ERMIE started out as a blog, named after Jennifer Parry Dodge’s great aunt who encouraged Jennifer’s creativity. ERMIE then developed into a clothing line defined by Jennifer’s beautiful prints and modern but simple lines. Jennifer designs and creates the prints for all the ERMIE pieces that are then hand-made in Los Angeles, CA where she lives. Jennifer also donates a portion of each sale to charity, so you can feel even better about buying one of her pieces!
What led you to choose textile design as a career?
My initial education was in fine art printmaking- I went to art school. I loved drawing, monoprinting, etching, screen printing. I’ve always loved color and pattern. Then I took a bit of a detour and went back to school to become a nurse. While I was working as a nurse, I discovered blogging as a creative outlet. The first blog I ever came across was Lena Corwin’s – who is a textile designer. Her work really piqued my interest, and I started hand printing textiles and making clothing out of them as a creative exercise.
Where do you find inspiration for your prints?
I find inspiration all around me. My environment and the natural world provide endless inspiration. My current collection and my last (Fall/ Winter 2010) were developed almost exclusively from photographs I took. A photograph of light coming in through our bedroom window filtered through our quince bushes became the Bokeh Print (FW 10) for example. An iPhone snapshot of the shadows cast by a neighbor’s plants on the sidewalk is the basis for the Avenue 51 Print (SP/SU 11). I love hand-printed, hand-dyed and hand-woven textiles from all over the world. The traditional ikat and shibori fabrics of Japan have been a recent influence on my work.
What are your influences for your clothing designs?
Mostly, I try to keep the garments simple as my textiles are usually pretty vibrant and boldly patterned. I of course look at the work of past and present designers. Sometimes I’ll pick up a vintage article of clothing and be inspired by it’s cut or a little detail. I love the clothing of the 1920’s, 60’s and 70’s. I’m also inspired by the garments made and worn by various native and indigenous peoples.
You have many musical references, do you think music inspires your designs? Do you have a favorite type of music to listen to as you work?
Definitely! Music is very important. Sometimes it’s not just the music, but also the style and attitude of the musician. Patti Smith and her creative spirit provides a lot of inspiration and motivation for me. Not in the sense that she would ever wear my designs, but in the sense that her pursuit of art is very encouraging. That you can be true to your art and have a successful, full life.
I don’t have a favorite type of music. My taste in music is pretty eclectic. I’m a KCRW (local radio station in Santa Monica) junkie (and member!).
How did you go about creating a workspace that worked for you and your creative process?
Just by using what I have available to me. I work out of my home. When I first started designing textiles, I worked in a little corner of our living room. Right now our second bedroom is my studio. Moving into that space made a big difference in taking my work seriously. My husband built shelves for me and a cutting table. I have my entire textile collection on display, stacked on the shelves, which is nice. I’m literally surrounded by pattern and color while I work. I do wish I had more natural light and space. Even if I had a studio outside of my home, it would have to be close by. I know myself- if my studio was across town I’d never go!
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
Follow your heart. Be true to yourself. Don’t copy the work of other designers. It’s okay to be influenced by the work of others- nothing is really new- but it’s also important to be respectful of the work that others have made. Have integrity.
Do you have any suggestions for anyone interested in creating their own textiles for the first time?
There are so many directions you could go in! It’s limitless. I’m discovering new processes, techniques and ideas to try all of the time. Pursue what you are drawn to even if it doesn’t initially make any sense. It will lead you to all kinds of unexpected, wonderful paths and results.
Who are some other designers that you admire?
Lina Rennell, Caitlin Mociun, Rachel Comey, and Akira Minagawa are a few. I really can’t list everyone, but lately I have been into the projects of Susan Cianciolo, Mike Mills’ textiles, and Cosmic Wonder. The work of Sheila Hicks and Nancy Shaver have also been recent influences.
What do you think makes your designs unique?
I’m not afraid of pattern and color and I think that comes through the work! I also think I notice the small things that are often overlooked by other people- and realize that they would make great textiles- such as the light and shadows I mentioned earlier.
Can you describe the process you go through to create your textiles?
I’ve been using a digital printer for the past two collections. It’s so much fun and almost ridiculously simple. I basically send the printer an image in a jpeg format, select the type of repeat or placement I want and they do the rest.
For upcoming collections I’m interested in getting back to incorporating more hand-drawn elements. I’ve collaborated with my husband, Tomory Dodge, who is an artist on several prints- using some of his paintings, drawings and collages as source material. We’ll continue to collaborate on prints, but I also feel it’s time for me to create my own drawings and paintings to work off of. I also have a few other Los Angeles artists who are interested in collaborating with me on prints- so that is very exciting.
If you had to pick, which one of your designs would be your favorite?
That’s really difficult! It’s like being asked to choose a favorite out of your children! As I’m typing this response I’m wearing a simple silk tee that I designed. The print on it is derived from a photograph I took of a spectrum cast on the wall by a bike reflector. I’ve worn it the past two days in a row! That’s as close as I can get to answering that question.
What is the one tool you couldn’t work without?
My Sajou Hare embroidery scissors. Not only are they shaped like a rabbit, they are very sharp and precise. I love them.
Where do you hope to see Ermie going in the future?
I hope it grows in a sustainable manner. I like that it’s a small business, but it would be great if someday it could provide jobs for other people. My ultimate dream is for ERMIE to become something akin to Marimekko. To expand into clothing, textiles, home goods. If I can just keep doing what I love, I’ll be happy.
You can see more of her work on the Ermie blog or shop via Big Cartel.
June 10, 2011 #
wow, lovely fabrics prints!:)
June 10, 2011 #
Gorgeous fabrics, I immediately went to search for the Mariposa skirt, but it’s gone. You do beautiful work Jennifer!
June 11, 2011 #
Thanks Iveta & Skye.
And thanks again Kirsten for writing such a wonderful piece, and to Sarai for having a such a marvelous blog & business and giving both Kirsten and myself this opportunity.
Skye: you could contact me via my email (located on my blog) if you are interested in the skirt. It was a F/W ’10 item- but I do take custom orders!
Thanks again ladies!
June 26, 2011 #
Wow! I love the range of colours used in the ERMIE designs. Lovely! and thanks for your inspiring words!
August 19, 2013 #
Jennifer. I love the blue dress the best!
What do you think about Spoonflower for a beginning fabric designing way to go. i do not have a digital printer or is that just a usual printer that reproduces photos? i have designs already on JPEG but not sure what to do next. I have no contacts.