Interview with Tula Pink :: Creativity, Coloring and Knowing Yourself

Tula Pink Coloring BookThe Tula Pink Coloring Book: 75+ Signature Designs in Fanciful Coloring Pages
By Tula Pink
Fons & Porter/F+W; $15.99

On occasion I get emails from publishers inquiring about whether or not I want to review a book.  Most of the time the books aren’t relevant to my kind of sewing or my aesthetic and I politely decline.  Recently, however, I was asked if I wanted a copy of Tula Pink’s new coloring book and was offered the opportunity to interview Tula Pink.  Interview Tula Pink?! Um, yeah, it took me all of ten seconds to reply with a big, fat YES!

If you don’t already know Tula Pink, you are in for the delightful experience of meeting her.  She is a fabric designer, quilter, illustrator and all-around creative woman.  Her fabrics are positively, uniquely intricate and recognizable for their hidden animals and vividly alive colors.  More than likely, however, you have come across some of her fabrics and, in that case, you are probably nodding your head because you know I’m right.  Tula is well-known for working alongside her whole family and designing lots and lots of things.  I’m over-the-moon honored to have the opportunity to both play with her coloring book and interview her.

Tula Pink Fabric Archive

Source: Tula Pink Fabric Archive

A coloring book is such a natural fit for such a creative lady and I was curious about her process.  I had no idea that her answers would leave me a little choked up. She’s got some touching advice about knowing yourself and finding your creative voice.

Here is Tula:

Me: You are so prolific, turning out so many fabric collections and even books, a new show (!) and now a coloring book. You positively ooze creativity! It’s amazing. Did you grow up in a creative home? Was creativity important to your family? 

     Tula:  I am somewhat of an anomaly in my family. They are all creative in other ways but I am the only artistically inclined of the bunch. I don’t think that creativity was super important in my family but happiness definitely is. My mom has a great natural instinct when it comes to us kids. She is amazing at identifying what we are about at our core and nurturing that. She never put any of us in a box, we were and are very much encouraged to be what ever makes us the happiest as long as we give it our absolute best effort. Going half way is not tolerated in my family so everyone is really unique and dedicated to who they are what they are best at. It’s a nice way to be and an incredibly supportive environment which is why we all work together today. My fabric is kind of a family business and everyone does what they are really good at which I think is why it works. We all genuinely like each other which also helps, lol!

Me: You live in Missouri, I’m also from the Midwest (Minnesota) but now living in New Jersey. I love the strong culture of quilting and crafting in that part of the country. I’m always reminding my East Coast friends that amazing, creative, lively and unusual, artistic things are happening in the “flyover” but they are skeptical. Do you get a lot of creative inspiration from your surroundings? Do you find being removed from the uber-hectic world is helpful at all?

Tula:  There is so much going on here in the middle of the country. Kansas City alone has some incredible talent both on and off of the sewing machine. I was born and raised in Los Angeles so I am really familiar with that lifestyle too. I moved here a few a years ago and it is amazing. I do need to be removed from the hustle and bustle. I require a lot of solitude and focus to do my best work. Most of my “inspiration” is internal. I imagine a lot of things and then I draw it and that kind of head space is hindered by distraction. I love the environment here in the Mid West, the pace is ideal for me and there is a lot to do but it’s also really easy to retreat. The winter months give me a great excuse to keep to myself so I like that too.

Me: It’s obvious from your incredible fabric that you LOVE color. I imagine that you look out at the world and see it in hypercolor! Was it weird to work in black and white for the coloring book or do you start your fabric designs that way, as well?

Tula:  I actually work completely in black and white until the end stages of my design process. I find that if I introduce color too early in the design process that it gets in the way of me really seeing the illustration and objectively reacting to the technical aspects of the design. Color is my first love so it can be incredibly distracting. I learned to work in Black and white for the design parts of the process after my second or third collection. Color is so crucial and sometimes if I am working with an illustration in blue and green I can’t make it work in any other color combination because I am too biased to it. If I work in lights and darks the whole time then I can easily adapt that to various colors when the time comes.

