Passion of Patterns: This Cranbrook Grad is Bringing Detroit Design to NYC

Influenced by Michigan’s natural beauty, Peyton North, originally of West Bloomfield, brings her textile acumen to an esteemed NYC design company.
Photograph courtesy of Rachel Idzerda

As a child growing up in West Bloomfield, Peyton North was surrounded by fabrics and sewing accoutrement. All those buttons, zippers, and needles — along with yards of fabric aplenty — didn’t go unnoticed by the curious girl.

Today, in fact, North is a senior designer for New York City-based Pollack, which specializes in textiles and is located in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.

“My mom and grandma sewed; my mom made all of our Halloween costumes — they were so beautiful. It was a tactile house growing up,” recalls North, who adds that her grandmother had a special appreciation for table linens. “Grandma was a florist, and my mom is big on gardening and landscaping, so I gravitate toward a floral print,” adds the designer, whose mother lives in Birmingham and father lives in Milford.

North attended Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills from prekindergarten through her senior year of high school and says she landed in the textile arena thanks to support along the way, especially in high school.

“I was lucky to attend Cranbrook and took my first weaving class in ninth grade. I chose it arbitrarily, thinking it sounded fun since there are so many fabric lovers in my family,” she says. The then-teen made a bracelet on a loom and discovered she had a passion for interlacing threads and creating patterns. North’s weaving teacher (and a local artist), Lynn Bennett-Carpenter, suggested North pursue art and attend the Rhode Island School of Design.

“She planted the seed,” North says. “I’d never heard of that school but decided to go.”

At the college, she chose to focus on weaving. Upon graduation with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in textiles, North spent a few years working for The House of Scalamandré, a large New York City-based fabric and wall-covering company.

Today, North, who’s been with Pollack for nearly five years, is happy to report that she gets to create her own designs.

The designer recently appeared at the Tennant & Associates showroom at the Michigan Design Center in Troy to host a lunch-and-learn program showcasing Pollack’s newest brand, Spring Street. We caught up with the designer to discuss everything from her fabric addiction to how Michigan’s lakes inspire her works.

Where do you get the ideas for your patterns?

I live in the countryside in New Jersey, so there’s always nature around me. Also, I spent a lot of time at Walloon and Crystal lakes in northern Michigan growing up and still head to Crystal Lake every year. Those lake blues are my favorite colors. The waters have turquoise shades that fade to verdant greens. The sunsets there are stunning, too. My mom’s family also had a cottage in the Upper Peninsula, so growing up I was always surrounded by nature.

And I spent so much time at Cranbrook at their beautiful outdoor spaces. [Incidentally, North’s mother was part of the design team for Cranbrook’s Brookside Children’s Garden.] Nature is the best inspiration, and I’m always observant. I take pictures all the time, whether walking around Birmingham or going to the art museums in Detroit.

The design team works collaboratively. Our design director, Rachel Doriss, lives in a home surrounded by natural beauty as well and sensed that with people focusing on home more during the pandemic, these organic subtleties are favored more and will be into the future.

So, in basic terms, how does fabric become fabric?

We start by hand, with perhaps a pencil sketch. Then we flesh that out and create artwork with either watercolor or ink or other elements, working on about an 18-by-24-inch piece of paper. Then we upload that into a computer and create a pattern with various software.

Every mill offers different printing techniques and repeat sizes, so we work with mills then to get it just right. We choose mills for different reasons, whether they specialize in embroidery, printing, weaving, etc.

How do you get those cool finishes that look so painterly and tactile?

I love to marry the printing technique with the artwork, choosing the best base fabric, print method (digital, screen-printed, etc.), and finish for a particular pattern.

In the case of, say, Studio (the square pattern), a brushed finish creates a weathered look and soft hand, highlighting the slubs in the ground cloth. The art washes often have a brushed look to them based on the printing. I try to capture the detail of hand-painting in the printed fabrics.

The new Spring Street line is beautiful and filled with great colors and a modern appeal. Where did that name come from, and how would you explain your muses for this collection?

Pollack is located at the intersection of Varick and Spring streets, thus the name Spring. I’m inspired by so much in the outdoors, like dunes after a storm, that combed sandy surface, a silhouette pattern in the sand. The cyanotype print features late-summer cicadas, and it’s actually called Late Summer. We name the pattern [colors] after things we know, like Indigo, Terrain, Clay, Moss, Palomino, and Eucalyptus.

Will you add any of the Spring Street patterns to your own home?

I’ll probably hang Meadowland, in Desert, on a wall in our bedroom, behind the bed. I’m always bringing fabric home; it’s an addiction, right? I like the warm tones [of Desert] and the mix of pink, yellow, and green.

Have you ever thought of getting into fashion and apparel design?

I’ve always had an interest in fashion. My grandmother and mom loved clothing. But I like the furnishings and wall-covering design industry better because the patterns have a longer shelf life. And you’re living with them day in and day out.

What types of trends are you seeing in the world that affect your design

People are craving a softer sense of home. I’m seeing a lot more greens and warmer colors, like Cognac, caramel, clay, and moss. There’s less gray and a definite shift toward warm.

How do you like your job?

I’m so proud of what I do. I deal with amazing mills around the world. It’s an honor to work at Pollack, which is considered a specialized textile boutique, and to bring these textiles into homes.

Tell us about a future collection you’re working on now?

Our company works one to two years in advance of when a collection is introduced, and we work on three collections at a time [residential and commercial]. We launch two collections a year. I work on mostly residential fabrics.

Right now, I’m including in my patterns a lot of mark-making artwork — a painterly hand with a botanical influence. It’s a very nature-inspired color palette.

Our second Spring Street collection will come out in January 2024 (part of the larger Pollack collection, called Yarn Story) and will feature six new fabrics in mossy greens and watery blues and sun-faded clays. There will be florals — very casual, fresh, and contemporary, and a lot softer than a typical Pollack design.

This story is from the December 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.