Susquehanna Style May 2016 Issue

Susquehanna Style May 2016 Issue

Work of Art

The Textiles of Betsy Olmsted

by Crystal Schreffler 

“I always am looking for and seeing color!” says Betsy Olmsted.

Collecting curiosities while outdoors remains a fond childhood memory for Olmsted, who recalls having always loved animals and nature. Today, those memories form the impetus of her thriving technicolor textile company that endeavors to deliver whimsical, yet functional, art designs to accessorize fashion and homes.

With items like scarves, pillows and tea towels, Olmsted's designs allure beholders with her surging colors springing from the fabric. “I am usually drawn to ‘off’ colors and stay away from basic primaries,” says Olmsted. Since starting her self-named company in 2011, she has been using an “organic and intuitive approach towards color” and subsequently gaining much success from her keen style.

Working with such clients as Anthropologie, West Elm and Land of Nod, Olmsted originally sought to start her own company to balance her work with being a mother; “I always had the desire to start my own company and be my own boss,” -she says. Starting her business allows her the flexibility to spend time with her two boys, Emmett, 6, and Wells, 3.  

An online deal with Anthropologie “really pushed the textile printing and production,” leading the business to be listed as an LLC. Working with such large companies was really exciting for a new artist and her burgeoning company, but the deal with Land of Nod remains her favorite. “They carry my woodland mural and used huge-sized animals from the design in their storefront windows when the mural first became available,” says Olmsted.

What really sets Olmsted’s unique designs apart is the illusion of handpainted watercolor on fabric, which is, in fact, her goal. “I sketch and plan the imagery, then paint in watercolor and gouache,” she explains. (Gouache is an opaque watercolor that can be applied in solid colors.) Finished pieces are then scanned to create a digital file that can be used to apply the designs to any textile, creating the desired appearance of a handpainted look with a longer-lasting quality.

After the morning chaos that ensues with getting two children dressed, ready and off to school, Olmsted returns to her studio. Ideally every artist would love to create all day, but as a booming business owner, Olmsted also adds “correspondence, invoicing, shipping and product development” to her day. “I always look forward to when I have time to paint and create new designs,” she exclaims.

Having earned her bachelors degree in fine arts from Skidmore College and a masters in textile design from Philadelphia University, Olmsted says her passion for art developed in her teens. Now, with a successful art and textile collection, her latest endeavor has been developing a book which comes out this month. Sparked by a serendipitous encounter at an exhibit for Country Living Fair in 2014, a collaboration with a publishing editor began. Following the suggestion to use a photographer from Pennsylvania and to shoot the book locally (Lancaster and Wrightsville) as well, Olmsted worked with Sara Code-Kroll of Growing Tree Photography (www.growingtreephotography.com), and the wheels were set in motion.

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