One of the best things about running Collectivitea is getting to know creatives doing wonderful work, and today, I want to share the story behind Soda + Stitch, a block printing organization that is based out of Australia and India. Block printing is one of those processes that captures the imagination, and once you get to know it, it’s very hard to not fall in love. Soda + Stitch is the result of Jemma Bell’s love for block printing but that’s not the only love story!
Collectivitea: I would love to hear about Soda + Stitch- what prompted you to start it and how long have you been running it? Why textiles? And why block prints? I am obsessed with block printing but each one comes to love it for different reasons.
JB: “It’s a bit of an unusual story, which starts with a hot air balloon flight that really changed everything! Every year, my sister and I would travel to India, mainly Jaipur, for our annual buying trip for her homewares brand, Sage x Clare – at the time, I was living in London and Europe, so it was also a great way for us to catch up. On our last trip together, about two and half years ago, I managed to convince her that we should take a hot air balloon flight, and through that I met the man who runs the company, a fellow Aussie called Paul. Paul and I instantly got along well and we decided to keep in touch after I left India. It wasn’t long until he was in London for a quick visit, and during that visit, he asked me to move to Jaipur… So I said yes!”
“My background was in textiles and I’d been working as a graphic and textile designer for quite a while, so it seemed like a natural progression that I should start my own textile brand once I landed and settled in Jaipur. Soda + Stitch was born about 6 months after I first arrived and it has now been up and running for just under 18 months. Soda + Stitch has a few different facets to the business – it has textiles that sell by the meter through the website and through agents in Australia and the US, all hand block printed of course. There is also a range of textiles for children such as bedding, cot sheets and cushions. And lastly, Soda + Stitch can be “hired” for textile and graphic design, as well as sampling and production – acting as an agent, Soda + Stitch help other small brands and businesses create their own textile dreams.
Block printing has always fascinated me – I studied screen printing at university in Australia and loved that process – but there’s something about block printing that is so beautiful. The nuances of printing in this way are the perfect celebration of the handmade and I’m always so amazed, and maybe a little envious, of the skills of everyone involved – carvers, colour mixers and printers. There is something very magical about seeing a block print evolve!”
Collectivitea: Would you consider yourself a creative entrepreneur?
JB: “I’m not sure if I’m an entrepreneur, but I do love exploring new creative outlets and ways of designing and making! I also love to try things and part of living in India is having the opportunity to do that. Soda + Stitch would be an entirely different business if I was still living in Australia or the UK! India gives me the freedom and possibilities to discover printing techniques and all sorts of different hand work. Whilst Soda + Stitch wasn’t really started in the hopes of making millions, it was started with the thought of exploring India’s amazing hand skills. I really wanted to bring those handmade industries to a marketplace, such as Australia, where the traditional and artisanal skills just don’t exist.”
JB: “The biggest challenge is getting your name out there and making it known and accessible to customers. The product development and design is so much fun, but at the end of the day, it’s only worth it if you can break into a marketplace and find people who also love your products! The greatest triumph is actually finding those people! Or having those customers find you! There’s nothing nicer than getting a great review from a happy customer!”
Collectivitea: What is your favorite part of it? What’s the one thing you would change?
JB: “My favorite part is definitely the development of the brand – from creating or designing the branding, logo and website through to developing new prints and products. This side of it definitely addictive! I also love coming up with new print and pattern ideas and seeing them develop into block printed fabric – the process is also super addictive! And very rewarding. The one thing I would change is the fact that I work alone the majority of the time. Being a small business, I’m the creative director right through to the courier, and sometimes I miss working in a team of people. Being your own boss has a lot of positives, but it does mean all the decision making is on you! It would be nice to occasionally get the opinion of someone else – I’m pretty sure Paul, my partner, gets sick of me asking which yellow looks best or what fabric would suit better!!
Collectivitea: The one advice you would give someone who is starting on this path?
JB: “Be in love with what you’re making/producing/designing/selling! If you don’t have the passion, it will be hard for other people to get excited about it too. Think about your strengths and play to them – and get help in the areas that you’re not super strong in. But most importantly, have fun!”
Thank you for sharing your story, Jemma! Visit Soda+Stitch at their website here and I promise, you are going to love the whimsical prints and patterns!
Image credits: All images courtesy of Jemma Bell/ Soda+Stitch