I can still see myself standing at the copy machine in the labyrinthian offices of Liberty of London, peeking into the dark, cramped room that housed the fabric designers. Their desks were piled high with fabric swatches, design printouts and color samples. As I copied pages from shiny new copies of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar that I had combed for the tiny words “available at Liberty of London,” I soaked in the color and prints of the future fabrics whose design was still in its infancy.
When I interviewed for my marketing internship with Liberty, famous for its namesake fabric, I didn’t know that working with fabric would end up being my career. At the time, I still had my eye on the fashion industry. But as I buzzed about the store, pulling merchandise for magazines from the veritable Aladdin’s cave of amazing clothing, accessories and housewares, I would inevitably take a detour to the fabric department. Here I would stop and gaze at the bright colors and tiny florals that are synonymous with Liberty prints, never imagining that my burgeoning interest in textiles would inspire me to start not only one, but two businesses.
Years later, I found myself co-owner of bon bon atelier, a delightful little store in Kansas City. When my sister and I began brainstorming our vision for the store, we hadn’t intended to turn to crafts. But, as we searched high and low for fabric for our personal projects, I realized that we could fill that void. We brought in fabric and yarn, offered classes, threw events and grew a strong community of creatives in Kansas City.
But, something was missing for me—travel. I would plan long trips overseas knowing that it was an exercise in futility; the time commitment of owning a store didn’t allow for jumping on a plane to exotic destinations. So, I would “travel” online, reading about printing workshops in Bali, fabric stores in Sweden and crafting events in England.
Even now, I find myself getting antsy if I don’t have a vacation in the works. I need to get out of town at least a couple of times a year, whether it be on an overseas flight or a short road trip. There is just nothing to compare to experiencing a new city or culture, and I believe that every trip leaves you with memories that can unexpectedly inspire your creativity.
“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
– David Bowie
I will always remember one particular trip at an exhibit at the Tate museum in St. Ives, England, where I walked through in utter surprise and delight of a huge room filled floor-to-ceiling with white balloons. As do I remember the hours spent in Paris shopping for fabric, climbing up creaking wooden stairs in fabric stores that were two, three, or even four stories high. These memories, and many more, have been filed away in my mind only to reappear when I’m planning a new project. I might find myself choosing a certain fabric or color inspired by that long ago experience.
I began to travel in earnest after my sister and I shuttered our store for good. And the more places I visited, the more I wanted to share them with other like-minded creatives. Finally, on a trip to England in 2017, I committed to the idea that had been floating around in my head for years. I would start Hello Voyager—a textile and design inspired travel business. Our first destination would be London, of course.
Finding destinations for the business was easy. Arranging for a large group of people to fly overseas together was a little more daunting; however, I jumped into research mode, reading and talking with travel agents. I struck gold when I met Lisa Ball. Lisa has been designing group travel around the world for years. When I originally met with Lisa, it was with the intention of asking her a few questions, but by the time we were finished, I realized that her expertise was just what I needed. Her experience as a travel designer fit with my knowledge of textile destinations, and together, we started designing our first adventure, the Grand British Textile Tour.
Starting a new business is just the tiniest bit terrifying, even when you know you have researched and planned every little detail. As the first Grand British Textile Tour approached, I have to admit, I was nervous. After all, I didn’t just want to take people on a trip; I wanted them to experience England in a whole new way which, hopefully, would fuel their creativity. My fears, however, were unfounded. As soon as we stepped off the bus at our first stop, the extraordinarily picturesque Whitchurch Silk Mill, I could feel curiosity and excitement from our guests—joyful energy that would fill each day of the tour.
One of the things I find fascinating from this whole process is how a common interest can bring people together. Our first group of guests consisted of our own family members, friends and total strangers, though almost immediately, there was a conviviality that turned strangers into friends. Even months later, we are still in touch with each other on our Hello Voyager Facebook Group. But, how could we not be after exploring the textile history of the Cotswolds, geeking out over the embroidered pieces in William Morris’ country home, fabric shopping at Liberty of London and spending a day inside the workrooms of Savile Row? (Oh, and let’s not forget about the private champagne lunch at Prince Charles’ personal residence, Highgrove. Too bad His Royal Highness couldn’t join us!)
Suddenly, the world has opened itself to me in a new way. Not only can I experience workshops in Bali or fabric shopping in Sweden, but I can share them with others. Next year, Lisa and I will be hosting three magical textile trips—back to England, but also to Scotland and Italy. In Scotland, we will visit with makers who have been creating gorgeous tartans, tweeds and cashmeres for centuries, while in Italy we will explore the artisans and crafters of Florence and Northern Italy.
Partnering with artists like quilter Jacquie Gering, I’m also bringing creative workshops to my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri—a fantastic destination in its own right. I am privileged to spend my days planning extraordinary experiences to delight our guests and, ultimately, inspire their own creativity. My bags are already packed for the next journey. Won’t you join me? I look forward to traveling with you!