Today we’d like to introduce you to Barbara Thulin.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My entrepreneurial spirit was ignited by passionate Eileen and David, owners of Fairytale Brownies, during my three years styling 50 catalogs for them as their food stylist. I dedicated my life to design which was refined by Parson School of Design in NYC and I have been very inspired by a past employer, Ralph Lauren whom I designed for at 555 West 55th Street in NYC as his knitwear designer.
On a whim, 2004, I made a few plump colorful statement beds for my cats. My heart swelled watching them preen and sleep now having such comfort. It was then I realized my cats were my living art which I named my black accents. With love bursting inside me my seed appeared and was planted. I love my Thesaurus so with a glass of wine and that book I made up my company name Decadent Digs – the Over-the-top place to hunker down in.
Timing is everything for me. I heard about an art show in DC Ranch. I sewed a bunch of pretty beds up. By the end of that day, in that show, I was picked up by a pet boutique in DC Ranch named The Barkery Etc and sold quite a few beds to local residents. The people really loved them.
This business brought me back to being five years old. It was then I knew I was a designer. Daily I was lost in creating with my mom and grandmother’s fabric and trim scraps. I still have fond memories of dressing up my cat, Tinkerbell, in doll clothes and pushing her around the house in a baby carriage.
I began my business on the 15th floor in The Executive Towers Building on Clarendon. It was a small studio apartment. Before I knew it I had a bunch of interns and seamstresses like elves surrounding me. We were nearly buried alive in batting and bolts. I would sneak out in the middle of the night around midnight into the hallway outside my studio and quietly cut my fabric or photograph finished pieces. It was so roomy and big!! I even had the managers of Neiman Marcus come there. They fell in love with my stories and work and invited me to do three trunk shows. Management grew tired of thousands of pillows falling off the luggage cart in the lobby over the year and a half time there with the constant flow of help coming and going so a week before Christmas I received a cease and desist notice or receive a 250k fine letter.
I had my overflow of fabric in a storage building on 3rd and Indian School. The sweetheart manager, Rose, asked why I was crying driving in. I told her and to my surprise she said ‘’Wheel your machines here. You can put an electrical outlet in the light overhead. Over two years, I expanded into five storage units. One was my cutting room, another sewing, shipping, overflow and I lined the walls with gold fabric for my showroom which I was filmed in for a Sonora Living Show. During after hours, when the Storage Building closed, Rose gave me permission to work and set up seamless to have my photographer shoot finished products.
Well, December 2007 came and again I had to relocate fast. A car made a left turn way too wide and ran into the storage building. The owner of the building came to access the damage and there was my seamstress in the big sewing room with machines lining the walls sewing away when he walked by. He freaked out. Rose said she didn’t know I was then she gave me a notice to immediately vacate.
I had joked over the years saying, “Someday I am going to be a chicken running across the road getting supplies at my favorite fabric store SAS at 11th Street and Indian School. Well! To my surprise, a shop space had just opened! And my address was my birthday numbers!!! 1128 East Indian School Rd. I was on the fashion board at Metro Tech HS and before I knew it, I had 20 amazing students and an army of people who loved me help me move out of those five storage units into my shop. I had a four door big boat of a Cadillac which made the best of. Moving, I even harnessed a giant desk to on the bumper straight up off the back! I was even photo-radared going to a trunk show in DC ranch with bags bursting out the back of the trunk!!
I set up quickly and created classes at night I named “Release your Creative Beast.” I was head Beast Master. It was a blast. I had a bunch of employees and ten interns coming and going. It was 2008 and things were looking good as I was in around 40 stores and shipping Japan.
By the fall of 2008, I had left my husband, Circle K bought and leveled the strip center where my shop was and we foreclosed and lost all three condos in Executive Towers.
I moved into a friend 900 square foot home in North Phoenix. The mind is a wonderful thing. I can make lemonade out of the worst situations. I pulled up my big girl pants and set up a sewing area outside on the 400 sq foot patio and continued on. If it was freezing I wore three coats and layers of scarves while I sewed. If it was blazing hot I worked in my swimsuit. Nothing was going to stop me. I had a pod of fabric in the driveway and a pile on the side of the house 25 feet long, 5 feet high and 10 feet deep covered in tarps. For the five years I was there, I whittled away at that pile. There were several nights I vividly remember crying my heart out while wrestling with tarps praying they would not blow off. In the end, I still lost a lot to mold. I got rid of the pod and moved my overflow fabrics into a storage unit off Greenway.
Press still came to me. If people only knew where I created they would be shocked! I was amazed that all over the world my work was attracting press. My team and I even built a bunch of fancy beds, one looking like the Eiffel Tower HGTV loved! One furniture piece I did for Steve Wynn’s brother and wife was featured in the London Financial Times.
