Even though she grew up surrounded by her clothing-designer mom’s very major collection of Japanese cloth and patterned wools, Hillery Sproatt’s initial interest in fabrics was limited to paper. But her aesthetic Los Angeles upbringing did play a big part in her decision to study at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she got deeply into an ancient form of printmaking called intaglio. “I made delicate, intricate etchings and colored them all by hand,” explains Hillery. While she eventually burned out on the labor-intensive process, it did help her carve out her current, less crazy-making creative niche. “After years of working with such a heavily processed art form, I really began to appreciate the immediacy of drawing and painting,” she says.
That mom-spiration started to kick in, though, and she dreamed of seeing her paintings on fabric—but it wasn’t until the Chicago textile company Unison reached out about a crossover collection that the idea took root. That first collab, in 2014, introduced Hillery to the family-owned American mill that now renders all of her prints in a blend of recycled cotton. Her playful, large-scale patterns, which depict everything from impressionistic jungle cats to cheerfully wonky rainbows, are inspired by references like children’s art and Paul Klee—and a free-form process. “I begin by painting just to paint. When I have a stack, I decide which lend themselves best to textile,” Hillery says. “Even so, it’s always wonderful surprise to get the samples and see how they look!” —liz sheldon