What an honor it was to be invited to collaborate with the famous handbag and accessories company, LeSportsac! I am excited to share with you a behind the scenes look at the process of creating my Hawaii exclusive design, "Ku'u Lea," from painting to finished product!
Colleen Wilcox in front of the LeSportsac store at the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki
After my first several meetings with the Hawaii LeSportsac team, the vision was to create a design that represented the source of inspiration for my artwork. Living in Hawaii, I am very inspired by the incredible beauty of the ocean and the landscape that surrounds me. This is why I decided to create a painting that portrays my favorite tropical plants and flowers, as well as elements of the ocean. These are the things that make me feel most happy; so the fitting title for the artwork was born, "Ku'u Lea." "Ku'u" is Hawaiian for "my" and "Lea" is Hawaiian for "happiness/ joy".
Initially I was instructed to provide the LeSportsac team with a quick pencil sketch to show the basic design idea. But I got so excited about starting a color theme, that I dove right into painting (with acrylic) on the 24"x30" canvas I had picked up. Once I shared the beginning concept with them, they loved it, so I kept going!
I proceeded to flesh out the design, thinking about how I needed to keep fluid edges (instead of filling up all the white space) so it could be turned into a repeat pattern for fabric. It was difficult for me to conceptualize how all the edges of the design would connect in repeat since I was so used to creating a composition to fill a rectangular canvas.
I continued by adding my signature black lines/ borders around the shapes and placing more layers of color. I began to think about all the small details, like sea shells, that I could add to create interest (using my own shell collection as inspiration!).
About one month after beginning the painting, I submitted the design to LeSportsac at this stage, thinking we would be ready to go. However, my lack of knowledge about creating designs for repeat patterned fabric was apparent. They advised that I would STILL need to add more elements to fill in the areas of white space that would be left once the design connected. I had to rack my brain for what to do next!
After some bouts of artist's block and frequent hours spent staring at the canvas...I decided on what to add around the edges of the painting. This included two protea flowers, another hibiscus, more plumerias, plus seashells and coral shapes. At this point, I thought the design looked good, but I was nervous about how it was actually going to work on the fabric, and what LeSportsac would think.
Once I submitted the last revisions, I received the good news that their designers were ready to run with the design! Yes!!!! The good people in the LeSportsac headquarters went to work with a high resolution digital scan of my original painting. They put the design into repeat and added my signature and their logo throughout the pattern. I'm not sure what else went on behind those magical headquarters doors, but a few months later the first fabric samples had arrived. And then soon after....the finished sewn bags arrived! I was very impressed to see how they had captured the vibrant paint colors in the fabric print, and kept the integrity of my original artwork.
Another part about the bags that I love, is that there are 27 different styles to choose from and each one is cut from a different part of the fabric roll...so each is completely UNIQUE. You will never have the exact same bag as your friend! :)
Once the finished product arrived in stores, we kicked off the collaboration celebration with a media and signing event on October 23, 2015. It was truly a great time!
Now if you visit any of the Hawaii (or Guam) LeSportsac stores, you can see my "Ku'u Lea" line in the front window of their boutiques! I hope that if you stop by and pick up a piece or two, you can feel the joy and aloha spirit that went into this collaboration, and carry this feeling with you wherever you go!