Designer Crush: Dawn Sweitzer

1. You’re a self-taught artist - when did you first become interested in art and what were the steps on your journey toward becoming a professional designer?

I founded Notre Monde in 1996 after living abroad for several years. Coming back to the states from my travels left me incredibly inspired without an outlet. I was not sure what I wanted to do, however, I knew it had to be something creative. As a self-taught artist, I started painting on canvas and on objects. I would literally fill cardboard boxes and carry them into stores with my one of a kind painted accessories spilling out. The first store I sold to in Columbus, Ohio were selling out within days and started placing orders on a regular basis. The buyer advised me to start a “wholesale collection,” I had no idea what she was talking about. She told me I had to figure out a way to reproduce the collection and sell it at a wholesale market, consistency and price point was key. She mentioned the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Of course, I bought a ticket and flew to Chicago that next weekend. I thought about how I could reproduce the images whilst still having the “one of a kind "hand finished product. That is when I looked back at my days in Seattle Washington and the time when my buddy and I would silkscreen t-shirts for our friend’s bands and Voila my applied technique to reproduce the trays and accessories was born. In addition to the printing I would also hand paint and finish the trays and accessories creating affordable functional art! My visit to the Chicago Mart led to being accepted into a beautiful showroom and a wonderful group of people that supported me as I and the collection grew.  I then started creating private label for large retailers and the rest is history.

2. You have self-proclaimed “midwestern sensibilities” - what does that mean when it comes to your design aesthetic?

I grew up in a small town in rural Ohio. Living in the country with horses I was always an adventurous kid and a bit of a dreamer. As a self-taught artist, I never lived in a box — rules were meant to be broken, so my imagination would go wild at times. I was lucky in the fact that my creativity was always supported by those around me. As I traveled, I was drawn to the history of the different cultures and how they celebrated life, art, history, food, architecture, their complete environment. Being from the midwest, I was fascinated by this and always embraced everything and everyone around me.

3. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I am fascinated by other cultures and the people in them. Being from America and traveling abroad on my own at 19 changed my life and the way I view others… the architecture, textiles, patterns, music, food, and the kindest of others changed everything. All senses were opened.


4. What’s distinct about the Notre Monde brand and how do you distinguish yourself from other designers?

The Notre Monde trays are not only an elegant useful object. The collections have a wide appeal, sophisticated, chic, and affordable. A gift you can give that is truly unique in that each one is created by hand, no two are ever alike. They can be used in virtually every room in your home as well as be applied to the wall as art creating different combinations to suite your environment a global, subtle, bold, feminine, masculine, etc. Combining the different textures and patterns, your choices are endless. 

5. If you could design the set for any movie or play, which would it be and why?

Akira Kurosawa's film, Dreams. Although this film was perfection. I remember the first time I saw it, I wanted to be a part of something so beautiful. I have lucid dreams and always thought if I could translate my dreams to film it would be something magical.

6. Tell us the full story of one Notre Monde product from its original conception to the final execution. 

I start with inspiration from my travels, fashion, art, etc. I may do a series of paintings or ink drawings that sparks something then I create mood boards pulling visual images as well as items such as a piece of wood, jewelry, fabric, etc. From that I see what and how I can translate these ideas to my products and ultimately a collection is born.

7. Describe your ideal Sunday.

My ideal Sunday is waking up with my partner Paul bringing me a cup of coffee, as he does every morning with all of our dogs in bed, working in the garden, then creating a beautiful brunch poolside with my friends and family. Relaxing throughout the day, then watching the sunset with a glass of wine whilst listening to music, being still and present in the moment. No computer or phone — just the ones I love. Dinner alfresco under the stars. Voila! A perfect Sunday!

Lightning round!

8. Sand or snow?

Snow.

9. Dance machine or wallflower?

Dance machine.

10. Action-adventure or rom-com.

Rom-com.

11. Pancakes or waffles?

Pancakes.

12. NSYNC or Backstreet Boys?

NSYNC.