Desiree Habicht is an artist whose journey into the world of art has been a lifelong passion. Her love for visual expression has led her to explore different creative avenues, leading to her personal approach to textile and fiber art. Desiree tells her own stories and connects with others, breaking free from conventional art rules with her own signature style.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I have always been a visual person. As long as I can remember I have been drawing, painting, sculpting, designing, learning to really see the beauty that surrounds us every day.
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I can remember making my mom cards from the pantyhose inserts that she always threw away when I was very young. That drive to draw has always been there so I think art found me.
Why textiles? How does that medium best express what you want to communicate through your art?
I am very fortunate that my art has been my constant companion in my life and it has served me well.
It became my vocation. I created fine art and worked in the design industry doing murals and faux finishes for years.
When I began my textile art/fiber art I needed something different. One of my daughters had been critically injured and all of our lives changed in an instant. All my plans, my goals, my dreams were changed forever, as were hers. I needed to be comforted a bit, find a new way and the idea of creating something new and fiber art was very attractive for me. I was able to tell my story and journey during that time. It was very different from my fine art that I was selling and creating. It was tactile, touchable, comforting. It was open to interpretation and it was new, without the rules of conventional quilting or conventional art.
I originally made these quilts for myself, they told my story and were very personal. When I started showing them, others were touched and they were connecting to the story, relating to what the quilt was saying.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I incorporate many mediums into my quilts. I use my art supplies on fabric without restrictions.
My goal is to tell my story the best way I can. It’s not just about creating a pretty piece, it’s about creating a powerful piece. I use strong colors; and strong values and they tell the same kind of strong story. Every art quilt I have made tells a special story about a time in my life that I think others can relate to.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
I would say I have ideas or visions; they are really gifts that I get and then I figure out how to make them come to life in fabric.
Often they are just intuitive but I have an idea of what I want to say. I leave room to make design changes, decisions right up until the last minute if needed.
That has worked well for me in most situations but I remember one time it backfired. It was the first big fiber art show I wanted to enter. I was making my most powerful quilt to date and the story pulled at so many heart strings that it was sewn with blood, sweat and tears as well as thread, hand painted fabrics, paint and on a hand dyed silk background.
I read the quilt show guidelines over and over, excited to set the goal to get it submitted before the deadline. I kept looking at it and working on it to make sure it was just what I wanted it to be. Right at the last minute I decided it needed to be cropped a bit more and ended up cropping it right out of that show! I could have added a border but it would have changed the whole quilt. I was heartbroken at first but that quilt, “Transformations” went on to other shows where it won many awards during its two-year show life and was later sold to a collector. I miss that quilt to this day.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
I think that has changed over the years. As our life changes we make changes.
When my children were young I would wait until they were tucked safely in bed to do my art, which was mostly painting and drawing, it was my time. As they got older I had a lot more time to practice my passion and explore different mediums.
I always keep a sketchbook, a place to capture an idea when it hits. They are full of sketches, ideas, daily muses, goals, thoughts and struggles. It’s a bit of a visual diary. I pull ideas from there all the time and I love to start every day with some coffee and a sketchbook.
With all the things we are doing I have to create art all the time, whether I feel like it or not. These days I find myself designing fabric, machine embroidery, patterns, sew-a-longs etc. I don’t get a chance to sketch for fun as often as I would like to but I know I will again when that time presents itself.
You create patterns, design fabric and manage subscription boxes and more. How do you keep all of the balls in the air?
It is truly a juggling game. Everything we do has a hard deadline; if we miss it we are out so keeping things on a central calendar is critical.
For instance we have our new Fabric Therapy Boxes that have strict ship dates. Everything must be designed, ordered and packaged for those boxes to leave on time.
Also, our Mug Rug Club delivers on the first of the month so all those elements, designs, newsletters, and more have to be done timely and be ready to go.
Whether it is an art quilt or a tangible resale product like a pattern understanding the amount of time required to create each component is critical. For example: getting a pattern to market requires designing the pattern (2 weeks), getting the fabric requirements and pattern written (2-3 weeks), pattern proofing (2 weeks), having the pattern printed (1 week), packaging the pattern (2-3 days), then shipping and marketing (on going). That is just one item so planning is key for us.
Describe your creative space.
When I started this crazy business my work space, like so many, was an extra room in my home.
But like the blob, it just continued to ooze out into other rooms and every closet until we finally converted our 3 car garage into a studio where I can contain the monster that lives within those walls! LOL. It allows me to still care for Jen’s needs and work. We are now able to separate our office from our work studio.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
I love to repurpose.
This isn’t really a tool but I love it just the same. I picked up two huge frames at a discount. The frames are approx. 4’x 8’. We took one of them and added 3” grid wire to the inside of the frame. We can now put the hangers on it to hold our patterns and embroidery CDs! It’s a beautiful way to hang products in the studio.
We also use kids’ glue sticks to reuse small pieces of stabilizer. We leave the stabilizer in the hoop and cut out the finished designs. Then we glue down another piece of stabilizer and let it dry. It saves money and time for us.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
YES! As I mentioned earlier, I have so much art, sketches and notebooks full of sketched-out ideas. I started using digital programs to help me create on the road or location when needed. It all has a place in my art journey now.
