but much more practical. Every purchase is to be used.”
The differences between the two environments can even be seen in her working space. Meyer’s design studio is based in the city’s Casket Arts Building, which the North Western Casket Company originally called home! “It is odd that this place was once used to deal with the sadder aspects of life, but now brings joy too so many,” she said. The space is unique, still filled with antique machines and furniture.
“In becoming independent, I was able to create my own aesthetic and have allowed it to grow organically based on direct feedback from customers. I really enjoy building this direct and immediate relationship with my customer,” she said. “It sounds cliché, but I make things for people. The closeness I have to the ‘giving process’ with a small business brings me great joy.”
In her studio, Meyer creates painted artwork that she turns into repeating patterns. She currently has over 170 original prints in her design library for future use. When designing a new product, she chooses some designs that might work. “Once I have pulled a few, I run a small focus group to see which ones resonate most with people, she said. Meyer also happily noted that her mother is always part of the focus group.
Her designs are always colorful, although she does admit to being partial to blue tones. Meyer takes influence from some of her favorite abstract expressionist painters like Ronnie Landfield and Helen Frankenthaler, partly because of their use of color. More recently, she has been admiring the daring use of patterns in the work of Josef Frank.
Her creative process is influenced by what is happening around her. One example is watching a studio mate using a lefse roller (think of a rolling pin with ridges) to make stripes on a painting and then using it herself to come up with patterns. Most recently, she took influence from her husband. “He had told me my patterns are too girl,” she said. “I had been waiting to figure out how to do it.” The result was a more straightforward, masculine pattern for her latest collection. To her, the secret of a great design is when the colors sit well together. The shapes repeat both smooth and seamless.
Meyer always stresses the importance of making products that make a positive environmental impact and are sustainable. She has switched to a digital printing process for that sole reason. Cleaning textile dyes from traditional printing screens and drums wind up releasing toxic dyes into the water system. Digital printing is also exact, with virtually no ink wastage. She takes it one step further with recycling her ink cartridges.
In addition to home textiles, Meyer also designs scarves. To her, a good scarf pattern bust is versatile and works with many different outfits. They also must be very soft and comfortable, since the neck skin is so sensitive. To accomplish both goals—as well as be made of sustainable material—her scarves are made of silk.
“The home should be a sanctuary. People need to create that perfect environment for them to come home and relax in,” she said. “Good design is crucial to this process. I love being part of helping people to create their safe space.”