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Working in Clark County: Deb Spofford, textile designer

By , Columbian staff writer
Published: August 29, 2016, 6:03am
9 Photos
Deb Spofford worked in banking and accounting before developing her artistic side. (Photos by Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)
Deb Spofford worked in banking and accounting before developing her artistic side. (Photos by Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The mornings of Deb Spofford’s workdays are marked by intention and inspiration. After a morning gym workout, she exercises her creative self with what she calls her “Good Morning Project,” an hour-long artistic warm-up unrelated to any project she might have underway at Made on 23rd, her Felida studio. When her assistant, Ben, arrives at 11 a.m., they get down to work designing, printing, drawing and sewing unique block-printed textiles targeted at custom interior designers and home stylists.

“We produce it all. We create the woodblock, we print the fabric, heat set it, cut it and sew it. I love what I’m doing and feel happy to come to my studio every day.”

Name: Deb Spofford

Residence neighborhood: Felida

Business name: Made on 23rd, 15700 N.W. 23rd Court, Vancouver. 360-606-9985, www.madeon23rd.com; Instagram: Inspiringmaterial

Age: 55

Educational/professional background: I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and was hired right out of high school at Idaho National Bank and stayed there for seven years, eventually managing the long term escrow department. Subsequently, I earned a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting from Boise State University and went to work for an accounting firm in Corvallis, Ore. After one tax season coinciding with lots of child-rearing responsibilities, I decided that was enough accounting.

I had always loved making stuff and had made a wooden Santa for my husband’s boss’ wife one Christmas. She loved it and encouraged me to write about projects for hobby magazines, something she had investigated for herself. I set a goal for that year to get one thing published in a magazine and sent six designs out — four were accepted! This was a sign that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I designed and created “how-to” projects for magazines and manufacturers in the hobby industry for 15 years. I was able to continue doing this no matter where my family moved all over the country.

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Lyndsey Hewitt: lyndsey.hewitt@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

My husband was offered a job in China, and there I taught myself, and then others, how to quilt through an international quilting group. Living in China for four years inspired my esthetic.

When I returned from China I enrolled– at age 50– at Philadelphia University and earned a Master of Science degree in textile design and started Deborah Spofford Designs. Made on 23rd is a culmination of all that.

Personal/business philosophy: Treat your clients and customers — and employees — the way you would like to be treated. Create quality products.

Most rewarding part of job: Doing what I love — creating beautiful things and working with my hands. Creating something that was not here before.

Most challenging part of job: Competing without compromising quality of the handmade, nicely crafted products.

What inspires you: Color, architecture and furniture shapes influence my designs. Our spring-summer line was inspired by an odd combo of mid-century modern design and African mud cloth designs. The maker and handmade movements are passions of mine.

Something surprising about your work: When I was working on my master’s degree in textile design, we used the most advanced technology available to design and print on fabric. I love the ease and instant gratification of technology but I learned that I prefer a less perfect, handcrafted outcome. So I spent about a year after finishing school learning, experimenting, and studying block-printing techniques.

Best feature of your Clark County community: So many things! Small town feel but close to the “big city.” The weather and environment– yes, it’s true — mild weather, no humidity, not many bugs, clean air!

What would make your community a better place: Continued revival of the downtown area, better transportation options to get across the river, and more local jobs that do not require commuting across the river.

Your favorite travel destination and type: Europe is my favorite travel destination to date. I love to ride bikes in cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Shanghai. It feels like I am part of the community and I experience things that would not be possible in a car or on a train.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: I love small vintage and architectural resale stores and any coffee shop that feels cozy and serves cappuccinos in real mugs.

Hobbies: Embroidery, photography and gardening.

Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: Seeing “The Book of Mormon” in London; reading “Big Magic,” by Elizabeth Gilbert; “Case Work” exhibit by Brad Cloepfil at the Portland Art Museum.

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: This year: Grow a sustainable business and hire two more people.

Five years: Build a timber frame barn with gallery and classroom space on the ground floor and a textile design studio and production space on the second floor. Host teachers from all over the world to instruct students in traditional hand-craft techniques.

One word to describe yourself: Creative.

Person you’d most like to meet: Iris Apfel, age 94. She was my muse for one of my first textile designs. She is a fashion icon for all ages and I admire her confidence and design style. She owned a textile business with her husband back in the day.

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