STERLING – For artist Susan Staudaher, inspiration for her one-of-a kind batik textile pieces comes to her simply by walking out of her front door, where a picturesque frog pond is nestled among various wildflowers buzzing with bees. Staudaher, a 31-year Sterling resident, retired from a successful 18-year career in the newspaper business before launching Wildflower Textiles in 2015.
Staudaher was a textile design major at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, but upon graduation, it was her graphic design classes that brought her to Worcester Magazine as a graphic designer before starting and publishing her own newspaper.
“I always thought I would enjoy going back to textiles,” Staudaher said. “I have always liked to draw, and one of the things I started with was drawing flower and nature drawings in college.”
Staudaher began her recent textiles journey by dying silk scarves and cotton T-shirts using batik, a technique of wax-resist dying applied to cloth. She applies designs by drawing with the wax, known as resist, with a spouted tool called a tjanting. The applied wax dries, allowing Staudaher to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colors are wanted.
“It took a lot of practice to be able to draw with the tjanting, and it is a lot of trial and error,” Staudaher said. “I don’t always know how it is going to come out. It has been challenging to keep trying things, and I still have a lot of designs and color combinations and products I want to try.”
Once she accidentally got a drop of wax on a sunflower shirt where it wasn’t supposed to be, and decided to turn it into a bee. She told the woman who purchased the shirt the story and Staudaher said “she was excited.”
Staudaher mostly uses beeswax, and occasionally soy wax, on the textiles; the wax comes already strained and ready to use. She created a studio in her son’s old bedroom, making room for him when he comes to visit.
It is her love of nature and drawing flowers and such that inspired the name of Staudaher’s business. She often photographs flowers when she is hiking, and said, when she was in Yosemite National Park two summers ago, she came upon a wild alpine lily on the side of the trail and later used it as a design. She also taps into other non-flora designs, and said one of her more popular shirts right now is one that features an Orion constellation on it.
Staudaher’s inventory consists of the scarves and T-shirts and has expanded over time to include skirts, aprons and flour sack dish towels, and she said she is going to dye socks and napkins for the holidays. She also creates infant onesies, bibs and toddler shirts, products inspired by her 9-month-old granddaughter, and takes custom orders.
Staudaher sells her wares at local farmers markets, craft fairs and via her website and Etsy shop. She said it takes a while for a shop to be found and become popular on Etsy; since she opened her shop last year, she went from one sale every month or two to now averaging two sales per week.
“I sell more onesies than anything else,” she said. “There was one woman who wrote a review on Etsy saying my onesies are her go-to gift now – she has ordered four. I am getting more repeat customers.”
Staudaher was recently a vendor for the second time at stART on the Street, central Massachusetts’ largest art, music and performance festival that draws thousands of visitors to shop from 300 crafter and artist vendors. She will also be a vendor again at the annual Friends of the Library craft fair, which will be on Saturday, Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the First Church of Sterling auditorium, 6 Meetinghouse Hill Road.
Staudaher stands by her work, and said she will offer a full refund if a customer is not completely satisfied – which she has done once.
“I want people to be happy and have something that they can feel good about that is fun and different,” Staudaher said of her products, “not a store bought thing, but more unique.”
For more information, visit www.wildflowertextiles.com, www.etsy.com/shop/WildflowerTextiles or find Wildflower Textiles on Facebook and Instagram.