Me: You’ve written a few books but this is your first coloring book, I’ve heard people discuss how difficult a craft book can be to write. The coloring book seems fun to make! Was it?

     Tula:  Yes, the coloring book was really fun to make and a lot more difficult than I originally thought it would be. My fabrics are designed as shapes of color not outlines and some of the pieces just didn’t translate so I had to re-draw them in a different way to get a different outcome. It was still really fun to re-visit some of those old designs though. I am crazy excited to see how people color them. It will be really interesting.

Me: I was so excited to see some of your familiar animals in the coloring book, especially the raccoon and the octopus! Do you like to color some of these old friends? Ever play around with a new colorway on an old design?

Tula:  When I design a fabric collection I go through about a hundred different color variations before landing on the final colors for each print. I have imaginied these designs in so many colors already. I am most excited to see what other people come up with. No matter how far out of my own box I think I have traveled I always produce something that looks like “me”. I can’t ever really let go of my personal color instincts.

Me: There are a lot of more sophisticated coloring books out there right now. (I hate to say “adult” because my kids love them, too) It’s such a fun development. Your intricate and stunning designs seem particularly well-suited to this kind of things. Was it fun to pull together? Do you have any favorites from the book?

Tula:   I was totally caught off guard by how big the coloring book market is right now. I really had no idea so many people were into coloring, I have always loved coloring but was unaware that it had become a “thing” that a lot of people were doing. Now that I know about it I am seeing them everywhere and it’s really cool. I am glad it’s not just for kids anymore, everyone loves to color.
I don’t know that I have any favorites from the coloring book. I bring too much baggage to the illustrations. I have a hard time seeing the outlines and not the fabrics when I look at them. Every time I sit down to color in the coloring book I have this inescapable urge to sew.

Me: Your style is so unique, identifiable and playful. It’s so you! Yet, you manage to change things up from swirly paisleys, hidden animals to cameo-style portraits. I sometimes find it hard, with the proliferation of creative ideas within easy access, to listen to my own stylistic voice. Do you have an favorite advice for people struggling with finding their unique creative footprint?

Tula:  Finding your own creative voice can be really challenging with so many distractions in the world. The most important lesson that I have learned is that I don’t have to be everything to everyone. I was lucky that my career grew slowly, I was able to make a lot of mistakes when no one was really watching. In the beginning I was told to change a lot of things about my work, I made some of those changes and nothing really improved. In fact I felt like my work was getting boring the more I tried to make those adjustments and accommodate so many different opinions. I finally decided to just throw it all out there, give them everything I had in my head and my heart, put it all on fabric and hope for the best. If it failed at least I would know that I really tried. That was quite a few years ago and it taught me a great lesson about who I am as an artist and what my role in all of this is. To know yourself artistically you have to actually know yourself and not be afraid that people won’t like what they see or that there won’t be a box that it fits in. I find that I know when I have done my best work when I feel a little scared and vulnerable, that means that I tried, I went out on a limb and I took a personal risk. If I don’t have that feeling on a new collection then I have more work to do.

Me: You are a veteran in the world of fabric design and I’m sure you’ve seen it go through lots of changes, any tips for people interested in entering into fabric design? I’m asking for a “friend”.

Tula : Tell your “friend” that the key to this whole crazy thing is to be 100% yourself. There is no point in creating work that looks like someone else, that spot is already taken. Doing something new is what gets noticed so look around, see what is missing and fill that void. It is like anything, you have to approach a lot of people until you find someone willing to take a chance on you and your vision but it’s a lot easier if you have something new to say.

XX,  Tula


Disclosure: I was given this coloring book to review but my thoughts and opinions are all my own.  For anyone curious about the interview process, I emailed questions through the publisher who returned answers to me. So…she is basically my best friend now. 🙂

2 Comments on Interview with Tula Pink :: Creativity, Coloring and Knowing Yourself

  1. erin
    November 6, 2015 at 6:32 am (2 years ago)

    love this! i hope your “friend” has some success. 🙂

    • Melissa Q.
      November 6, 2015 at 9:51 am (2 years ago)

      Ha!! Thanks. I will pass that on to my ‘friend’. Teehee.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: