Creativity knows no bounds for our Hometown Heroes, so we’re always inspired by what our favorite local makers and designers are up to. Most recently we visited the LA home base of Block Shop Textiles, where Hopie Stockman and her sister Lily dream up designs that artisans in India turn into beautiful block-printed textiles. Hopie filled us in on everything, like how Block Shop started as an art project before it was a business, late-night papier-mâché mask making and heated debates about cornflower blue.
Let’s start from the beginning. How did Block Shop come to be?
Lily and I have been making art together since we were little, from painting murals on our garage floor to designing stationery. Creating an adult version of those childhood projects has always been a dream of ours, and Block Shop started as an art project.
In 2010, Lily’s life as an artist was beginning to take off and she moved with her husband to Jaipur to study under a master miniature painter. She met the Chhipa family of block printers through a mutual friend and they started collaborating on designs for unstructured paintings, which eventually became our signature oversized scarf. I visited six months later, and the three of us decided to print a few hundred scarves to sell online.
Fast forward five years and we now work in partnership with five different families of master printers and weavers, sell in over 60 boutiques around the world and have a team of five here in Los Angeles. We believe in providing jobs and value through handmade goods. We invest five percent of annual profits in our women’s empowerment program in Bagru, India.
Very impressive! So, what’s it like to work with your sister—as fun as it sounds?
It basically goes like this:
Me: “Let’s make Picasso-inspired papier-mâché animal masks for our next pop-up display!”
Lily: “No, I hate that idea! It’s gonna look so random!”
Me: “Can we make them anyway, just to have around?!”
Lily: “I’ll bring snacks!”
(Then we pull an all-nighter making papier-mâché masks.)
Aside from bouncing ideas like that one off one another, where do you turn when you need a little extra inspiration?
We look up. We draw inspiration from the architecture in Los Angeles and Jaipur, where we notice geometric motifs in entryways, marble screens or rooftops. Then we isolate and repeat the motif to create a pattern. Our latest collection is inspired by the Art Deco apartment buildings lining Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
What are some must-haves you like to keep in the studio?
We have music on, always. Khruangbin’s new album is perfect for getting into the day. We always have candles from our friends’ LA-based candle companies burning too. Lily loves basil and I’m really into the wood smoke and lavender.
Jokes are also necessary. We’re a tiny company of five women sharing one studio, so mood is essential to everyone’s happiness and productivity. Of course we have moments of stress, chaos and PMS, but the business of textiles should be beautiful and cozy in every sense, otherwise why even do it? We love our team, our light-filled space and our work with all our hearts, so we try to preserve that by maintaining a no-jerks policy. And most importantly, we like to keep dogs around.
Can you share what a typical day running Block Shop is like?
Hmm, let’s see. We start by schlepping piles of textiles around town in giant blue IKEA bags while wearing clogs. Then FaceTime with Dad for a bit. For lunch we eat at our favorite Japanese soup bar Yuko Kitchen while debating things like the correct shade of cornflower.
Then back to the office for run-of-the-mill project management, plus endless emails, phone calls and messages with our team in India into the wee hours.
Do you have any advice for other creative people out there looking to start a business?
Put your head inside a bell jar of delusional optimism and forge ahead with your imperfect idea. Get the thing made and get it into people’s hands!