Talk Shop with Block Shop Textiles

By Katelan Cunningham · June 6, 2017

Seven years ago, on a quest to find the best natural dyes in the world, Lilly Stockman found master printer Vijendra in Bagru, India. In Bagru, Lilly was fascinated by the ancient wood block printing method and after sending samples to her sister Hopie, Block Shop Textiles was born.

Hopie and Lilly run Block Shop out of the Spring Arts Tower in Downtown LA where they design all of their textile patterns by hand, using paint instead of pixels. They send the patterns to Vijendra who dyes and prints them. Seeing the giant swaths of fabric draped from buildings in Vijendra is nothing short of spectacular.

We can't wait to hear more about the Block Shop process, how they got their name out there and why they design off screen at our first Talk Shop of the summer with Hopie Stockman. RSVP for Talk Shop here and read our Q&A with Hopie below.

 Talk Shop with Block Shop Textiles  Talk Shop with Block Shop Textiles

What did you do before Block Shop?

HOPIE: After studying english and visual arts in college, I took job in investment consulting for five years. Lots of valuable biz learnings, zero creativity. Thanks to the guidance of an incredible female mentor, that job landed me at Harvard Business School, where I learned the ins and outs of business management. I had vague goal of doing something more creative and socially impactful.

Meanwhile, Lily had been living / painting in India for a year and had forged a relationship with Vijendra (now our foreman). I traveled there one month before starting grad school to talk to Vijendra about collaborating together, and Block Shop was born as a passion project. We ran Block Shop out of Lily’s Cambridge living room, working nights and weekends for the fun of it. We had no idea it would lead to our current life and full time job in Los Angeles.

How do yours and Lily’s roles vary at the company?

HOPIE: We both design and we both run different aspects of day-to-day business, picking up the slack for each other as we go. The biggest distinction in our roles is that Lily also has a career as a studio artist, which leaves the daily Block Shop business admin up to me. We paint together, we strategize together, we argue over colorways together. Basically, we’re going against everything I learned in business school, i.e. “CLEARLY DELINEATE YOUR ROLES! CREATE BOUNDARIES!” and we love it that way. One of the primary reasons we started this business was for the joy of creating together.

When did you and Lily decide to go full-time with Block Shop?

HOPIE: I set a specific sales target within the first year. If we could meet that, then I’d feel comfortable fully committing. We beat this goal within six months, which provided enough capital to place larger orders and pay us small salaries.

“We have to set aside focused time for both designing and online stuff. ”

 Talk Shop with Block Shop Textiles  Talk Shop with Block Shop Textiles

“Art with functionality is our point of departure. ”

Can you tell us a bit about your design process?

LILY: We have to set aside focused time for both designing and online stuff. We get off our screens, clear off our work table and get the watercolors out. If we don’t dedicate a day a week to it, it doesn’t happen.

Our designs are inspired by the landscapes and architecture of our two favorite places; Southern California and Rajasthan. We love the dusky peaches and ochres of both the Mojave and the Thar deserts, and the architectural motifs we find walking the city streets in old city Jaipur and downtown Los Angeles. There are also many artists we admire who have informed our design vernacular, like Anni Albers, for her Bauhaus weavings, or Sol LeWitt, for his large-scale wall drawings. Art with functionality is our point of departure.

What are the stages of making one of your scarves?

HOPIE: We design everything on paper with watercolors and then transfer each block design onto graph paper, which we give to Raju, our main block carver, to trace and carve into wood. The wooden blocks are then used by our master printers to print our patterns onto our signature cotton-silk blend (without the use of any measuring devices). The hand is evident in every step of the process.

How did you first start spreading the word when you launched Block Shop?

HOPIE: Our greatest gift / stroke of luck on launching was receiving coverage in Design*Sponge, the beautiful and highly influential design blog. That single post launched our business into orbit. Other design bloggers and our first wave of customers took interest in Block Shop because of it, and the orders just flowed in. We are eternally grateful to Grace Bonney for believing in our mission and products from the get-go.

Come talk to Block Shop co-founder, Hopie. RSVP here.

When: Thursday, June 15. Talk is at 7 p.m. Wine, cheese, and mingling at 6:30. Feel free to come early and check out our HQ!

Where: 3828 S Santa Fe Ave, Vernon, CA 90058

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