Scouring design shows around the world, The Textile Eye offers detailed reports on the latest trends, showcasing beautiful work, cutting-edge concepts, fresh colors and stunning craftsmanship. Saana Baker, founder of The Textile Eye, joins us to discuss the creative process in creating this digital design database, and her mission to ease creative burnout among her fellow design professionals.
Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop The Textile Eye?
Saana Baker: I’ve been working as a textile designer for more than two decades, both in-house and more recently as a consultant. About six years ago, I was really struggling with creative burnout. I found myself consumed with the day-to-day tasks of running a business, things like spreadsheets and emails. Even though I had days when I just didn’t feel the creative spark, I still had deliverables and deadlines, and to meet them I would end up creatively exhausted. Luckily, around that time I had the opportunity to do a trend and show report for a client. I went to Maison et Objet and Paris Deco Off for the first time, these are the two trade shows that happen in Paris in January. I was just overwhelmed by the beauty that I saw that first year. The amazing variety of work, the texture, the color, the techniques and stories, it was like a breath of fresh air. I felt so lit up by the work I saw, I really wanted to communicate that in the report and share it with my clients. I was able to bring home the creative excitement of the show so I could draw from it later, and it’s what I now share with my subscribers. This experience was what sparked me to create The Textile Eye, which launched in April 2019.
Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final ‘product’?
Saana: The first one really took a while because it was a nascent thought for a long time and had several iterations as reports for private clients. These days we generally have about a 10-week time frame that we’re working in to create the quarterly reports. We start with research (scour Instagram, go to a show, do interviews, reach out for imagery). Themes and palettes start to take shape, then we start to lay out the report and work with our freelance writer, Tracy Bulla, on the special features. That takes about six weeks, with the last few weeks being pretty intense work. And this is alongside my client work, so I don’t get too many days off right before the reports come out!
Raymond: What was your initial inspiration? Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Saana: I guess my audience IS my inspiration.
The initial inspiration was understanding what I need as a designer, and what I had needed as a younger designer, before I was able to travel and spend time seeking out fabulous work. I always love to see beautiful work—not to copy it, but to be uplifted by it and to have the bar raised. For some people taking a walk in nature really inspires them. Others might prefer to see an exhibit or a fantastic collection, or spend time with design books, or online researching movements or design histories or traditions. I’ve always wished that the home-furnishings industry had a publication that really focused on textiles, and so far, that really doesn’t exist. So, I kind of created it for myself 10 or 20 years ago: a designer who loves what she does, but who ends up sitting behind a desk or behind a computer for many hours and needs some rich visual input.
I also created it for a design director or a principal of a design firm who does get the chance to travel to the shows and to keep up with new introductions and innovations but might not have the bandwidth to curate that in a lovely way for their own staff. The Textile Eye is a resource that firm owners can use to enable their staff to be able to do their best work.
My audience is made up of textile designers in the home furnishing space, including wallcovering designers, rug designers, and also all the interior designers and decorators who consider themselves to be “textile” people. In short, designers who want to always be learning and be inspired.
Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Saana: The Textile Eye team is myself and Robyn Willson, who is my managing editor and design assistant. Before COVID, we would travel to the trade shows and take our own shots of all the product that we found exciting. This would mean running around and just keeping our eyes peeled and seeing and photographing as much as possible. The work would begin back at home after the show: curating photos into a report is what enables me to assimilate everything—to see the trends and the colors and the work more clearly. We put it together by visual theme and color theme, and usually include an exhibition and some profiles to provide a 200-page infusion of amazing inspiration.
Obviously, once the trade shows shut down, we had to have a big pivot. We had made a lot of great connections with brands and makers and PR firms, so we were able to keep going. The first post-COVID report was one that was a sort of virtual Salone where we reached out to a bunch of Italian brands and international brands that would normally show at Salone. They sent us literally thousands of pictures to curate and choose from. While it was challenging, it was very similar to my normal way of working, where I come back from a show with thousands of pictures and immerse myself.
On the technical side, I use Adobe Lightroom to sort images, and I use InDesign for the layouts. My husband Matt is a computer scientist at NASA, and he has written a computer script that helps me with captioning my images. For the color palettes, I cross-reference hex to Pantones, so the Pantone books are an important tool. Our website allows our subscribers to download the digital reports on a quarterly basis. The last step is always printing the quarterly report and sending them out via US Postal Service to all of our print and corporate subscribers.
Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos.
Saana: I believe that when designers are inspired and empowered, they create high integrity objects of compelling presence: sustainably made, beautiful, and satisfying to the soul. The Textile Eye is like an elixir to guard against creative burnout, it’s all about empowering designers to do their best work by keeping them uplifted and inspired.
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