I’ve always wanted to see inside Dena Fishbein’s head. Designer, TV host, and entrepreneur of Dena Designs always comes out with collections for Free Spirit Fabrics that are colorful, original, and immediately identifiable as Dena. We asked her about her latest collection, Christmas Snow Flower, and about how she got started designing fabric. Well! Talk about a lady destined for design greatness! And psst, there’s a free quilt pattern available for Christmas Snow Flower, shown below!
It was an accident really, just a twist of fate that got me in to the design business. Let’s just say I’m no Picasso. As a little girl I never even liked drawing or painting…but I did love to create, to make things, to design and construct entire environments that would bubble up in my imagination. There were miniature villages made from paper and cardboard, complete with houses, furniture, and blooming gardens. My trolls were the best-dressed toys in town, decked out in my own clothing lines and accessories. Born to create, I guess you could say! I got a special thrill from making things, or thinking of services that people would actually want and need.
By college graduation, I had notched four fantastic years and learned loads about design. And there was this really cute guy, Danny, who was living in New York; my high school sweetheart in fact. (The same man is now my husband and father of our three wonderful kids.) So, I packed up my designs and sewing machine, put grad school plans on hold, and headed east. I knew New York was a tough town, but figured there would be some sort of entry-level job in the design industry with my name on it.
The ad in the paper said, “Textile Designer Wanted at Sales Agency”. I called, said that would be me, arranged a meeting, and panicked. I had never designed a textile and had three days to come up with a presentable portfolio. As it turned out the bar for acceptance at the agency could not have been lower. The compensation was based completely on commissions. What did they have to lose?
Almost immediately another long-dormant fire was rekindled…the joy of being involved in the market place, of making things that, somehow, spoke to someone else’s taste and needs. Since then I’ve been licensing my work to manufacturers all over the world. It seems that my work stands out because, in part, I was never fully trained as a painter and never possessed a talent for realistic rendering. What I do simply comes from my heart. I’m back creating worlds…and loving it. The amazing part is that it all somehow resonates with a large number of people from all walks of life around the world.
Much of my inspiration comes from the things I surround myself with: a home that is bursting with children, pets, friends and of course our flea market finds. Our garden is a favorite source for ideas about color, color and more color! Danny and I spend one day each month scouring flea markets and tag sales looking for old items that inspire me. I love to combine that vintage feel with a whimsical twist in my designs. I’m always looking for some unique way to create something that is simultaneously modern and nostalgic.
ABOUT CHRISTMAS SNOWFLOWER
I’ve always loved the combination of florals and geometrics. I’ve been designing fabric for over 20 years now and it’s something I try to incorporate into every collection. When designing the Christmas Snowflower group, I wanted the designs to look Christmas-y and cheerful while having a modern, fresh feel.
Usually, I’ll start a collection by very roughly pencil sketching some ideas onto plain paper. The pattern mix is usually a combination of large and small florals and geometrics. Once I’m pleased with these quick sketches I’ll lightly pencil in the designs onto watercolor paper. I use designers gouache to hand color each design. We’ll weed out some prints and add others as necessary. Once everyone is really happy with the mix, it’s off to the printer with Free Spirit Fabrics.
Our next collection, which is in the process of being printed right now, is called Leanika. It has a wonderful vintage feel combined with a modern twist that keeps the collection looking very fresh.
I love these kinds of stories. I would love to see the presentation that got her the job!
what a great story…and BEAUTIFUL designs!
I love these!
Very pretty designs. Love your story too. So cool how you got started.
I've been a Dena fan since back in the early 90s when I worked at a store that sold her cards. I'd buy them and never send them to anyone because I just wanted to keep them around to look at them.
I promise to buy this precious fabric … and use it.