Guest post | David Butler on Parson Gray

by contributor on 02/04/2012

in Guest Blogger, Sewing+Fabric

Parson Gray is the brand of David Butler – artist and lead singer of the band Black Owls. With a decidedly “folk modern” approach, David uses richly muted palettes and organic, geometric prints with hand-drawn sophistication anchored in modernist simplicity reminiscent of mid-century studio design. His brand offerings range from textiles, to fashion, home and personal accessories.

Thanks for swinging by Whipup and letting me indulge for a bit. I’m going to ramble about my design inspiration and process for just a little while, and if you get bored, well, that’s my fault. Some of you may know me as the husband of the awesome designer Amy Butler, and some of you (fewer of you) might know that I also have a band called Black Owls. I lead a very full and very kinetic & crazy life, just the way I like it! I’m glad you’re here.

Start by saying that I always have ideas and inspiration pinned up on my boards. I know pretty much what the collection of prints is going to be when designing fabric. My inspiration boards contain strange elements and shapes in nature, rock music, folk art, mid-century design, motion, fashion, all things that I find exciting and soothing at the same time. I use these inspirations more for tone and story rather than real reference for the art. It never really seems to work that way. I like to have an over-abundance of reference, and drawings/paintings, and edit down from where I started. There are many parallels to creating music. I like to write a large volume of songs and then pare down to get to an album. The difference is with rock music, I co-create with my partner Ed who writes the music. We have sketches, we finalize them (demos), then we turn them into final art (masters). It just takes a heck of a lot longer to do the music than it does to do the fabrics!

For Curious Nature there were a few prints that went all the way through coloring and then bit the dust after I put together the entire collection. (Just like our new album) They seemed a perfect fit when I started, but didn’t flow well with everything else once it all came together as a color story. I pull together my drawings and prints in black and white and scan them in. Then I make my repeats and clean up the art as I need to. I intentionally keep the hand-drawn character, flaws and all, because it is inherent to the character of the art. I then make my step and repeats on the computer and build my color palette. Then it’s all just experimentation. Dropping in colors, printing them out, laying them on the floor and editing. Like I said, not everything makes the cut. The whole process for me takes a little less than a week to complete.

My next range is already designed and in production. It’s called Seven Wonders. 24 prints that will work alongside Curious Nature. I wanted to expand upon the palette that I’ve built with the first line, and create a world of prints and colors that go together – So folks can refresh their investment in Curious Nature with an addendum set of colors and prints. I love the idea of expanding upon something already built. I’m currently working on a series of other products and ideas (while helping Amy with her business and photography, website, etc..). A Black Owls double album comes out soon too. I need a nap.

Thanks for checking in! – Dave

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1 Dace April 5, 2012 at 3:14 am

These designs are so cool, love the palette, how do you find these treasures Kathreen?

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