Meet Lillian Farag: Stroke of Messy Genius

Paint splotches, messy strokes and marbling colours are eponymous with American artist, Lillian Farag. Lillian is comfortable with taking risks with her art, following her instincts and adding a playful twist to her choice of expression. Turns out it is working for her, too!

Not only has she launched her own label with her stand-out hand-painted leather products, but she has collaborated with leading brands such as Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Barnes & Noble and now once again with Nerida Hansen Fabrics.

Catching up with our blog editor, Jacqui Taylor, Lillian discusses her life as a creative, running her own business and finding inspiration in life.

Hello Lillian, thanks for your time. Let’s start with you, tell me a bit about yourself such as where did you grow up and where you live now?
Hi! I’m Lillian. I’m an artist and textile designer living in Los Angeles, CA. I grew up in south Florida and lived with my mum until I graduated high school. I attended The Savannah College of Art and Design where I obtained my BFA in Fibre Arts and Textile Design. Soon after I graduated I moved to New York City where I spent the next 16 years living and working, focusing on my craft and starting a business.

When did you realise that you were creative?
I have always expressed myself creatively through working with my hands. I love the idea of expressing myself through fashion and the feeling of creating something original to reflect my personality or emotion has always been an interest. From a young age, I could spend countless hours working alone painting or finding creative solutions to gift giving. I have been lucky in my life to have tremendous support in following my passion and eventually into a profession.
How did you get started in this industry?
I started off as a surface print designer working in the fashion industry for many years before breaking off on my own and producing my own patterns and products. I’ve always loved to work with my hands and I wanted to start creating artwork or products that I felt passionate about.

Slowly as I started to make connections in this industry small collaborations started to form and thus build a body of work that I felt really proud and excited about.

While designing patterns and licensing my work is how I got started in this industry, I also have a passion for painting and working with different materials as well. My painted leather line started when I merged my love of pattern design and painting with my love of leather accessories. It felt like a natural progression but there has been a lot of experimentation.
Talk me through your work and process.
Experimentation has always been key in starting my design process. I love to play with scale and texture, paper and shapes. I enjoy exploring subjects that you wouldn't typically see in patterns, (ie, funky caterpillars or snakes in gardens). Generally, I like to keep it light, colourful and happy!

How have you coped/adapted your work during COVID-19?
I took the time during COVID to really slow down and refocus aspects of my life and business. My family moved across the country and that big transition created an opportunity for me to restructure how I wanted to grow my businesses and balance work and family. During the past year I’ve had to cancel many trade shows and it allowed me to work on personal projects without deadlines, which was a nice change and fulfilling in terms of personal growth and creating “free think space”.
Lillian, you have been an extension of the Nerida Hansen Fabrics family for a while now. How did you meet Nerida Hansen? Were you familiar with the business?
I met Nerida back in 2016 just as I was transitioning out of the corporate design world and into my own workflow. We were introduced by a mutual friend who Nerida had been representing at the time. The timing was really perfect because Nerida was looking for additional designers to take part in new business ventures as she was growing her collective and I too was looking for new ways to take my work to the next level.

Over the years both of our businesses have really evolved into something different. However, I have always admired and trusted her approach to new opportunities. Her passion has always inspired me to take chances and her knowledge of the industry has also made me feel confident that it would lead to something new and exciting!
Tell me about your upcoming collection for Nerida Hansen Fabrics. What were your inspirations for this body of work?
A lot of my patterns are inspired by nature, shapes and colour. For this collection pulled together some ideas I was working on, presented it to Nerida and her team and created a collection that we felt was cohesive and fun.

Do you like seeing your designs on garments and homewares?
Of course, I love all of it! It's amazing seeing my work on finished products. It's really gratifying to see how the process comes full circle. I also feel so humbled when I am approached by other companies or artists to work together on a project. Something about bringing multiple creative forces together and having that collaborative experience is really rewarding.

What is your favourite part of each day?
I have a soft spot for quiet mornings. Mostly because the lighting is warm and inviting. There is something to the start of a new day, which means new ideas, new colors, and new challenges.

Who has inspired you the most to date and why? Whose careers do you follow?
I love following the work of fellow artists who work in different mediums. Ceramicists that focus on colour and pattern have been a recent source of inspiration. I love seeing how people can get creative with different materials in their work incorporating texture, I find a lot of inspiration there as well. I feel inspired to experiment and try new things that keep my work evolving. I think it's important to challenge myself or learn different mediums so that I’m not stuck in my own style bubble and I can grow within my craft.

Do you have a dream collaboration or project?
Yes! I have yet to collaborate with a children's brand or clothing brand. I really try to keep my work light and playful and I really embrace the child within using colour, shape and even wit to make my patterns come alive. I truly want people to feel happy when they see my work out in the wild. I just feel like anything children related or a funky new clothing line would be a perfect fit and would be dreamy to work on. Fingers crossed the right collaboration opportunity comes my way in the near future. :)
What is in the pipeline for you for 2021?
I have a wonderful collaboration of hand painted rainbow sandals with Beek that will be launching in mid-2021 through the summer. The wonderful women who run the brand approached me in 2019 on collaborating with them to create a colourful sandal and we have since brought our forces together to offer these limited edition pieces. Lots of hand painted love went into each pair of flats, there is a limited quantity available and I’m so excited to see it launch! All pieces will be available via www.beekshop.com.

Name three words that best describe your style of art.
Colorful, playful, bold

What advice would you offer to those that are starting out as an artist?
There is never going to be a “perfect time” to start a business or change paths to start something new. If you have an idea go for it and see where it takes you. There is nothing wrong with failure, it keeps you evolving.

Continue to educate yourself and integrate yourself in your community. The benefits of having a support system around you is beneficial on many levels. It also gives you the confidence to take on new challenges without feeling alone in the process.

To get some Lillian Farag into your life shop her range at www.neridahansen.com.au.