Heather Wylie is the daughter of Alabama Chanin friend and mentor Terry Wylie, and a welcome creative force in our shared factory space on Lane Drive. Heather is recently graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, where she earned an MFA in Design and Technology. She learned printmaking as an undergrad at the University of Alabama, and it is her love of printing and her ingrained knowledge of the t-shirt business (thanks to Dad) that led her to create Bohemian Bop, a line of hand-printed, silkscreen and lace embellished tee shirts. We visited Heather’s studio to learn a little more about Bohemian Bop, her love of print making, and the future for Heather Wylie.
AC: How did you become interested in printmaking and silk screening?
HW: I took every printmaking class in [undergraduate] school except for screen printing. I actually learned that process later, in my New York apartment after grad school. I watched YouTube videos and found tutorials on instructables.com on silk screening. I love wearing t-shirts but especially printed t-shirts. T-shirts are not usually very feminine at all, but I like the contrast of adding lace or a printed design. My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was five years old. I’d make these headbands and skirts with lace. What I’m doing now [with Bohemian Bop] feels like a more organized version of what I was doing when I was 5.
I would love to be able to do beautiful intricate lithographs or block prints or etchings. Because it’s something I can’t do, I’m really fascinated by people who can. My graphics are really abstract and not true to form. They feel more suited to screen printing than lithographs.
What I really like about printmaking is that there are these very meticulous steps, and the sum of all these steps gets you to a final print. I think there are something like 13 steps in lithography, and you don’t know what it looks like until you see the actual print, like hand developing film. You don’t know how the photos look until it’s all done.
AC: How did you decide on the name Bohemian Bop? It sounds very youthful.
HW: It’s definitely youthful. I think of Bohemian Bop as sort of reflective of my college and grad school years. When I was printing in New York, after the first two or three t-shirts, Bohemian came to mind because it was taking something very conventional, like a t-shirt, and turning it into something not everyone can wear, like a lace cropped tee. I did all this research on Bohemians in Paris in the 1850’s. The Bohemians dressed the same as the very Bourgeoisie, yet a little funkier. Bop just flowed, but it’s limited to the 14 to 25 age range. I’m working on a second line, which is a more adult line. I eventually want to have my own silhouettes manufactured here; Florence made, Florence printed, and a little higher-end, higher-priced.
AC: How do you see Bohemian Bop growing?
HW: I see the business growing slower than most people see it going. I like the pace. I’m able to manage it all myself right now, but I expect in the next two to three years I’ll have a couple employees and to expand throughout the Southeast. A 10 year plan would be to be known nationally, California to New York.
I’m cautious about getting too big too fast, or letting too much influence from other people interfere. I have a very clear vision of what this is meant to be. I don’t want to go outside of that. I’m making tees for my age group. When I start to float away from that I have to remember to come back to the original concept. I don’t want it to become a beast I can’t manage, that it gets too big to handle and then it fails.
AC: It sounds like quality of life is very important to you. Is that integral in how you want to run your business?
HW: Now that I’m getting older, I understand how important it is to take care of my mental and physical health. When I make sure to exercise and get plenty of sleep, I don’t freak out or stress out, and my days are more productive. I produce better work. I am completely grateful. I recognize I’ve been blessed with more opportunity, given a leg up, and with the support of my parents and the mentorship of my dad and Natalie [Chanin]. I want to make sure I put it to good use and to give back to my community.