World traveler Erin Flett settles in at home in Maine.
Photo Credit : Heather McGrath
Erin Flett didn’t grow up in New England, although her mother did. But she’s as in love with her adopted home as any native. Possibly more. “New England is a magical place,” she says. “I don’t take any of its precious details for granted. I adore the cobblestone streets, the smell of the sea, the brick buildings, the architecture, the attention to detail and craft, the endless back roads filled with old farmhouses that tell so many amazing stories.” Clearly, she’s glad to be here. And she can’t imagine raising her young daughters or making her life anywhere else.
Made in Maine
As Flett’s national exposure grows—her pillows have been showcased everywhere from the Web site Apartment Therapy to the pages of O: The Oprah Magazine—so does demand for her goods. But don’t expect her to ship production of her pillows, bags, and wall art overseas anytime soon. “A big thing that drives me is knowing that we’re hand-printing and sewing everything here,” she says. “Working local has become my personal mantra, and it helps us to grow mindfully and keep things simple. I want to bring manufacturing back to Maine’s mills—in our case, one yard of fabric at a time.” New blankets, coming this fall, are woven at a Maine mill. Even the tags on her products are Maine-crafted, letterpressed one at a time by Dunstan Press in Scarborough.
Flett recently moved her studio from her home in Gorham to a 1,400-square-foot space in the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook. She fell in love with the building years ago, when she began working with AU, a Lewiston-based bag company with production operations at the mill. The space has everything she needs: nine enormous windows overlooking the Presumpscot River, a huge “yardage” printing table (for hand-printing large sections of fabric), room for Flett’s design studio, and “a killer little lounge for my kiddos and for clients, with rows of metal racks full of all our textiles.” With Maslen Flett, her husband and business partner, Erin outfitted the space with enamel kitchen cabinets from a house that was being torn down in Cape Elizabeth. They painted the cabinets bright orange and the walls bright white, creating a modern foil to the old mill floors. “It’s an amazing space for work,” Flett says. “The energy of the river below matches the production rhythm inside. I feel so lucky to be here.”
“Every day is a little different, of course,” Flett says, “but typically I arrive at the mill at 9:00 a.m. with my sidekick Louie, our Yorkie. Then I make coffee and dig through my e-mails and create a to-do list.” Depending on the day, she might be printing or shipping, but mostly she’s doing a lot of design work. She and Maslen also juggle production, inventory, and accounting—while doing all the yardage printing together: “I love that time together, mixing ink and printing as a couple.” She picks up her daughters at 3:00 p.m., “and then my mommy role kicks in, and I’m driving to dance and soccer and gymnastics.” Flett turns the lights out around 9:00 p.m. and gets up early the next morning to work before her daughters awaken.
Flett often features elements of New England’s natural landscape—trees in different seasons, sea creatures, owls, frogs, squirrels—in her designs. So it’s no surprise that nature fuels her creativity. “There are many places I go to be inspired,” she says. “I love to visit my own ever-expanding flower garden, and explore the wooded trails on our four acres here in Gorham, and take long walks with my family up and down our favorite beaches. The ocean never disappoints.”
Erin Flett: Designs for the Stylish Soul. Pillows from $40; wall art from $30. 207-837-0763; erinflett.com