Brand Spotlight: Dana Gibson
Entrepreneurial people fascinate me especially those who are artistically gifted. Dana Gibson is a woman who turned her vision into a brand and has created many licensing opportunities that are constantly growing. She is one of the lucky few who possess that lovely artistic right brain with the business sense of the left brain. Nevermind all that, I adore her style and sense of color. Anybody who puts together leopards and orange wins in my book!
Enjoy getting to know the lady behind the brand.
How did you get started designing for the home décor market?
I started making decorative home accessories about twenty years ago. My style has evolved and changed but my aim has always been to surprise and delight. I want to offer something fresh and original.
Like so many I had no idea what I wanted to do in my twenties. I tried a couple of different paths. The one that felt most natural was working in my studio all day and creating beautiful ceramics vases and bowls and selling them to high end stores across the country. Looking back it was just a whim or a dream to be a designer of home accessories . Hard work, determination, luck and the ability to distinguish myself from others in the field was what made my idea a success. As the years have gone by I’ve seen a lot of change in the market place. English Country House décor dominated the nineties . Minimalism has taken over the last decade. My product offerings have changed with the times. Now with wallpaper enjoying a resurgence, someone is as likely to paper a wall in a room as they are to paint it.
I’ve always paid attention to what’s hot in magazines and on the runways and I like to reinterpret some of the way out trends for a more conservative audience.
What inspires you?
I am pretty much my own best customer. I love color and unique and original design. I want my house to be beautiful and express who I am. I look at everything from high fashion to art and design through the last millennium and before. Since my days in college, I have always been on the hunt for unique and original stuff. I love tribal design and have been a fan of folk art since way back. I like the lack of pretension and try to keep that in mind when I create.
I truly respect artists and designers like Madeline Weinrib, Christian LaCroix, Matthew Williamson and Nicky Haslam who take risks, pushing the envelope. I like the fresh and the bold.
What is your process?
When I have an idea for a new fabric or product , I take a moment to jot it down with notes on color etc. . This initial sketch is one I refer to often because it holds the seed of my idea. In the next few weeks the idea for the lamp or the fabric gets modified and I go off on various tangents. My best ideas are impulse driven, and I have found that the first sketch is the most truthful making the design unique, original and mine.
I have always had a loose gestural drawing style. When I have my products painted in India, I want the artisans to convey that hand painted effect. When we were developing the first Stroheim Collection, the team was very careful to capture my loose, imperfect hand
What period in time most influences your work?
I grew up in the seventies so the punchbowl colors sort of resonate with me. Lilly Pulitzer was endemic and the house I grew up in was splashed with oranges and kelly green. As I experienced it, the seventies was a period of true innocence. There was a lightheartedness and a languor I love; summer afternoons, very little pressure, pleasure. Maybe it was just youth. I’d like to get back to that with what I create for the home. Every day should be a pleasure and a delight. In my new collection for Stroheim we’re developing a fresh but modern gingham, another remnant from the seventies.
How do you balance work and family?
I try not to work on the weekends but I often do. It’s usually the fun stuff like cleaning up a sketch, not the hard day to day grind. I can get consumed by the nitty gritty details and the responsibility of providing product to what seems a massive amount of stores. There is a lot involved in manufacturing products overseas which is where my lighting and accessories are made. The weekend is a time to walk away. When it’s pretty out I spend time in the garden I also love to read. I have a really wonderful husband and my children have been raised to help out a lot. My schedule is pretty doable but the weekday certainly has its challenges. Sometimes I have to remind myself to take my head out of the sand and ask someone else how their day is going.
What is your design style?
I like fresh open and airy interiors these days. In my own house I like to start a room design with neutrals like white and add the pops of delft blue or persimmon or green. My new furniture collection for The MT Company follows this formula. We have some neutral sofas, say in Belgium linen or a white faux ostritch leather ottoman and then throw in a club chair in a fun Stroheim pattern like Madagascar or Montenegro.
It’s easiest these days to decorate with neutrals but to make it personal, I like to add in a favorite print. Another update is pillows. I am so surprised how popular pillows have become. They truly have the power to transform a room.
We’re working on another Dana Gibson Collection for Stroheim. The first collection is doing really well. It offers fresh, vibrant color but as you said, the white ground color is a new direction that people are loving. It makes even a traditional home more modern. The next collection which they are calling Volume Two won’t be out for at least another 18 months. I think we’re doing trims and some performance fabrics. I’d love to try my hand at rugs. I’ve always believed this category of home decor is an essential element of a room.
What five items should every classic home have?
I could only drum up four today so I’d love to hear other answers!
- A silver backed hand mirror comes foremost to mind. I have a simple light weight one I inherited from my grandmother and it looks wonderful in my new modern bathroom. It is a personal, elegant, old world touch.
- Another classic for a home is a soaking tub. This could be a claw foot tub which I love or a new modern one like we just put in after 15 years of no tub at all. It is really the height of luxury and one of the quickest ways to slow myself down.
- Baskets are good for chores and carrying laundry. I also used them for careening toys when my kids were young. They add a natural touch to a room. So I think baskets are a must.
- I have a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter which I try to keep filled with pretty oranges, limes and pears. It just looks good. Lately I’ve been buying plums at the grocery store. If you let them ripen just until before they get wrinkled, the flesh inside is a beautiful garnet color and they are so sweet. Fruit is a great home accessory.
One last thought. Growing up I remember very well my mother adored handmade sweaters. This again was the seventies and the sweaters she got us were nubby to the touch and thick and itchy but they were real. That quality is what I hope is never missing from what I produce. The mark of the hand is very important. I do not want what I make to look like it was generated by a computer or perfect. I want it to have character. I believe character and the mark of the hand is an important element in art and design.
I believe the lovingly handmade and hand crafted aspect of many of Dana’s designs are what have us all coming back for more. They do not feel mass produced but, created just for you.
Here are a sampling of her many creations.
See the whole Stroheim collection HERE.
Here are a few fun ones…
Here are a few of my favorites in the Dana Gibson for The MT Company Upholstery Collection.
And out of the Dana Gibson brand I am coveting so many!
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I love a pattern on a finished room, but I am so afraid to use one myself.
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