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milk farm road

American Made Since 2010
2014 Design Finalist

Heather Chontos

Portland, Maine
I strive to design "creatively handmade" textiles that are uniquely bold and colorful, representing the imperfections of something made by hand.
Design, Textiles
Finalist

Tell us about your business.

I started "milk farm road" when I left NYC to move to Montana. I was still working as a prop stylist and painter and wanted to combine my two passions of my artwork and something utilitarian for the home. I have always loved playing with materials, and although I approached many surfaces with my paint brush, textiles won me over as a great material to work with. I called my style "modern farmhouse" back in 2010 taking beautiful heavily woven linen, bark cloth or even vintage linens, cutting them down, hand stitching the edges and applying colorful strokes of paint directly to the surface. With this approach each individual design is unique to itself with minor imperfections where the paint decided to drip or splash on its own. I believe in creating these pieces by hand and do not mass produce so that the integrity and artistic value remain intact every time someone purchases a piece from me.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

I have a lovely little studio in downtown Portland, Maine. My studio is in the "State Theater" building, a staple of the vibrant downtown community. I have a lot of beautiful windows overlooking one of the towns many squares. My studio is a place for inspiration. I will often just sit there and do nothing. I am very prolific, creating a huge batches of work in sweeping rounds, so the days of doing nothing are important. I have a lot of books and catalogs from old arts shows, many magazines from around the world, and lots and lots of paint. It has beautiful light from all those windows, a little wash basin and a vintage mirror hanging over the sink where I keep photos of my two beautiful daughters and other moments in time. It is a haven for me. I often will lose myself there for hours on end in a fit of creativity.

What inspires you?

My children inspire me the most. I know that statement gets overused, but they do. I am a single mother 24/7, 365 days a year and it is tiring, but they bring so much fun and creativity to every day, it keeps me going. I am also very inspired by the beauty in every day shapes and the way color exists in so many facets and the endless combinations of it. I am also very inspired by all the makers who led the way in art and design such as the artists of "Gee's Bend Quilts",the American painter "Cy Twombly", the folk artist "Margaret Kilgallen" and textile artist "Sonia Delaunay". All of these individuals pushed forward a little bit more with a bold creative edge. That inspires me to make my own best creation.

What makes your business stand out?

I believe that my business stands out because I represent a unique quality in my work. At the core of anything I make, I am a painter and I feel that translates into the materials I work with. Not everyone can, nor do they want to purchase a painting for their wall, instead I feel like I have been able to make a little work of art, in another way, that someone can be proud to put on their dinner table or on their couch, in their living or dining space. People are very proud of their homes, and the unique colors and graphic forms that I utilize in my pieces are statements of that persons creativity and aesthetic. Every piece is different , so you never have the same as anyone else, what can be more individual and unique than that!

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

My advice would always be, go with your gut. You know best, you are the artist and believe in what you do. Nobody but you, has your vision, so share it and be proud of it no matter what it is!

What does American Made mean to you?

American Made, to me means individuality. Throughout the economic crunch of the recession these last few years, so many people suffered, but so many found a way through themselves and through their own individual vision and creativity. They found a way to re-invent, to produce, to build and to grow through making their own. There were not a lot of options and people went forward using only their dreams to make something possible. The influx of American made work has grown so amazingly and continues to do so. It is a great representation of the community that the American spirit strives for and it's a beautiful thing, how well supported it all is.

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