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nettle+fin

American Made Since 2012
2014 Design Finalist

kate deangelis & molly zlokovitz & peter vroom

Kensington, Maryland
nettle+fin textiles merge science and design to celebrate elements of nature just beyond what the naked eye can see.
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Tell us about your business.

Kate and Molly met in high school in 1989 and became fast friends, attending the same college in Southampton. The two were ultimately separated by 6,000 miles—Kate moved on to study marine biology in Hawaii while Molly kept a faster pace, designing in New York City. Meanwhile, Peter was in Honolulu collecting, preserving, and identifying the plants of Hawaii. In 2006, Kate moved back east and found Molly. Anxious to collaborate creatively, the two dreamed of creating crisp textile designs. Kate thought of Peter’s collection, and, in that moment, at Molly’s dining room table, nettle+fin was born. Each design in our initial collection bears the Latin scientific name of the exact specimen that inspired it. Our new collection, launching in January 2015, introduces new designs and colorways inspired by the land, sea, and vivid culture of Bali. We will grow our business, creating textiles together, based on the limitless and unheralded beauty of the hidden components of the land and sea.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

Where we spend our time varies depending upon what stage of our designs we are working on. Peter’s workspace is and has been the oceans of the world—he collected the plants we considered for our first collection from the rocky coast of Maine, reefs off the Mariana Islands in the Pacific, and canals in Venice, Italy. Last year, Peter and Kate, together and separately, spent months on the beaches, up the mountains, down the hidden back roads, and in the temples of Bali, diving, snorkeling, hiking, collecting, pressing, preserving, dissecting, and photographing specimens to bring to the lab and the design studio. Back home, in the United States, Molly works in a more traditional office setting, surrounded by our fabrics, and photos of our samples. Kate maintains a separate home studio to store printed yardage and to keep up the business end of things.

What inspires you?

We strive to share the unseen, underappreciated, elemental beauty of the natural world. As scientists, we are inspired by the undiscovered patterns that abound in nature, like the lacy, intricately ordered microscopic skeleton of a tiny plant clutching to a rock fifty feet under water, or the exquisite outline of a sea plant usually seen only from the distance as an amorphous mass swaying with the ebb and flow of the tide. From a design standpoint, we are inspired by the challenge of translating raw, imperfect, naturally occurring patterns into beautiful, polished, repeating designs.

What makes your business stand out?

Our collaboration is unusual in the design world, but works well, and, we think, brings a fresh perspective to textiles. Moreover, our partnership has grown out of long-term friendships, not business necessity. At the moment, we don’t know of any other Ph.D scientist-graphic designer-lawyer teams designing textiles right now!

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

Be generous and open-minded, and always say thank you. Consider unorthodox mergers—science and interior design; mathematics and art. Always collaborate, ask others for advice, and be open to mentoring others who want to learn what you know. Listen to what people like about your work and what they are not crazy about, but never produce a product you don’t absolutely love. Never be intimidated by what you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to work outside of your “field” or comfort zone. Have at least one organized, file-keeping, business-minded partner who can reign it all in and keep the operation on task and on budget (or be that person yourself!).

What does American Made mean to you?

“American made,” most literally, means made here, in our community. We design our textiles in our Maryland studio, and are we print them in the Northeast United States, in small printing facilities, close enough for us to visit on a day trip (and we do!). We accept responsibility for our immediate environment—and the environment we memorialize in our prints— by printing close to home to reduce our carbon footprint, and by favoring eco-friendly ground textiles, dyes and processes. More broadly, to us, “American made,” means creativity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. At nettle+fin, we bring three unique skillsets (and lots of debate!) to every step of the design process, leveraging unconventional problem-solving tools born of our distinct backgrounds. We will continue to pass on our appreciation for outside-the-box thinking as our company grows and we have the opportunity to incorporate other fresh perspectives into our work. We think this is the embodiment of the American spirit.

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