Like everything else, it is moving forward. There is something very special about the written word, hand-drawn sketches and paintings that are so important to preserve.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
It’s funny but I like the silence. I think that there is so much noise these days in our lives that this allows me just some quiet time with my thoughts, my creative energy, and myself.
My husband always offers to put up a TV in the studio but I don’t want it. I do have a radio and sometimes listen to music but not often. Audio books are nice but I find I shut them out when I am concentrating on what I am doing and miss lots of information so it’s just being content with silence for me.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
We are always working on projects, multiple projects. It’s the way we roll.
My mind is always busting with ideas but the problem for me is there isn’t enough time in the day to get them all done. I try to prioritize and edit.
I have been known to get a wonderful idea, either for a new product, quilt and design and jump on it when it hits. I feel like it was given at this time and needs to be done.
One instance was in 2019. We were getting ready for the Quilt Market and Festival in Houston when I was hit with the idea to start a Club for both shops and retail. We had nothing, no designs, no information, nothing, yet I wanted to present it at Houston. I began writing up what the club was about, had postcards made, designed a signup form and launched it in Houston. That Club is still very active today and has turned into an amazing community of women who love to create!
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Well for my fiber art or art quilts my life is my inspiration and driving force.
For my commercial side of art I let my imagination take over and present the idea or concept for the next fabric, embroidery, mug rug, quilt etc.
They often play off of each other. I often will sit in my extra room that has drawers full of art and just go through it waiting for something to jump out and say it my time!
It also might be something I saw while traveling. I once hauled a giant rusty garden sculpture from Oregon to my mom’s house in northern California knowing she would love it in her garden.
His name was Big Rusty and we found him in this guys yard in Oregon who created him out of old garden tools. His body was a shovel, his legs were rebar, his head was a pick with faucet handles for eyes. He was heavy and he had to ride on the roof of the van back to CA.
As I watched his shadow moving along the highway I came up with the idea of creating some Steampunk characters for fabric. I started sketching in the car. The finished fabric is much different than those first sketches but it started there and became one of our best selling fabrics lines and embroidery designs. It led us to create many other Steampunk fabric designs with QT Fabrics since those Big Rusty days.
Which part of the design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
Designing and developing is my favorite part of the process. Bringing ideas to life is an amazing thing to see and process.
Developing those ideas into tangible products is another amazing part of the design process and in the end seeing all the work come together into something you only envisioned a year earlier is exciting.
When people see our products in stores they recognize us now. It’s really special. I think the most challenging part is making sure all of it comes together and hoping everyone gets as excited as I do when they see it.
How has your work changed over time?
Both my Fine Art/Fiber Art and our more commercial brand have remained consistent with our vision.
My art side is still centered around telling stories that touch hearts where as my commercial products are designed to help our customers touch hearts in their families.
We have continued to grow and expand our products but the core style of Desiree’s Designs hasn’t changed. We are always growing and changing, as does our environment. We continue to look for better ways to serve our community and stay relevant. We are designing more fabric and do up to 8 fabric lines a year with QT Fabrics. We have added machine embroidery due to our clientele’s needs, online clubs and classes to build our community. We have just started our Exclusive Fabric Therapy Boxes, personally curated boxes of our fabric delivered every two months.
I think we have held onto our brand while skirting around the fringes, playing smart with new and innovative designs and techniques to make our designs uniquely us!
When we added embroidery that matched our designs it was a giant learning curve but is a great compliment to our product line. My husband does all the digitizing for the embroidery and we have been lucky enough to work together all these years towards the same goals.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I love the creative process so whether I am sewing, painting, sketching, designing or gardening it’s all amazing. Every day is new, exciting and different.
It’s not the same old thing. That is what keeps me jumping out of bed every day. I also love the community of women who love what we do, collect our designs and fabrics and support us!
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
I think being true to myself and trusting my journey.
There is a lot of competition. It can get ugly and difficult so it’s easy to lose your way if you try and please others.
Running my own race and keeping my blinders on was important. Seeing others passing me or running alongside me could easily distract me from my goals and mission. I would often have to tell myself that I was doing good, I was doing what I had to do in my situation and I should be so proud to be here! It helped me to keep going, to be thankful for what I was able to do and not just beat myself up.
When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?
Everything I create is really an extension of what I love.
I love to make things I can use or hang and enjoy.
What I really love is having a sewing day for my family. I invite friends, family, my adult children and grandchildren. Everyone sews blocks that I choose. They need to be simple. The kids love it. At the end of the day, they get to put them together to make a quilt or table runner or pillow depending on what gets done.
It has created so many wonderful memories and family-created projects that hold special meaning.
Where can people see your work?
People can view my fine art and fiber art on my desireehabicht.com website. To view our patterns, fabrics, and embroidery designs they can visit our online shop and website at desireesdesigns.com. If they are local they are always welcome to visit us in our studio where they can purchase any of our products and my artwork.
We also offer online clubs, classes and sew-a-longs. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions to [email protected].
Interview posted October 2023
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