You formally trained as an artist at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and had a career as a painter before starting your textile company, Ferrick Mason, in 2008. How did you make the artistic leap from one medium to another?
Alex Mason: After I graduated from Pratt, my husband and I moved to New Zealand, where I continued to paint. But people there kept telling me that my work would translate well to textiles. So when we moved to Los Angeles three years later, I decided to go to school to learn the craft. I attended Otis College of Art and Design and learned pattern design and the famous William Morris method. At the time, there weren’t many boutique textile lines, but I was inspired by Lulu de Kwiatkowski and what she was doing at her company Lulu DK. Around 2007, I was introduced to Brian Ferrick, who had helped start Kathryn Ireland’s line and also Michael Smith’s Jasper line. He had the experience and knowledge about the business that I was looking for, so we formed Ferrick Mason together in 2008, right before the market crashed.
How did you manage to keep a new business going during a financial crisis?
A big part of our success in the early days was that our hand silk screen printer would let us print small print runs instead of carrying a large inventory. Later we expanded into digital printing, which allowed for a more painterly expression of our designs. I also moved with my family from Los Angeles to the small town of Versailles (pronounced “Ver-sales”), Kentucky, where I was able to buy an 1860s building on Main Street and renovate it into a studio/showroom space, which had been my dream. And unlike when we lived in LA, we can own a house here!
Is there a difference between seeing your work on a canvas and seeing its application on textiles, pillows, and wallcoverings?
It feels completely different to me. I get so much joy in making a pattern, seeing it translated onto fabric, and seeing the fabric upholstered on a piece of furniture. But I am more emotionally invested in my paintings, so there is this pull and tug. Luckily, I get to do both types of work, and they are in constant conversation with one another. For example, I often put a repetitive iconography in my art, and then I’ll create a fabric design from that.
How would you describe the Ferrick Mason aesthetic?
I’m very inspired by color and organic forms in nature. In my designs, you’ll see dogwoods, fiddle-leaf fig trees, and lots of flowers, but I also like to make up forms of nature that are more abstract. I’m not reined in by what someone would actually see in the garden. It’s more whimsical, but it’s always referencing nature.
Tell us about your latest collection.
This year we were excited to launch printed grass cloth for the first time. It was kind of an experiment for me because it required a different width and repeat, so I couldn’t do the same designs that I do for fabric and wallpaper. For this year’s textiles and wallpapers, I was especially inspired by these magical florals I created that we named McCall. Another new design I love is Zimmer, which is made up of different symbols of iconography. Some people have said the design looks like coral while others have said it looks like Chinese calligraphy. Finally, I love a new print called Emily—a pretty, leafy plant I created that looks great in lots of colors.
What can we look forward to in future Ferrick Mason designs?
I want to be more conscious of broadening the warmer colors I use. I’m instinctively drawn to blues and greens, but I think I can push other colors in textiles in a unique way to give more variety and more depth. It feels a little risky, but it’s also how I think I can be distinctive.
Interview by Kirk Reed Forrester