What Matters to Diana Dobin

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Diana Dobin is the CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer at her family’s 45-year-old company Valley Forge Fabrics, the largest supplier of custom textile products for luxury hotels.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

I am happiest when I am providing joy for others by creating with my mind and executing with my hands. I am a maker at heart and a hospitalitarian in my soul. I look for any free moment to create something special from the ordinary. Something simple like a cup of coffee can be served in a pretty glass mug with the perfect sprinkle of cinnamon and create a moment for somebody. I always am thinking of how others will experience things, and I want to elevate that for them. I love providing spaces and moments of comfort and connection for my family and friends. I am a homebody and love sharing my peaceful home with others. Our guestroom has a kettle and tea fixings, and I really love filling small containers with snacks and adding them to a pretty tray before guests arrive. I always think about what they like and what they might enjoy without having to ask. 

At work, I really enjoy product development— rethinking the scale or textures of textile designs and defining the color details and coordination for collections with the design team. I geek out at all interior projects so I always look forward to designing spaces that impact the happiness of others. Our HQ in South Florida is a LEED Certified sustainable building, and I treasured the architecture and design process when we built it. I happily obsessed over every paint color, each surface, the lighting, the furniture and the artwork. I envisioned spaces that made people feel safe, inspired, and motivated— and now I really love sharing these beautiful spaces with others. 

Just last month, our Senior Marketing Leader and I personally designed every detail of our recent trade show booth in Las Vegas celebrating the life and works of Florence Broadhurst, the Australian artist who reinvented herself as a vaudevillian singer, dancer, and musician as well as a businesswoman, charity worker, fashion designer, and teacher. We created a space where our clients, partners, and friends could interact and have fun by experiencing a pillow room, a throwback fashion design studio circa 1930, and an evolving collaborative room that was really a community art project. 

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

I was very entrepreneurial as a child. I grew up in a working family, and we lived month to month, paycheck to paycheck for most of my childhood. I was too young to get a job, so I was always trying to start a business so that I had spending money. One of the least successful of my ventures, but most fun, was when I drew pictures of my neighbors’ homes and sold them to them as keepsakes. This was the first time I created something with my mind, my heart, and my hands. The pictures were good, but the business model didn’t work because I was not fast— and the amount of time to create each “masterpiece” was too long. That Halloween, I dressed up as a “starving artist,” as I was so impacted by the experience. Today I celebrate and support artists of all kinds and love to experience and connect with both artwork and the people behind the works.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Does anyone ever truly get over heartbreak? I do not. I get through it and I can move on— but when I sit quietly and am truthful and deeply thoughtful, I feel the deepest pain. I am passionate and very emotionally motivated, and the blessing with this is that I rejoice and absorb the happiness of those around me. The challenging part of my deep, empathetic soul is that I am both physically and emotionally effected, especially by the struggles of others. My process for moving through past heartbreak is to face it and really feel it. This can put me into shutdown and having the need to physically isolate and sleep it off or away— before surrounding myself with the love of people who I know always have my back and will be a part of my life forever.

What makes you cry?

I don’t cry a lot— but when I do it’s because I am experiencing either deep frustration or the greatest harmony. For me, frustration is when conflict is so high that there appears to be no way forward.  Witnessing conflict like this makes me cry. When I experience harmony— which I define as the clearest love, support and pure celebration of connection between people— I cry. I have also cried when I am personally recognized and really seen for who I am and my intentions.  

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

Pride and joy of accomplishment lasts forever inside me. I can tap into that feeling anytime I want to— or need to. I am blessed to have this capability and it makes me resilient, energetic, and always optimistic.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I do believe in an afterlife and while I cannot imagine what it looks like— I know that it will feel peaceful and surrounded by love.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I am not disciplined, and this is an area I recognize that I need to work on. I let my heart lead me and would be better served at home, at work, and in my health to have more discipline. 

What do you love most about yourself?

I love that I create community and deeply desire to authentically build others up and make them feel more powerful, respected, and supported. 

What is your absolute favorite meal?

Anything prepared at home, over time, and by multiple hands. There is nothing like a meal created together and shared together.