My divorce finally finalized in 2013. What a bad year, that was for me! First, my closest sister Pam died in January. It was like hail. From my engine of my 1962 Corvair blowing a plug, my husband’s lawsuit, and a myriad of things leading to a crescendo in August when my friend’s 80-foot eucalyptus tree fell on his house right on the outside electrical box on his birthday. I had been praying to God to help me move out. Wow!!! God had my attention! I had five weeks to completely move out before construction. I was worn out from crying and said “God, you lead. I follow.”
I saw an ad on Craigslist for a place in Cottonwood. I had fantasized I would live in Sedona when I first visited up here after I moved here from NJ in 1989.
Within a week, I had found my current shop space in cottonwood and bought a house in Sedona. My shop was exactly what I had envisioned big and roomy with lots of skylights and my fabrics and trims stacked 10 feet high along the entire 40-foot long wall.
I am on fire in this space as a visionary artist, Fabric Whisperer, and Pet Pamperer Extraordinaire marrying art with fabric. I have a core of clients since I started 15 years ago that have me doing a myriad of projects for from custom cushions, making upholstery art out of combining loved needlepoint’s, custom pet bags, custom many things. I love the variety and I especially love my clients. They have become dear friends and we are all getting old together!
I have one client who has one Great Dane, Honey, who has filled both their homes with tons of my beds. My current project with Nancy is to make 3 Beds. One is my jumbo bed 72”x 40” for their master bedroom. I am waiting for décor input. The other two are my XL Oval Treasured Tuffets 58” x 38” white with black spots to match their newly renovated mansion in Connecticut. She suggested cow and the fabrics I found will not serve them well so I am going to fabricate it. I will use my projector to get the spot shapes and will be appliquéing and then felting them out of gorgeous thick durable black on top of white chenille upholstery fabric.
Another client is mailing fabric for a custom Pj’s set to match her décor and keep her poodle warm. Brenda lives in Franklin Lakes, NJ, where ironically I am from! She just received three 28” Bodacious Buckets over the last three months and now wants a bed to match her living room for her new dog, a new extra cover for her new Bodacious Bucket and custom PJ’s.
I have another client in NY, Lisa, who calls me her dream designer. Last year I matched her wardrobe designing a Chanel inspired custom dog purse and a Louis XIV white fancy bejeweled litter box and bed piece.
Currently, I am designing a French Bull Dog collection for my favorite retailer, CJ who owned Bonnie’s Barkery on Cave Creek Road in Phoenix. My fiancé Michael is building me a fancy furniture piece to display my Smoking Jackets, Bodacious Buckets, Palatial Pods, Treasured Tuffets, Kennel Couture and Sexy Slings.
I feel Neiman Marcus is around the corner now that my work which is a thousand times nicer than 2005! I know my work is going to ignite trunk shows around the USA!!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No, it was hardly smooth. I moved my 16-foot heavy table and 6000 fabrics and all my machines five times! And lost everything to chapter 7 when my now ex-husband’s lawsuit settled.
Two years ago, I went through breast cancer and I am still pushing through it.
Decadent Digs LLC – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
What makes me unique is that I marry art with everything that I create. I add hand paint or sew ribbons on to change fabrics or create fabrics and make everything custom and so well it will withstand time.
Many of my beds are still being used since when I started. Phoenix Home and Garden and others have said Hands down my beds are the best.
I specialize in true custom. I work with store owners, interior designers and very meticulous clients from all over.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me is measured by kudos and amazing compliments from my clients and peers. Here is a letter I just received.
Jack Van Rixel Sun, Feb 16, 9:05 PM (2 days ago)
Oh, my goodness!!!!!!! You are the sweetest EVER!!!
What an honor it was to be in your dazzlingly creative space! But, infused with your magical talent, mind, and intense celebration for everything is…. unexplainable. Exuberance for creativity in all is unmatched.
I’ve been around magnificent minds, in all shapes and forms for much of my life. Your willingness to share and encourage is unmatched. Honestly. Please accept my ten thousand thank yous.
Only a few words to describe how we all need to BE. Powerful, moving and passionate. JOY
You shine so bright my new friend, I am blinded. Thank you for flooring me. I look around today astounded by what I see differently.
I’ve promised no one this, but I promise YOU. No creation of mine will be thrown away. It may wait, settle, rest. And when it re-emerges into my life to be reimagined or deconstructed, my piece, and I will thank you. For all of us, being.
With a quiet, grateful heart.
- Bodacious Buckets starting at $145
- Sexy Slings starting at $199
- Treasured Tuffets starting at $199
- Bodacious Bolsters starting at $250
- Stellar Stairs Starting at $145
- Palatial Pods starting at $99
- Smoking Jackets starting at $49
- Custom toys starting at $9.99
- Address: 1080 South 10th Street
Cottonwood AZ 86326
- Website: www.decadentdigs.com
- Phone: 6023212319
- Email: email@example.com
Photography by the artist Barbara Thulin for everything except: Bailey in the Bodacious Bucket infront of a Louis XIV gold tufted couch; Sade the black and white dog reaching his paws on the black and white Treasured Tuffet; The black and white cat on her pillow on top of the white Louis XIV litter box; These 3 are compliments of the pet owner