September's Artist Spotlight: Marie-Joie Hughes - Former VP of Product Development For the studios of William's Sonoma & Pottery Barn

by Mari Robeson

In my podcast interview with Marie-Joie Hughes she offers a wealth of insight into what it's like to work for the lifestyle companies we all know and respect. Her journey as an artist is incredibly interesting and she offers helpful information for those interested in pursuing a career in commercial design.

You can listen to the full Podcast Interview Here!

Here is a little more about her creative journey and what Marie-Joie Hughes is creating now.

Her story begins like most people in the arts. MJ started drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil. She always drew wild costume images. Even as a tiny child she would take out the historical fashion books from the library, and then create historically accurate paper dolls.

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Costume design has always been her true passion. She was more into the illustration aspect than sewing. 

She believes she has been very lucky to have had many people in her life, mostly women, who really encouraged her and pushed her to succeed. She came from a lower middle class background, but was determined to go to art school even though her father told her she would never make it as a designer and should study something practical like accounting.

Fortunately through a friend of her parents she got a job as a textile designer's apprentice right out of high school. She showed Betsey Lamonte, (the designer who she claims changed the course of her entire life), her wild costume illustrations.

Because she could paint with gouache, she was hired. MJ had to drop out of art school a year later, because she became extremely ill. Since Betsey Lamonte became the head of textiles at Esprit de Corp, she got a full time job designing the Esprit Kids textiles. She was only 19. Aside from doing some costume work in theatre and independent film, she has been designing textiles and doing surface design for companies ever since.

As in most businesses, the industry is small and one job always leads to another based on the reputation of your work and who you know. She felt extremely lucky to get into the Williams-Sonoma group 20 years ago. She started free-lancing for Gardener's Eden- which at that time was owned by Williams-Sonoma. All the connections she made over the year started with the woman who trained her, Betsey Lamonte.

Mary Britton-Rose who hired her for Gardener's Eden moved to Restoration Hardware, so she went to Restoration Hardware. After a few years she went back into the Williams-Sonoma brands because she was offered a job at Pottery Barn. She stayed with Williams-Sonoma Inc for 13 years. Two years ago she left her position as the Vice President of the Product Development Studios for both Williams-Sonoma brands and the Pottery Barn Main brands.

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The two design teams she lead, created the artwork for not only the textiles categories but also dinnerware, wall art, some packaging and many decorative accessories that required artwork. 

Why did she leave? In her words, "Product design is truly created in the factories by armies of craftspeople and workers. It literally takes an army to make a duvet and sham set. I love working in the factories. I started working in the factories in Hong Kong over 30 years ago.  I left my executive job to work deep in the factories and help train the young design teams in those factories. The factories are the wombs of creation. I like to be where the action is and I am passionate about teaching and guiding the next generation of designers into designing a more creative and sustainable world."

Marie-Joie has recently launched her own collection of wall art and textiles with deep spiritual meaning and symbolism. If you choose to purchase any of her art in the month of Sept 2018, in the GIVE BACK Category of my online shop, she will receive a commission and the remaining proceeds will go to the Louise Monforte Memorial Art Scholarship, an educational scholarship available to support the next generation of artists! The scholarship will be available to high school students of Arroyo Grande High School, Spring 2019.

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