Poppy Things

Concept & Design

Chelsey SawallichComment
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I was blessed to have been raised In the magical land of Leelanau County, MI.  Here is where rolling hills of farmland are hugged by miles of sparkling lakes, rows of cherry trees fence the sandy soil, freshwater breezes kiss the cornfields, and the tradition of family farming is passed through generations.  

At the age of twelve, my mother felt that I was old enough to ride my bike on the road without supervision.  I would either turn right out of the driveway and ride down to Solon Park to sit at the lake, or I would turn left and ride down to my grandparent's house to catch up on cable TV.

Each time I went to my grandparent's house I would pass this haunting white farmhouse.  "FOR SALE" it said.  It's been for sale for as long as I can remember.  As a twelve year old I thought, well, let's just see how much it is. $575,000.  Pocket change, right? 

6341 South Lake Shore Drive.  This will be my address someday, you can count on it. Here's the craigslist ad, complete with photos from 1969: https://nmi.craigslist.org/reo/d/south-lake-leelanau-7-acres/6345285744.html

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So why is this house so mystical to me?

When my bike tires would ride up the long two track and I approached the imperfect two story white farmhouse, I felt like this was something that was completely mine.  I obviously knew that somebody else owned it, but I felt as if it was a secret that was just for me.

The white siding would chip and weather year after year, revealing grey wood.  Overgrown plants enveloped the back door, lace curtains revealed glimpses of the interior, and poppies grew against the weathered siding every other year, although the garden was neglected.  This was the first time I had ever even seen a poppy.  My favorite flower at the time were tulips, so I thought they were a different breed.

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I remember being infatuated by the rich reds and oranges.  The soft poppies against the hard and chipped wood siding.  The multiple layers of the petals, pleating into the most perfect flower I had ever seen.

In the back yard of the house, there is a gorgeous view of Lake Leelanau, huge trees to rest under, and down the hill is the barn and chicken coop.  I would go there and sketch for hours.  I would pray to God about my troubles, about my hopes and dreams.  I would bring my first love there, and then bring my now husband-to-be there, hoping that he could see and understand why this old house meant so much to me.

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I've only been inside the house three times in the twelve years that I've been going there. The first time, the back door was magically just swung wide open, like the wind had done it.  The second time, someone had purposefully cut the padlock.  The third time, this past summer, the front door (for the first time ever) was just casually unlocked.  Like the house was saying to me, "hey, I know you're trying to study me for your thesis. Come on in!"

Coffee cups are still in the cupboards, a bar of soap sits on the sink.  Narrow stairs lead to the children's bedrooms.  One of the bedrooms has the most awesome wallpaper.  It also has a hidden closet that leads to a different unfinished room.  I wonder if it was just for storage?

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In my collection, I wanted to capture the nostalgia and wonder that I felt my first time discovering this house and the poppy garden.  The collection is about wonder, it's about believing you can do something, and then doing it.

I am using several different fabrics in the collection.  One is an eyelet cotton, which emulates the curtains in the windows of the farmhouse.  I have two different shades of orange and red crinkle silk chiffon, which represent the poppy petals.  I have tencel modal, which is a very soft fabric that is comparable in look to denim, only it is more sustainable and has a nice drape.  And my main fabric is an original printed silk chiffon.  I commissioned a local artist, Kristin Sturdy, to create the illustration of the poppy print.

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I also plan to make the print with a navy background and blow up the print to a larger scale to make transitional looks for fall.

I think that's pretty much the best explanation I have!  If you have any further questions about my process, please feel free to contact me!

xoxo Chelsey

 1/2 Inspiration mood boards.

1/2 Inspiration mood boards.

 2/2 inspiration mood boards.

2/2 inspiration mood boards.