Hand-Painted Prints Adventure
The Creation of Luckyleo's 4 New Prints
The idea of creating our very own, hand-painted prints has been something that we have wanted to do for many years. From the start of our company, Heather and I toyed with ideas like using fabric dyes or paints to create one-of-a-kind leotards that were truly pieces of art. As ballet dancers in the professional ballet company Ballet Arizona, we were always looking for something new and different so we wouldn’t just blend into the corps. How you dance and your dance work ethic is so important, but the way that the director views you (or that ever-important choreographer who watches ten seconds of class to cast their next ballet) is also so important to your career. We started the process of designing our own prints with this in mind. It was our drive to continue to create new, exciting leotards for our dancers who order from us that pushed us to make our dream of hand-painted prints a reality so we could provide the most exclusive and unique dancewear out there.
For our express and custom leotards, we constantly search the globe looking for new, exciting fabrics that our dancers would appreciate. But often the fabrics we find fall a bit short. We don’t always LOVE the color scheme, or maybe the shape or scale of the print was a little off for what we would wear as a dancer in class. And that’s what we always judge our designs against…is this something we would love to wear in class ourselves? Is this something that would make us feel confident and flatter the body? If not, we don’t make it!
So, after ruling out physically painting each leotard (too time consuming and not durable enough for our standards), we turned to the next step: creating custom prints ourselves. If no one else out there was designing prints we thought our dancers would love wearing, we had to step up to the plate and make it happen!
We began by researching pattern creation through Photoshop. Heather started playing around with shapes and scale on the computer, and I started sketching ideas. The two of us looked online for references of classic, soft, hand-drawn botanicals, and put together mood boards to try and perfect the look and feel that we wanted to evoke in our fabric prints.
After getting ideas for colors and types of flowers, I started trying our different mediums like pastels, acrylics, and markers. But once I tried painting florals with watercolors, I knew I had found the perfect medium. I love the soft, romantic florals that are possible with such a fluid medium. The flowers seemed to dance off the page and were just waiting to be worn by ballerinas, and I knew they would be the building blocks of classic and timeless prints.
Since I had decided on the perfect medium for our paintings, I ran over to the local art supply store for more colors and brushes. I began creating the floral elements that Heather then tweaked in color and proportions till they were perfect for our prints. She used Photoshop to cut out her favorite elements from each painting I created, and lay each flower, keeping flattering placements in mind. The final step was color editing, where we both referred back to our mood board and played around until we found something we loved. We decided on our four favorite prints from several that we created, and started looking around for a good company that could print them for us.
We sent them out to be printed on fabric that we picked as the softest and most comfortable and checked that the colors would translate nicely. Heather and I couldn’t contain our excitement when we received our first strike-off of one of our hand-painted prints. Just weeks ago it had only been a glimmer of hope in our minds, and now they were delivering what we had imagined in a box to our door. To see our dreams being realized was incredibly satisfying! When we opened up the package, however, the colors were just a bit off. What looked beautiful on our screen turned out to not translate perfectly on the fabric. Though we were a little thrown off by this setback, we didn’t let it get us down! Instead, we took it as a learning experience, and knew that we would keep trying till it turned out just the way we had imagined it should look. A few strike-offs later after color alterations on our end, we got the perfect sample in the mail. Heather and I knew it was the one we would move forward with as our first ever in-house floral print. We were so excited to finally be able to create not only artistic and stylish leotards, but the fabric they are made from too!
We repeated this process with three more designs, and loved each one more than the last! Creating hand-made prints seemed beyond our reach at first, but after setting our minds to make it happen it was so rewarding to see them as the mailman brought in each roll. It was even more exciting to think that no one else in the world would be able to use our prints we had designed, making our leotards even more unique and special for each of our customers to wear. Which print is your favorite of our four new custom prints? Heather and I would love to hear your comments below!