28 November 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Ekofabrik

This Monday, in A Portrait of the Artist I am very honored to present the woman behind Ekofabrik. Kim Johnson is a freelance graphic designer and children's book illustrator who loves to sew pillow covers. I am sure you have seen pillow covers but I bet you haven't seen anything near to what Kim has in store. It takes just a glance to remember forever her distinct style and to fall in love with the simple and bright forms of her creations. But not only does she come up with unique modern designs for young and old, she does so with the environment in mind. Kim works with organic cottons, eco-felt, natural materials and vintage fabrics. 

As Kim points out:
Using recycled plastic keeps billions of plastic PET bottles out of the world’s landfills each year. 10 bottles equal one pound of polyester fiber. This fiber can be used on its own or mixed with cotton or wool to make clothing, etc. By supporting recycling we can lower harmful air emissions and save millions of barrels of oil from being used which, in turn, reduces the harmful effects of acid rain, global warming, and smog. 

You are a graphic designer and a children's book illustrator, how did you decide to start making your amazing eco-friendly pillow covers?
I have always loved to sew and knit. I come from a long line of artists in my family and have always done something creative, even as a child. I was searching the web one day for environmentally safe fabrics for my home and came across felt made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. I was very excited!! I am a big believer in recycling and I thought that eco-friendly felt would make excellent pillow covers. I was right, it is very easy to use, no fraying, you can wash it and there are so many colors to choose from. One of my very first pillow covers was the “Honeycomb Bee” pillow, which was recently seen in Simply Handmade Magazine, September 2011 issue.

You opened your Ekofabrik etsy shop in January this year and since then your pillow covers have been featured in some major magazines as Life@Home Magazine, Simply Handmade Magazine, ReadyMade Magazine and Shop Til You Drop Australia, which is a great success in such a short time. How did you do it?
I spend a lot of time on the web with my blog and my three shops. It is important for an online business to keep up with other blogs and what is current in the market today. I researched the magazines that I liked and submitted product for their review. The Simply Handmade and ReadyMade features resulted from my submissions and Life@Home and Shop Til You Drop editors contacted me through my shop on Etsy. It has been great exposure and I appreciate all of the positive feedback.

Type Cushion Cover
What is your inspiration for the clean and simple style of your pillow case designs?
My inspiration comes from modern art, nature and Scandinavian design. I tend to decorate minimally with key pieces, lots of color, vintage influence and elegant lines, which I think show in my work.

I recently published a series of posts on the plastic that is polluting the oceans. What made you choose felt from recycled plastic bottles for your designs? Why not natural wool felt?
I chose the recycled felt because of just that, it is recycled. Plastic drinking bottles, as you mentioned above, is a very big problem for our environment. I thought what a great way to show that recycled can be beautiful and affordable.

How do you recycle in everyday life?
I am the biggest recycler on my block! I tend to have more recycling than actual trash. I also use recycled grocery bags, set the setting on my printer for double-sided printing to not waste paper, set out pans to catch rain water for my plants, etc., the list goes on. :)

Eco Felt Dot Pillow Cover
Apart from your Ekofabrik shop you have two more on etsy - Photographik, where you sell Giclee prints, printed on eco-friendly watercolor papers with archival inks; and The Little Green House where you offer vintage goods.You seem to be very active, how do you manage to keep your shops in shape and updated? How much time do you spend on etsy? 
Yes, my life is pretty hectic. I spend a lot of time managing the shops. I generally spend a couple of hours or so a day to maintain, longer when I have new items to list. I am also a freelance graphic designer, which is my bread and butter, and I am currently illustrating my first children’s book, which will be out next spring. With such a busy schedule I try to take an hour a day for yoga to reset the batteries.

How do you incorporate your knowledge as a graphic designer in your eco creations?
As a graphic designer, the computer is a very important tool. I use Photoshop and Illustrator to draw up my designs. This way I can change color and adjust at a whim. I also use clean lines, a lot of shapes and complimentary color combinations, which are staples for a graphic designer.

Doodle Flower Pillow Cover Series
Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years?
I hope to have Ekofabrik at a larger capacity, expanding into other housewares. I already make placemats, but I have other ideas, including original fabric designs printed on natural cottons and linens using water-based inks. I am also toying with the idea of writing a craft book on how to make some of my pillow covers.

What is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
That is a hard question. There are so many talented people on Etsy. I have many favorite items. One shop in particular I do love is messicakes. I love their modern unique wall art, right down my alley! 

Make sure you connect with Kim: Etsy | Website | Blog


  1. great feature! her work is gorgeous.

  2. Do like the idea of felt made from plastic bottles. Pardon my ignorance, but how on earth does that come about?

    Would love to learn more, as I can, and do, use felt for adorning my toys to be seen at www.coldhamcuddlies.etsy.com and blogged about at www.ColdhamCuddliescalling.blogspot.com.

    Please contact me via convo or email at petis@tiscali.co.uk or Etsy as and when.

    Thanks in advance! Isobel

  3. Great feature! Her pillows are gorgeous! I love the modern designs. Proof once again that very chic things can be made from eco-friendly fabrics!

  4. Great interview, and beautiful pillows!