A Passion for Pattern: Up Close & Personal with Pam Heavner
With her creative, inspiring touch, Pam Heavner has the power to bring spaces to life. Whether she’s restoring a historic home, designing a custom fabric, or fashioning a lush terrarium out of an antique candy dish, Heavner has the power to make a space alive and exciting.
An interior designer for nearly 30 years, Heavner specializes in historic preservation. Her work is mostly residential, decorating homes from North Carolina to New York, and she also spends time seeking out antiques from England and France to China and Hong Kong. “It’s something I’ve just enjoyed for so long,” says Heavner, who is based out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has recently taken on more commercial projects, such as yacht and country clubs.
With her thumb on the pulse of the interior design world, and her love for antiques and historic preservation, launching a line of new traditional textiles for the home felt like a natural next step for Heavner.
A few years ago, as 1970s geometric patterns were enjoying a revival, Heavner took it upon herself to make sure people didn’t forget about classic patterns and textiles by creating her own unique fabric line.
“I felt like we were losing sight of the really beautiful fabrics with elaborate and interesting patterns — and, I didn’t want to see that happen,” says Heavner. “I also thought how fun it would be to design a line of fabric.”
So, five years ago, she launched Pam Heavner Fabric, a line of solids, stripes, and patterns printed on all-natural linen. What Heavner didn’t realize at the time was that she was part of a new movement in the design world that was utilizing digital printing in innovative ways. With the technology just becoming popular in the interior design and fashion industries, Heavner was able to work with a printer in North Carolina to easily produce fabric for each customer’s specific order. Rather than printing roll by roll at a minimum of 1500 yards, Heavner was able to purchase and print fabric per unique small-batch order and not worry about inventory and dye variations. “So, if someone spills red wine on a chair and had fabric for two years, I can print them another piece that matches identically,” she says.
Plus, the method gave her the ability to print various samples and experiment with color and design—and drastically cut down on the turnaround time. “You can almost always get my designs within two to three weeks,” Heavner says.
Heavner also credits the accessibility of digital printing for making her creative designs come to life with ease. “It really has changed everything,” Heavner says. “I would have had to approach this from a very different platform if I had not been able to start on a shoestring. It was great that I found this, and I was one of the first people in digitally printed fabric in the design world.”
Heavner’s fabrics, which are named for family and friends, range from classic botanical prints to patterns of regal-looking dogs wearing crowns. Her lines are organized by cohesive groups, such as a nature group with flora and fauna, and a sea group with intricate reef designs, fish, seashells, and mermaids. Heavner also created a vintage fabric line that takes inspiration from a collection of favorite fabrics that she’s collected over the years.
“I took some designs from old, old fabrics and reworked and re-colored them, moved patterns around, changed the scale of the design, and printed them on linen,” she says. “The original art is from 1920s or before.”
In addition to designing and manipulating images on her computer, Heavner, who studied fine arts with a concentration in painting at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, also does work by hand. “I’m very old-fashioned, and I’m a cut-and-paste girl,” she says. “I don’t paint as much as I used to, but I certainly do a lot of sketches.”
Heavner draws inspiration for her lines from a collection of historic books, illustrations, and fabrics. “I’ll look through an architecture book of 16th-century buildings and find a carving of a leaf or branch, and then I’ll reproduce that on my computer and move it around, and change the scale, and cut and paste it. I might make a tree out of it, or a garland using the one leaf or branch from the 16th century.”
A NEW LEAF
A few years after the launch of her fabric line, Heavner, a self-proclaimed paper junkie, created a line of greeting cards. She’d been designing paper products for friends here and there, and after a local store asked her to create a stationery line, she realized it was time for another new project.
“Since then, we’ve really expanded the line,” she says. “ We have hundreds and hundreds of cards. Christmas is huge for us. It’s been really fun.”
Heavner started out creating monogram stationery, and then expanded to greeting cards. Her current lines of holiday cards, which are digitally printed on 80-pound paper, feature a pack of alligators gathered around a Christmas tree, dogs stacked one on top of another with mistletoe hanging out of one’s mouth, and a well-dressed hippopotamus lifting his glass to toast. “I didn’t want them to be too serious,” Heavner says, with a laugh. Cards range from classic designs to quirky images of animals and fun phrases.
Much like with her textile patterns, Heavner’s stationery inspiration comes from her collection of historic design books and illustrations.
“For instance, I use some Victorian designs in the Christmas card line,” she says. “I’ll see a Victorian Christmas tree and pull that from a book. I love animals, and so I find animals in antique children’s books and fairytales.” Heavner finds sources of inspiration in more obscure places, too, like a carving of an animal’s face spotted on the side of a building, which she’ll reproduce and elaborate upon in her designs.
With her penchant for paper, pattern, and interiors, a wallpaper line seems like a natural next step for Heavner. Might that be in the future?
“Oh, I would love to,” she says. “We have talked about it. The wallpaper industry is changing like the fabric industry. There are so many possibilities!”
In the meantime, Heavner is filling fabric orders from multiple continents and keeping very busy. From starting her first business in 1985 (a decorative basket company) to today, it’s been one creative project after another, and that seems unlikely to change any time soon. “I’ve always had something going on in my life,” says Heavner, of her entrepreneurial spirit, “and I’ve always liked that.”
Text by MARISSA HERMANSON.
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