SKETCH TO STYLE with FOUR HENS DESIGN
Blue Mosaic Pillow Hannah Loomis, a designer and personal friend of mine recently launched what I think is a super cute, affordable store called Four Hens Design. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to sit down and speak with her about her process from idea to sketch to clothing layout. I've personally always been curious about the way that certain designs lay on specific pieces, and am just so excited we were able to discuss her method and also, where that super fun name came from!
DS: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into design?
HL: I’ve always been interested in design to some degree, probably the way lots of little girls are - I loved to draw beautiful dresses and imagine elaborate homes and magical places. I spent a lot of time poring over home design and decoration books. I was a pretty dreamy kid, often in my own world. When I was about 10 years old I daydreamed about a fantasy bedroom which was an indoor forest, and my bed was a cave with the mattress covering the whole floor. I thought about it in great detail; I can still picture it and wish I had it now!
I tend to interact with the world in a very visual way. I can’t say I was especially focused on or talented at making art, though. My first love was music, and I spent many years studying and playing different instruments. I still think of myself foremost as a musician - these days I sing when I can, but not nearly as often as I’d like. It’s hard to fit all my interests in.
Aspen Leaves Camouflage Dress
I probably first got somewhat serious about design when I was in my 20s, working in marketing at an architecture/design firm. I felt a real kinship with the designers and dearly wanted to design things myself. I took a couple of graphic design classes at Mass College of Art, which were really interesting, but I saw a steep learning curve ahead of me. I’m sorry to say I was easily discouraged and wasn’t patient enough to keep working at it, so I moved on to other things.
But I’ve kept coming back to design; it seems to have a hold on me. Many years later I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. It was incredibly difficult and frustrating, but I wanted to use them so much that I stuck with it. It took a while but I finally got somewhat competent at using them, and felt I had tools to create things I imagined. "I want to make pieces that are interesting and affordable."
DS: How did Four Hens Design come about?
HL: I believe Four Hens Design came about when a colleague was having a birthday party and I was trying to think of something inexpensive but nice to give her, and of course I only had a couple of days to do it in. I don’t really know what possessed me, but I designed and made a fun little purse for her, with her first initial on a front pocket. It combined different colorful fabrics, and was just playful. She liked it so much that she commissioned me to Four Hens Onesie
make two little monogrammed purses for twin daughters of a friend.
I realized how much fun it was to work with different patterns and colors and I seemed to have a knack for it. I started creating other pieces, and came up with the idea of a tooth fairy pillow with a little handmade felt critter in the pocket. People seemed to really like them!
At the time my husband, daughter and I were living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we had recently brought home four chicks. They grew into four actual egg-laying hens, and somehow I thought of calling my design venture Four Hens Design. In reality I had the name before I had much of a business, but it’s really stuck through the years.
Four Hens Design Logo
DS: What kind of customer does Four Hens take into consideration?
HL: I would guess my designs and products appeal most to women; they’re on the feminine side, although I have a strong streak of very clean, modern aesthetic in me. No matter how I start off with a design it seems to end up being pretty colorful and playful!
I want to make pieces that are interesting and affordable. I realize that’s relative. I’m less interested in luxury items and more interested in things that are approachable and comfortable to have around. I also tend toward humorous, off-beat things and a certain amount of wackiness, so I hope my products attract people with a similar bent. "Can’t we be comfortable and look like adults without being boring?"
DS: What is the most important element for you when sitting down to create a piece for Four Hens?
HL: When I begin designing a new piece, I try to allow space and stillness around and in me so that I can tap into beauty, rhythm, color, joy. In an odd way I’m motivated by sadness. I’ve experienced a lot of sadness and it pains me to see so much in the world. I want to be reminded of all the beauty and potential around me - in people, in nature, in life. Owl and Campfire Tote Bag DS: Where do you see Four Hens going in the future? New product ideas and goals? HL: Four Hens is very much a fledgling business at this point. I just started it recently and have been struggling to find the right combination of designs, products, selling platforms... and of course, paying customers. What I’m aiming to do next is design and print fabrics, and then create pieces from them. I’d love to focus more on handmade items, even if I’m not personally making them. My big, down-the-road ambition is to design simple, flattering, comfortable, fun and colorful clothing for women using my own fabric designs. I’d love to make the clothes that I want to wear but can’t seem to find. These days it seems like most clothes for adults are so bland. When my daughter was a baby my husband and I used to love finding cute little baby things - leggings with stars on them, shirts with great prints all over - just all kinds of fun things. And we both wished we could find clothes for ourselves that were as colorful and interesting. And comfortable! Can’t we be comfortable and look like adults without being boring?
My immediate aim is to keep introducing new surface patterns to my printed products. And I’d love to add some other products, like notebooks, quilt covers, wallpaper, fabrics by the yard. I think my surface patterns are best suited to unbroken expanses.
Most of all I want to keep improving my design skills, and finding my way to creating more intricate patterns. I have lots of ideas; the hardest thing is to execute them the way I see them in my mind. Actually, maybe the hardest thing is
Hannah Loomis, 2018 choosing what to work on in the limited
time I have outside of my full-time job.