Meet Marisa Luz the owner, designer and maker behind the brand Sealight Designs, specializing in pillows made with fabric sourced from all over the world. I was drawn to the color, textures and patterns of the fabrics, but once I learned more I realized the beautiful sense of adventure and respect for other cultures that the brand evokes. Read Marisa's story below:
Tell us about your background and what inspired you to start your business. Did you have an “Ah-Ha!” moment?
My “Ah-Ha!” moment was a slow build-up over about 3 years. I have been working for a large corporation for the past 5 years, and while working in corporate has absolutely been one of the most beneficial things for me in terms forming my professional maturity, there was something missing from being a 9-5 employee. For a while it felt like an itch I couldn’t scratch, and I was trying to figure out what that meant, or what I should do about it. So I considered every option possible from going back to school, considering getting into real estate, starting my own dating advice business (which I happily do for free, just FYI!). I considered every avenue. Nothing felt right, but like I said I knew I needed something different than what I was currently doing.
My background in sewing began when I was in middle school. I took a home economics class and loved it. I was making projects faster than my teacher could assign. This lead me to making up my own projects and one of them was a sleeping bag for Beanie Babies, which were at the height of their popularity when I was in 7th grade. I even had the nerve to try and sell the Beanie Baby sleeping bags to a local boutique and this turned out to be successful! I think I made $10 from this short lived entrepreneurial endeavor.
Cut to present day, after considering every option in the book, it finally dawned on me that’s what I was craving. My itch I couldn’t scratch was being able to work with my hands, being creative, and to learn something new. Sewing, and as an extension of that, my pillow making business, was a perfect marriage of all of these things. Making pillows, and specifically out of vintage, ethnic textiles, came as an extension of my natural taste and curiosity for these fabrics. I was at a flea market one afternoon, and started noticing all of these beautiful textiles and by the end of the day I came home with my first two pieces; an indigo textile from West Africa, and a Guatemalan skirt textile. Before that day I didn’t even know these fabrics existed, so the progression of my business has felt very natural and in line with my own person interest and curiosity for the history behind what I buy.
Your pillows are made with fabrics you collected from all over the world. How do you select your fabrics? Do you start with colors and patterns in mind or do you start with specific countries in mind?
This is a great question and one I think that will evolve over time. I started out not knowing exactly the direction I was going to go with my fabric selection, and I just let my own personal tastes and interests guide the way. Nothing I buy is wholesale. It’s all small batched, individually selected fabrics I’ve found through flea markets, textile dealers, or vintage shops. The part I love most about my business is the hunting process. Finding a beautiful textile, that is only sold in a small piece and isn’t mass produced, that has history, it truly feels special and I hope my customers feel the same way when their pillow arrives to their door. That is what really stirs something in me and helps drive my creative process. Some of the fabrics I’ve purchased I have learned about their story or origin during the buying process and it can feel like I’m having a cultural experience, even when I haven’t traveled far at all.
My goal is to eventually source the fabrics myself through direct travel to these countries. So far I’ve used textiles from China, West Africa, Guatemala and India. It would be a dream come true to book a ticket to any one of these places and seek out the fabric myself, learn more about the culture through direct interaction, and help my buyers understand the full story of where their pillows came from. I think it gives a truly unique and wonderful buying experience.
What is your work space like?
I am very fortunate to have a home large enough to accommodate a work space, which is a bedroom I’ve converted into a sewing room. I would love a full studio eventually where I can also do staging of my product as well, but the space I have for now works wonderfully.
Your pillows have very vibrant colors and lovely textures. Please explain how you use photography to convey this.
I cannot take full credit for my product photography. My friend, Morgan Liti, photographs the images I use for my shop listings. She is an excellent photographer! You can find her work at: http://www.seemogo.com/ I also give the credit to the fabrics themselves. They’re quite vibrant and colorful all on their own, and I think that helps the direction of the photos. It’s easy to have a playful attitude toward the product shots because the fabrics I use feel like they have their own personality because of how colorful and unique they are.
Do you sell exclusively online?
At the moment, yes, and so far the Etsy experience has been really rewarding and helpful someone fairly new to retail. I’ve learned so much very quickly, and I think the Etsy model is ideal for my type of product. I’ve been approached by a few boutiques to do consignment, and I hope to go forward with the right shop in the future. My product has a niche audience, and so if and when I do move forward in the boutique space it would have to be a mutually good fit.
Thank you Marisa for sharing your story and your photos!