A visit to New York city opened Flett’s eyes to the realization that people were willing to pay forpattern design. She started to make a name for herself designing patterns for others, including Pottery Barn. But these bigger companies didn’t use some of the patterns Flett felt were special, instead choosing safer styles for their lines. That’s when Flett realized she wanted to sell her work on her own.
Flett began drawing and hand printing designs on pillows in her basement at night with her husband, when her daughters were two and five. After two years of hand printing and using local sewing talent, Flett’s business was featured in a full page profile in O Magazine as part of a spread called “Women who make beautiful things.”
This exposure caused Flett’s operation to quickly grow out of the basement, moving into a space at the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook. In each of the first four years in her new location, Flett’s business doubled. Flett gained national and international exposure and has been featured in over 60 magazines in the past decade.
Four months ago, Flett opened a retail and manufacturing location in downtown Gorham. “It is the first time people have the opportunity to buy something and walk upstairs to see how it is made,” Flett said. The shop showcases Flett’s work with one-of-a-kind products not available online, including wallpaper, rugs and wall art. Flett believes it is important to have a price point for everyone, so the shop contains items priced from $5 and up.
Flett also has a thriving online business at www.erinflett.com. The company has over 200 wholesale customers, including many hotels. Flett said they are beginning to branch out to interior design companies and become a lifestyle brand. They recently received an order for custom, exclusive patterns from LL Bean.
“Pattern and color is what we do best,” Flett said. “Everyone is bringing their joy and energy to the piece you are buying.”
Flett said the company prides itself on their American woven fabrics that are handprinted one at a time and sewn by a team of extremely talented local stitchers. The company employs about 15 people, including stitchers, manufacturing staff, and customer service/shipping representatives.
Every year, Flett holds two big sales in the community. The 2019 annual holiday sale will be held on Sunday, December 1, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Robie Gym, 42 South Street in Gorham.
The sale will be a festive affair, with a large tree, music, and hundreds of hand-printed textiles perfect for gift-giving, including many items designed specifically for the sale. This event, Flett said, is about celebrating the year they’ve had, and giving local people a chance to find one-of-a-kind gifts. Buying at the sale means giving a unique, locally made gift rather than something mass produced in China, Flett said, as well as supporting a Maine business.
Erin Flett favorites will be on display, along with new surprises and new ornaments priced at just $5 while supplies last. The new retail location at 2 Main Street in Gorham will also be open to the public on the day of the sale. This is an event for everyone, and families are encouraged to attend.
On her website, Flett describes herself as “a visual collector of dreams, thoughts, ideas, funky vintage gems that capture my heart and bring a bold sense of color and design,” she added, “I think about what brings me joy and I try to work that into my drawings and compositions. I want things to be happy, peaceful, mindful and truly a reflection of inspired living.”
Flett personally designs all the bold, unique patterns for the products she sells. All printing is done in their studio, and local stitchers put pieces together. “Our goal is to continue the long tradition of making and designing here in Maine. The energy here is just different—from the old cobblestone streets and brick buildings to the trees that speak to you on long walks in the woods,” Flett said.
To learn more about what Flett has to offer, peruse her website at www.erinflett.com or call 207-839-2814. Her studio shop is open Tuesday through Friday 10a.m. to 2p.m. and weekends from noon to 4p.m.