Katia Hoffman: Dreaming In Color
By: Sandria M. Washington, Quilt Trends magazine
Twenty-five years ago, Katia Hoffman traveled from Moscow to New York with her family, a degree from the Moscow State Textile Institute, and a passionate dream to design fabric. "I didn't see myself doing anything else," she shares. Today, this visionary artist's dream is coming true. With the introduction of Katia's first fabric collection, Reflections (for EBI Fabrics), in 2012, the "new Russian girl" on the scene, with her intricate and colorful designs, has become a designer to watch. Much like her elaborate designs, Katia's journey has been well crafted by time, patience, and surprises—and the outcome is more magnificent than she ever imagined.
Katia is a fabric designer, which is not the same as a fashion designer. "Some people are confused by that, so I try not to say what I do for a living," she says, with a laugh. To have become something more familiar, like a doctor, lawyer, or even one who designs garments instead of fabrics, is the future her parents would have chosen for her. The only child of highly educated engineers, Katia's father groomed her to follow in their footsteps. Her mother had hoped Katia would become a great pianist, but years of private music lessons didn't hide the fact that young Katia was "completely tone deaf" and "horrendous," as she recalls. At the age of fourteen (late, by Russian standards, to start honing a craft), Katia fell in love with color and began painting. "I went to art school, and nobody took it seriously. Being an artist was not considered a practical profession." Her grandmother, also a painter, made it into art school as a young girl, but "was stopped [from pursuing painting], and she had that regret all of her life. My grandmother wanted to be an artist," Katia shares. "I guess it's her genes I'm carrying."
While working with quilters and designers at another fabric manufacturer for over ten years, Katia discovered a burning desire to create her own original designs. She describes leaving the security of that job as probably the most difficult decision she's ever had to make; a decision she still agonizes over. But the excitement is apparent in Katia's voice when she talks about the current fabric collections that make up her company, Sasha K (a combination of her middle name and first initial) Studio. "Each line is very different, like my children. Different colors, different personalities." Katia's sophisticated, vibrant designs, which are distributed by EBI Fabrics, are influenced by a lifelong love of French art. "European art in Russian museums had a great influence on me when I was a child," she explains. "The museums had really incredible collections. I used to collect and study reproduced art, images of paintings, stamps, cards—whatever I could get when I was a child." Visiting museums is still one of Katia's favorite things to do. Katia puts a great deal of time and effort into her designs and sometimes wishes she could create her fabrics faster and maybe less elaborately, but in an industry where faster isn't always better, her complex designs stand out to rave reviews. "I think people recognize that this is not something like a quick fix and takes a lot of labor and thought. Each single piece in my collection gets a lot of attention."
In addition to support from her husband, Alex, and Galyna Sokolova, a Long Island master quilter who brings quilts to life using Sasha K Studio fabric, Katia also credits her partners at EBI Fabrics, Rich Bolog and Henry Khalilian, for much of her success. Katia and Rich first met 20 years ago and their fateful reconnection in recent years is just what Katia, who still finds the business side of things challenging, needed to make her design dreams a reality. "I was so afraid to start on my own. Their strong belief made me believe that maybe we can pull it together. They've been incredible," Katia says. The admiration is clearly mutual, as Rich shares, "We have one hundred percent belief in Katia. Because of that confidence in her, we're very aggressive and we go right into printing and stock the yardage so it's easy for the customers to get their hands on it when they want it." EBI Fabrics, based in Los Angeles, California, has always been in the import fabric business, but was not in the quilting business prior to working with Katia. The dynamic trio is learning this new business venture together, but the team is strong and excited about what's to come. "Never knowing how it might turn out" is an exciting part of fabric design for Katia, and as her imagination and creativity continues to unfold, it's an exciting part of her life, too.