A random spin of the CreativePortland.Me roulette landed on designer Erin Flett in first position, and she's a fine person to lead with for our new weekly profile of people who have added themselves to Portland's new creative economy directory. Erin describes herself as a graphic/surface/textile designer and she clearly is all that and more. She plays the etsy/blog/social media axis to advantage and is on her way to becoming a lifestyle brand. Her hand-screened throw pillows make a great impulse buy on etsy and great visuals for savvy blog editors. You can buy them through her website or at Eli-Phant in Portland. They have been blogged by Real Simple, Apartment Therapy and Decor8 among others, and she has been covered by magazines from Singapore to Boston to—of course—Portland. A real fixture in the local design scene, Erin has worked as a designer and creative director at Maine Magazine and Maine Home and Design, designed original prints on raincoat cotton for a line of tote bags for AU, and has participated in the Picnic Music and Arts Festival. I caught up with Erin yesterday and asked her about living and working in and around Portland:
Can you tell me what you like about living and working in the Portland area?
The nostalgia and creative energy that overwhelms Portland is like no other place I have discovered. I feel it's a simple place to live and a great place to be inspired. I find so much here that makes me happy and at peace. The paths behind our house are covered in moss and leaves, the rocky coast, the smells of the ocean—the insane amount of trees and lushness. But the real thing I love are the stories of the people here. I am known to pull over and start up a conversation. While waiting for a tree to be cut down on a side road coming home from my mom's house I sparked up a conversation with a 78 year old gem of a man that owned 100 acres around him and built his house he lives in. He told me a story about the tree that was being cut down. This is what brought me here. I love old stuff and great stories and meeting people with so much soul makes me feel apart of something real. And now that I have two little girls, I want them to feel this same sense of connectedness and passion about a place they call home.
Why and when did you move here?
Maslen and I moved here to start our life together—I moved here in my twenties looking for that perfect place to start my life after college and one day have a family. Working at a design agency at first then going solo—work here never felt like work—I loved the people, the businesses that I worked with and my clients turned into life long friends. The lifestyle for me is perfect—I would go for a run either in the woods or around the back bay, hike a trail or go to the ocean. The options are endless. Everyone gets it here—we love it here and we make it work—sometimes making sacrifices along the way, but what wins out is peace of mind that comes with living and working here.
How have things changed during that time for you?
What has changed for me in the past 10 years working here is that I have had to work smarter. I do more with less and really figure out the best most economical way to do everything. I have always really been mindful of this but I think now more then ever I am figuring out how to do things that are amazing with a not so amazing budget.
What do you see ahead for Portland and for yourself?
What I see ahead for Portland I hope is a busier OLD PORT with all these creative souls coming together. I believe all this creative energy will explode...and I really want to be a part of that. I feel as a designer and business owner/entrepreneur in Maine you have to have that spark and passion constantly driving you—because everyone is telling you how bad the times are or how slow things are everywhere. I just take it all in and appreciate living and working here and keep going.
On another note I feel a lot of people are banding together creating organizations that are helping our Maine economy and supporting local artists and business owners, like LiveWorkPortland. These organizations and non-profits are working toward making life here better for all of us. We all need to take time to help out where we can so we all can grow and prosper here.
Is Maine part of your "brand story"?
Maine inspires me. Everything from the layers of leaves and moss to the endless amount of old things that have an amazing story. I can go to yard sale and buy old books or textiles that were worn or read by the great grandparents of the families that still live there. I create patterns that speak to me, but all of it is a interpretation of my life, and right now my life is here in Maine. I have prints that have come from my days walking through miles of sunflowers or prints dreamed up from childhood memories gluing seed pods to rocks. I think what I love most about doing what I am doing here is the creative result is heartfelt and human...because that is how I feel here.
Who are the designers, artists and other people in the creative economy in Portland that you admire?
I am totally in love with a lot of artists here—but I admire people that have taken a dream and turned it into a thriving business. I feel I could name a lot of well known designers but I also admire all the unknown or undiscovered talents that do amazing work, just to do it, for the pure joy and passion of it. I think the big names that have made it here would tell you that it's that rawness of living here and the passion that inspires them which ultimately brings success. (Or at least I hope that is true.) I hope to add my name to that list but I rather add my name to the list of people that are happy doing what they love. My nana always said, "you can do anything you set your mind to do, just love what you are doing and don't stop believing." Maine is a test of creative resilience and perseverance. I am thankful to be a part of it.
CreativePortland.Me, is a new visual directory of the creative economy in Portland, Maine, created by brand marketing agency Forge in collaboration with LiveWorkPortland. To add yourself, just find a cool picture and go to the super simple Profile Creator page. You could be our next profile!