Paula Stebbins Becker on Creating Intuitively
Paula Stebbins Becker has worked in the textile industry for decades. In fact, she has designed for us at Design Pool. We know her to be a talented designer with a keen eye and rich experience. Yet, when we asked Paula to talk with us for our Talking Trends series, she was reluctant, uncertain if she was in tune with trends. She is currently creating a collection of handmade pieces of artwork that she sells to companies in the industry. Companies buy her work and digitally interpret the pieces into textile designs. From there, they are woven, printed, or embroidered.
Paula spent many years on the other side of this process. She worked for mills large and small, buying artwork and designing fabric for residential and hospitality markets. Looking back at that time, the design directors would research trends, create trend boards, and instruct designers to design for these trends. At this point in her career, she’s taking a different approach. She creates her work from a more holistic, intuitive path. Rather than looking for trends to lead her work, she’s looking within.
“I’m coming from where I am now,” Paula explained. “When I listen to my own voice, my work becomes stronger, more unique.” And that is validated by clients. When she presents her collections, people gravitate toward her most unique pieces, as opposed to those she included because she thought they would fit a trend and sell.
Paula is a talented fiber artist who creates using a wide range of materials and techniques. Her process begins by constantly observing. She follows other artists, companies, and weavers on Instagram and is aware of what is going on more broadly. Paula also spends time in nature, gardening, and taking long walks. All this inspiration naturally filters through her.
Paula’s Creative Process
Once in the studio, Paula places a high value on giving herself space and time to experiment and play with materials. Even though her pieces are eventually purchased by designers who interpret them into fabric, she is less interested in definitive patterns when she’s working. Instead, she focuses on working with textures, materials and mark making. She lets the process lead the making.
Allowing herself to work out an idea intuitively, she gradually builds on that idea. Along the way, Paula will snap a photograph of the work in progress to “have a memory of it.” From there she may add another layer with a different technique on top of it. Days can often go by in-between steps to let the piece rest. Revisiting it, a piece sometimes is done. Other times, she continues to add to it, or puts it in a box to tear apart and use in a collage another day.
She looks at her work as a real labor of love. At different points in her career, she received a lot of direction from the outset. Now that she’s presenting her own work to clients, they give her less and less direction. They’re excited to see work from her that is completely original and unlike any they’re seeing elsewhere. “If I were working in the industry right now, it would be mostly digital, and I wouldn’t be able to access all of what I do by hand. I feel closer to my true self as a designer than I have in a really, really long time.”
In our digitized world, everyone is scrolling past the same references. It can be tempting to create for likes and engagement. Yet, that is creatively unsatisfying. Right now, Paula feels compelled to look inward and create from there, and she’s not alone. She points to the current maker movement as evidence that people are craving more personal and original art. Clients she’s shown her work to have commented that the personal nature of her work is what sets her apart. That confirmation encourages her to stay on this path and keep creating.
Not only does Paula’s work itself inspire us here at Design Pool, but her approach to art-making is also equally as inspiring and encouraging. Paula always stays true to herself and shows us that whatever you create, if it is truly a reflection of yourself, people will respond to it. Rather than going the more conventional route and designing what you think will sell, Paula encourages everyone to listen to what is inside of you. When your work comes from a pure place, it will find its place in the world.