It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Lumi here at Brit HQ. We’ve been obsessed with Inkodye, their sunlight-activated fabric dye, since it came out (for more on how Inkodye works, check out our tea towels tutorial here). It’s an innovation in dying and screenprinting that is totally bananas… in a good way.
Not only were we lucky enough to have Jesse Genet, one of the company’s founders, join us for both day one and two of Re:Make in 2013, but we also got a chance to sit down with her to chat in detail about all things Lumi. Read on as Jesse tells us about the 1969 Lincoln she fixed up in high school (for real!), her innovations in dyes and screenprinting, her advice for other makers, and more.
First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve always had a penchant for breaking and bending rules. As a high schooler in the suburbs of Detroit, I convinced my high school principal and parents that I should skip my senior year to pursue other projects. I learned that, even if earned, diplomas are not the only means to success. This helped me view school as a strategic tool instead of another hoop to jump through.
After high school I decided to drive to LA, instead of committing to college, and began working. Ultimately, I went to Art Center College of Design to study Product Design before starting Lumi. I chose Art Center because their degree programs are so focused. As a 20 year old, I had a sense that the best way to find myself was through ‘doing’ not through studying – which led me on various adventures, starting Lumi being one of them!
When did you first realize you love to make?
As a teenager I was so determined NOT to drive a beat up Honda that I worked for 6 months fixing up a 1969 Lincoln that had been languishing in our driveway for years. Every night after school I was dirty head to toe trying to bring that car back to life. When I finally got my license and drove the car to school, I was the proudest and happiest girl you could ever imagine. I learned of the incredible adrenalin rush of accomplishment and of confidence that comes with knowing how things work (in this case a 1969 car). Never shying away from hard work in order to build a life I enjoy has been a constant theme for me.
Why did you decide to start Lumi? How did you come up with the idea?
Lumi is a culmination of many of my passions. I love fashion, photography, technology, design and textile printing. The real thing that sparks my interest is problem solving. As a teenager I was trying to design and print T-shirt collections in my parents’ basement. I learned first-hand how expensive and difficult it can be to do high-quality fabric prints at home. The stubborn innovator inside me decided there simply must be a better way.
Where do you get your inspiration?
It struck me as fascinating that human beings have been printing on paper with UV light for hundreds of years. Nearly all traditional photography and darkroom processes use light to develop images. However, there was no similar light-based process for printing on fabric. That was my seed of inspiration for Lumi at the beginning. Today, my inspiration comes from people’s basic desire for self-expression. Everyone has something to say, and I’m so glad that Lumi can play a role in helping people say it, especially on something as public as their clothing.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
Life is a bonsai tree. What do I mean by that? Fast growth isn’t always better. In our constant efforts to squeeze more and more into our day, it’s calming to remember that sometimes it’s what we prune out that actually makes our life more beautiful. I feel like pruning my life down to the essentials is what gives me time to build things that really matter.
What other creative hobbies do you have?
I totally dork out on machines! For instance, we just got a shrink wrap machine at Lumi and I had an overwhelming urge to shrink-wrap all of my holiday presents. I also enjoy making my own cosmetics instead of buying them.
How has technology changed and supported what you do?
Lumi is completely fueled by technology. From our fundraising on Kickstarter, to the launch of our own Lumi app, we’ve always viewed digital tools as completely integral to our process. We feel like the best digital tools enhance our real world experiences; which is what we try to do with the Lumi app. It allows you to prototype your print ideas, and create custom negatives from your own images. All of the digital functionality is in service to the beautiful analog creation you’ll ultimately make.
How do you think the analog world is changing as the digital world continues to boom?
I think they’re practically one and the same. I think our kids will giggle when we talk about this big transition from analog to digital. We all live in a physical world, drive physical cars and eat physical food. The digital boom will simply help make our physical world more efficient and incredible than ever!
What’s up next for Lumi? Is there anything new you’ve wanted to try?
There are so many things that you can do with sunlight-activated Inkodye beyond photography, and in 2014 we debut some of the exciting possibilities with new kits and applications!
There’s more! We were lucky enough to have Jesse join us at Re:Make last year. Check out her keynote on DIY screenprinting above.