DURHAM – Nearly every hour of every day, uniquely designed fabric rolls off the printers at Spoonflower in Durham. It’s a concept that had never been tried anywhere, until it happened here.
"It is a website that allows people to design, print and sell their own fabric," said Spoonflower owner and founder Stephen Fraser.
The designs that people have printed are varied and imaginative.
"Every day, I see fabric designs created by regular people, moms who are working after their kids go to bed, staying up late, messing around with Photoshop. I see fabric designs that are absolutely stunning," Fraser said.
The Spoonflower community now has more than 200,000 members. People who design, sell or buy fabric. They have been drawn by the same features that appealed to Danielle Hazen when she became the company’s first employee.
"I thought it was, and still do, find it completely fascinating from beginning to end. From the designs that we get to the way it's output, I still love to watch the prints come off the printer and off the heater," she said.
Spoonflower has flourished despite timing that could hardly have been worse.
"We, of course, launched Spoonflower in 2008, pretty much into the mouth of the recession, like literally almost the same month. But we're now probably one of the largest digital textile printing facilities in the world," said Fraser.
Fabric starts at $16 a yard and goes up, much more expensive than it can be purchased elsewhere. Because of digital printing, though, one-of-a-kind designs are available in small quantities.
Spoonflower benefited from digital printing research and resources at North Carolina State University and a company called TC 2.
“If we'd had this idea anywhere else, I doubt we would have really been able to make it a reality. Literally everything that we needed to learn how to do this was right here in the Triangle,"said Fraser.
The company will soon outgrow its facility as its customer base expands. No one really knows what the ceiling might be.
"We will have to figure out what the upper limit for Spoonflower is as we go along," said Fraser.