Interview – Harvest Textiles

Vibrant prints on soft organic cotton yardage (top) & Bat in A Bag Kit - make your own! (above)

Vibrant prints on soft organic cotton yardage & Bat in A Bag Kit – make your own!

As the saying goes, “good things come in threes”. In January this year, Jess Wright, Emma Byrnes and Lara Davies decided to combine their various skills and launch their wonderful new business, Harvest Textiles.  Together, their skills span graphic design, children’s ware design, fine arts, journalism, film, electronic design animation & retail!
Love the shadow art!
Love the shadow art!

It was whilst visiting the Melbourne Design Market at Federation Square  a few weeks ago, that I first discovered Harvest Textiles.  A crowded scene always draws attention – and it was here I found Emma screen printing the beautiful bird design (see tea towel centre) on to brown paper for customers hot off the press (okay – screen).  A further look at the stall revealed a vibrant range of tea towels, yardage, children’s clothes and soft toys all printed on organic cotton with stunning artistic designs, and Lara and Jess happily interacting with all their customers (all the girls are so lovely!).  And their talent doesn’t stop there. They SHARE their skills by running screen printing workshops in the Ink & Spindle studio (yet another talented textile design business), showing you the tricks of the trade and letting you get hands on experience – The best part is that all and sundry are welcome – NO EXPERIENCE OR DESIGN SKILLS NECESSARY!

Emma hard at work screen printing

Emma hard at work screen printing

Between running workshops, collaborating on designs, attending markets and the recent Design:Made:Trade show, the Harvest Textiles  team found some time to give us a little insight into their new business ….

1) Who is Harvest Textiles and what inspired you to start your business?

 Harvest Textiles is the team Jess Wright, Emma Byrnes and Lara Davies.  We met in rather random ways and were inspired by some international craft and textile schools which were running amazing workshops.  Lara had been teaching classes at the CAE for a number of years and was keen to do something on her own turf. Em sold her organic store PLUMP in Yarraville last year that she had owned for seven years. She was keen to do something that involved making, and Jess had designed children’s wear for large businesses such as BONDS and MYER and was keen to work for herself.  We all wanted to embark on a venture with integrity and with a very supportive family base to it.  We realised very quickly that our skills are complimentary and that we have a lot of fun working together.

 2) How would you describe Harvest Textiles’ style?

Our style is collaborative in that the three of us design and bring ideas to the table, and then throw them up in the air and see what falls back down. A classic representation of this is the talking bird print. There is a little bit of all of us in that print, and it represents really well what we do as it is playful yet elegant with pretty patterns too. We have tried to veer away from trends and just follow our hearts. We love pattern and line and we think that really comes out in what we do.  We like to have a mixture of modern design and traditional textile references, and reference patterns in all of our designs. Our colour palette is very muted. This reflects our use of organic fabrics, as the beautiful softness in our fabric colours occurs when you start from an unbleached surface instead of a stark white one.  It also really affects the handle of a fabric as organic cotton is just amazingly soft.

3) What happens during a “typical” day at Harvest textiles?

Wow – a typical day at Harvest! They don’t really seem to follow any pattern as we are all mummas of small kids so the days tend to have a very organic flow to them. We usually email each other every night with news or things to do, and that way we can work on things if any time crops up during the day. In the week we go into the studio about 1-2 nights per week, often at about 7.30pm when our kids are fed (and hopefully in bed) and in the day time we fit in admin and errands around having time with our kids. They do get dragged around to fabric suppliers, the studio and various places pretty often. We had Lara’s son napping in the pram while producing this new range of yardage with Lara going “don’t wake that baby or else!”. Once a month we give ourselves a Saturday off to enjoy the weekend, or work on something like a print run of yardage in a concentrated fashion. Lara and Em live across the road from each other, so most days they touch base with a cuppa surrounded by children nutting out projects and hatching plans (us and the children). The beauty of our dynamic is we have an understanding that our families come first and foremost and then the business flows around it. We have only been in business since January so every day seems to present a brand new challenge to get our heads around which all three of us really enjoy. Having little kids means we all have to be organised and efficient, and we often thank the universe for the internet so women like us can run a business in an untraditional way!

4) Can you tell us about your workshops/Do participants need to have any design background/experience to attend?

Our workshops are designed to suit all levels of experience. We get a real mix of people who might have no experience or work in creative jobs. But the one thing they all have in common is nearly everyone says they can’t draw! Which is simply not true. We have set up the classes so all the stress is taken out of the design process but everyone still comes up with their own print designs. We have a lot of good feedback about people’s time at our workshops. People like that they are so hands on and easy to fit into a busy life. And we have fun doing them and meeting lovely people. 

 5) What eco friendly practices do you adopt at Harvest Textiles?

We endeavour to use certified organic or recycled fabrics, we also use water based printing inks that are non toxic. We have been lucky enough to sublet at the Ink and Spindle studio and they work with the same philosophies as us. They have a separation tank set up that collects all the pigment that would otherwise wash down the drain and we all use high pressure hoses to minimise water usage. We are dreaming of one day using tank water when we set up our own studio in the not so distant future.

 6) What can we expect to see from Harvest Textiles in the future?

We are all feeling very excited about the direction of the business at present. We just launched a new range at the Design Made Trade Show, and received a really warm response which was very heartening.  We are looking at opening a second teaching venue later in the year which will become our head office for printing, production and workshops. We will also be holding some children’s craft and art workshops there as well which will be heaps of fun. We will also keep teaching at Ink and Spindle – so don’t worry there will still be chances to check out that beautiful studio. In the not so distant future you can keep an eye on our website, as we are hoping to have an expanded stockist list in the next month. And keep an eye on the blog for some upcoming print collaborations we have on the boil.


Thanks Lara, Emma and Jess for combining your interests and providing us with a great range – I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of you!

 If you would like to try your hand at screenprinting, pop on over to the  Harvest Textiles website and book! .

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