Editor’s note: This post is a continuation of our series How I Got That Gig, where craft industry professionals tell us the story behind a great commission, job, freelance opportunity, or contract. In this installment, artist Melissa Galbraith explains how she got the opportunity to embroider a set of custom pillows for the band Florence + The Machine.
Embroidery artist Melissa Galbraith met someone at a local craft show who later reached out and commissioned her to create a set of three custom embroidered pillows as a gift to the band Florence + The Machine.
Photos courtesy of Melissa Galbraith
Imagine it’s a warm summer day. You’re at a craft fair, hanging out at your booth. A woman stops by and says, “I love your work! This would be a really cool promotional gift.”
You chat for a few minutes and think, this could be a cool connection, so you give her your card.
Fast forward to a few weeks later.
You get an email from someone saying, “Hey, I saw your work at a craft fair. I work for the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. I’m in charge of artist gifting and think you would be great for designing an artist gift. Let’s have a video call.”
For a few minutes, I questioned whether this was real or a spam email. (I get a lot of spammy emails.) But then I remembered that brief convo I had a few weeks earlier at that craft fair. So, I said yes and set up a video call. In the worst-case scenario, I’d waste 30 minutes.
During the call, I learned about the Climate Pledge Arena and how they give visiting artists gifts before each show. They thought my hand embroidery style would be perfect for creating something special for Florence + The Machine who was performing on October 6.
At this point, I was just trying to play it cool. Internally, I was freaking out! I have never created embroidery for anyone as high profile as Florence + The Machine, or even thought I would get to.
At the end of the call, I said yes, I would love to work with them and would send over a few concepts and pricing based on the ideas we discussed.
As soon as the call ended, I started looking up Florence + The Machine artwork for their new album, Dance Fever. I quickly found that their new album art had a Victorian-era funeral feel. It was covered in twig-like branches, and had detailed flowers, moths, and a giant moon, along with Florence.
Keeping in mind the idea of pillows we’d discussed on the video call and playing to my strengths of nature-inspired designs, I set to sketching. I started out by drawing elements of the album art and related motifs. I then photographed these sketches and started collaging them in Photoshop. I changed my mind quite a few times about the three pillow designs. Eventually, the trio consisted of two smaller, detailed pillows featuring moths, a moon, and flowers, and one more oversized pillow with logos, dates, and smaller motifs that tied all the pillows together.
Once happy with the designs, I looked them over and tried to figure out what to charge for a custom piece like this. On the call with the Climate Pledge Arena team, they didn’t mention a budget and prior to this project, I hadn’t been commissioned to make anything this large, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to charge. I tried to guestimate how many hours a project of this scale would take, as well as added in the cost of materials, then double it all because I wanted to make sure not to undercharge for my work, and because I notoriously underestimate the time a project would take.
Satisfied with my proposal, I nervously emailed it to the Climate Pledge Arena team. The team was so wonderful to work with! They loved my designs and only had a few minor changes, such as adding small flowers to the larger pillow and including branded tags on the side of each pillow, before I was able to start stitching.
Galbraith began with pencil sketches that she later transferred to Photoshop to manipulate in order to create a proposal of the designs.
Creating the Pillows
Over the next four weeks, I eagerly worked on this project. Before I could even start stitching, I had to order pillowcases, forms, and labels. With those on the way, I then set about color-matching the digital design with my embroidery thread. After the pillowcases arrived, I then got to work transferring the designs and stitching.
The first pillow I started on featured a moon with moths and branches. I wanted to start with this design because it was the most complex. This pillow was also a test to see if my design would work out and if what I had planned on doing to make the pillow stitchable would work.
To stitch the pillowcases, I ended up having to take the 3 sides without the zipper apart. This was partially because the designs went all the way to the edge and also because it would have been too cumbersome to stitch it otherwise. There was a little trial and error with this process.
After the first pillowcase was stitched, I added the tags and sewed it back together with my sewing machine. Along with the branded tags requested by the Climate Pledge Arena, I also added my own branded tags to the pillowcase.
The first pillow took me about 1 1/2 weeks to complete but thankfully I was happy with the results in the end.
The second pillow featured roses with moths and branches. This pillow was less intricate, however, still had some similar design details to keep them looking like a cohesive set. I was nervous about the flowers because I wanted them to be muted yet stand out individually. It took a lot of playing around with colors before I was happy with how they looked.
The third pillow was the largest pillow. It featured the Florence + The Machine logo, the Climate Pledge Arena logo, the event date, and location, as well as moths and branches to again keep the cohesive feel of all three pillows. For this pillow, I was a little nervous about switching the typography because those pieces had less flexibility with the design than the other parts of the pillows. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my head.
With the pillows stitched, I coordinated a time to hand deliver them to the Climate Pledge Arena. I wanted to do this in person not only because it was relatively close to me (less than 20 min drive), but also because I didn’t want anything happening to the pillows. I will admit this part felt a little lackluster. The delivery was a simple handoff with a quick thank you.
With the pillows delivered, I eagerly waited until October 6, when Florence + The Machine would play at the Climate Pledge Arena. The night of the concert, the Climate Pledge Arena shared the pillows on their Instagram account, crediting me for my work and tagging Florence + The Machine.
Overall, this was an amazing project! It’s not something I had ever thought I would get to do in my embroidery career.
I’m so thankful I made that connection at a summer craft fair and look forward to seeing if this blossoms into something further.
Melissa Galbraith is the fiber artist behind MCreativeJ. She was born and raised in the desert of Washington state, where her mother instilled a love of making things by hand at an early age. Drawing on her love of nature, Melissa creates whimsical and modern embroidery patterns and kits. She loves making the art of hand embroidery easy and approachable with her embroidery kits, patterns, and workshops. Melissa’s embroidery kits and patterns make it easy to learn a new craft for makers of all skill levels. She enjoys seeing makers fall in love with the needle arts, especially that magical ah-ha moment of learning something new.