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Scandinavian Style

  • By Christine Cyr Clisset
  • Photos by Jenny Hallengren

In the studio with Lotta Jansdotter

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Inspiration may often seem illusive, yet for artist and designer Lotta Jansdotter it’s all about putting pen to paper. “Inspiration just happens by doing,” she says. This matter-of-fact approach likely accounts for Jansdotter’s huge success over the past 17 years—that, and her signature clean-lined botanical and geometric prints, which she incorporates into everything from a variety of textiles to a new line of melamine dishware out this month.

Born and raised in Sweden, Jansdotter moved to Santa Cruz when she was 19. After taking a variety of art classes at the local community college, she stumbled upon her true passion in a screen-printing workshop. The process of decorating paper and fabric came naturally. Inspiration may often seem illusive, yet for artist and designer Lotta Jansdotter it’s all about putting pen to paper. “Inspiration just happens by doing,” she says.

This matter-of-fact approach likely accounts for Jansdotter’s huge success over the past 17 years—that, and her signature clean-lined botanical and geometric prints, which she incorporates into everything from a variety of textiles to a new line of melamine dishware out this month.

Soon, she set up a part-time screen-printing studio, and sold her designs at local gift shops. Her timing was impeccable. Although hand-printed modern textiles have long been common in Scandinavia, few if any U.S. shops were carrying these sorts of products in the mid-1990s. Before long, Jansdotter made a full-time career of her craft.

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"It's not a linear process," says Jansdotter of her design work. A tidy display of her drawings helps her develop ideas for new lines of fabric and plates. 

Her Inspiration

  • Made By Hand
    Made By Hand

    Jansdotter creates all of her designs by hand. Here she tapes printed paper into the shapes and sizes she likes for her melamine collection. 

  • Teacup of Tools
    Teacup of Tools

    The sewing and design supplies come in handy for a block-printing workshop she teaches each month. 

  • Chic Ceramics
    Chic Ceramics

    Jansdotter's collection for Fishs Eddy includes a variety of ceramics as well as kitchen linens.

  • Finding Inspiration
    Finding Inspiration

    She collects all of her ideas in sketchbooks. "These books are what I keep going back to for ideas over and over again," she says. 

  • Collage of Color
    Collage of Color

    Fabric remnants from the designer's collections fill a basket in her shop. 

  • Collaborative Environment
    Collaborative Environment

    In her Gowanus studio and shop, Jansdotter sells a variety of products she's collaborated on with other makers. 

  • Made By Hand
    Made By Hand

    Jansdotter creates all of her designs by hand. Here she tapes printed paper into the shapes and sizes she likes for her melamine collection. 

  • Finding Inspiration
    Finding Inspiration

    She collects all of her ideas in sketchbooks. "These books are what I keep going back to for ideas over and over again," she says. 

  • Teacup of Tools
    Teacup of Tools

    The sewing and design supplies come in handy for a block-printing workshop she teaches each month. 

  • Collage of Color
    Collage of Color

    Fabric remnants from the designer's collections fill a basket in her shop. 

  • Chic Ceramics
    Chic Ceramics

    Jansdotter's collection for Fishs Eddy includes a variety of ceramics as well as kitchen linens.

  • Collaborative Environment
    Collaborative Environment

    In her Gowanus studio and shop, Jansdotter sells a variety of products she's collaborated on with other makers. 

Since then, she has published multiple books on fabric design and sewing, created various product lines, started a family, and seven years ago moved from San Francisco to New York, where she keeps an airy studio and store in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Now that her son is in school, Jansdotter has found more energy to focus on her business. “I’ve been a mom for years and worked part-time, and now I have more time and focus and drive to do more. I wanted to get back to my roots -- I wanted to get back to designing products.” And that’s exactly what she’s been doing.

Jansdotter recently collaborated with Fishs Eddy on a dishware and linen collection, released a line of fabrics with Windham Fabrics in April 2013, and launched a melamine collection later that year. “For the melamine, I used some of my classic designs along with newer ones I’ve created. I didn’t want it to be very typical of what you think of melamine, with designs of shells and scenes of the ocean,” says Jansdotter. “I wanted a very playful, graphic, and cheerful collection for a picnic.”

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Things just happen when I start making things and I discover something. It’s really the process itself.
Lotta Jansdotter

An old Singer Featherweight comes in handy for making samples. Vintage scissors, which the designer collects, create a dramatic display. 

Jansdotter also offers bespoke wedding invitations in collaboration with Sesame Letterpress in Brooklyn, and she’s slated to release a rug collection next fall. As for her process, Jansdotter hand draws all of her designs. She says that not working on a computer has actually been an asset. “Things are a little crooked and off and obviously handmade,” she says.

This handmade approach, which distinguishes her work from modern digital designers, goes back to the root of Jansdotter’s inspiration. “Things just happen when I start making things and I discover something. It’s really the process itself.”

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How to Block Print

Get Jansdotter's handmade look in your own projects with this easy block-printing technique. 

  • 1
    Step 1

    Draw a design on a rubber printing block and use a lino cutter to carve it out. This essentially creates a rubber stamp. 

    Step 1
  • 2
    Step 2

    To print on paper, press the stamp into an inkpad and decorate paper as desired. For fabric, Jansdotter recommends using fabric paint on cotton, linen, or other natural material. Use a roller to coat the stamp with paint, then print on fabric. Always heat set paint (following manufacturer's instructions). 

    Step 2

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