When and how did you first become interested in surface pattern design?
I first started to get an idea that I loved pattern during my art lessons at school when I chose to base a project around African masks. I became totally lost in adding the intricate patterns to the front of the masks and found it incredibly satisfying.
Did you go to university?
Yes I have a degree in Textile design and studied at Nottingham Trent University, specialising in embroidery & print. I do think it was a valuable experience, but I know of plenty of people who are self taught designers so would never say it is essential. There are some great online courses out there now which can teach you all the skills you need if you are really committed.
What route did you take to set up your own business?
I was actually working in Interior design at the time and also doing online teaching in interiors & textiles. I had realised that a nine to five job just wasn’t for me and started working on my own product line in my spare time alongside finding an agent to work with. Once I had built up my portfolio and found a part time job to make sure I could support myself I handed in my notice and never looked back.
Did you find it difficult to become established in the industry?
The first year was really hard and of course there were many times when I felt like giving up, but my passion for print design really kept me going. You need to believe that if your work is good and you knock on enough doors, eventually someone will give you a chance. After my first year in business I exhibited at ‘One Year On’ within the New Designers exhibition and that is where I met the design team at Wilkinsons who really gave me my first break in to the industry with a large stationery commission. Although I had sold work with my agent, this project made me realise that I really wanted to work with clients directly moving forward as it rewarding in so many ways.
What do you use for inspiration? Are there places you go?
A lot of my inspiration comes from tropical and exotic places and mostly from nature. I find inspiration in many places such as holidays, flower shows, gardens , Pinterest photographs and even garden centres.
Who are you mostly inspired by?
I have many inspirations, they are not necessarily designers that have a similar style to my work but people that have made a great contribution to the surface pattern design industry. Some of my favourites are Collier Campbell & Charley Harper. I also love interior brands such as Elitis, Creation Baumann, Harlequin, & Manuel Canovas.
What is your studio’s target market and how do you meet their requirements?
We cater mostly to the interiors market, but have also worked with fashion designers and on stationery projects. It is great that clients in other areas can imagine how our prints are transferable to different product categories. We try to show different styles and also understand the difference between different markets such as the varying scales needed for each industry.
What’s your favourite print method and why?
I regularly work with clients who need designs for screen printing so am used to producing simpler designs in a particular palette, however my favourite method is digital as it is so versatile and there are no restrictions whatsoever. My homeware brand is all digitally printed which does mean a higher price tag but gives me the chance to really express my own style.
Do you have a dream client list or project?
Having been in business quite a while I am on the fence about having a dream client list!. This is because we have worked with some big names, but some of the most rewarding projects have been with small start up companies who were creating new & exciting products. I love to take on projects in new product areas, something that I have always wanted to do was lingerie print design so that would be one to tick off the bucket list!.
What have been your favourite projects?
The Wilkinson Nostalgia stationery range ( this was my first big break in to the industry), a fashion commission which was for high end resort wear prints, & a recent lifestyle range I am developing with a small company based in Haiti.
What are the disadvantages to being self employed?
The main culprit is the inconsistent work load, especially when you first start out, the not knowing how much work you are going to receive each month. I’d also say that I think every designer has periods of self doubt which can be tough, but this will become less and less over the years as your business develops & you gain more confidence. Obviously the disadvantages compared to an employed job include things like holiday pay & a pension, so you have to learn how to allow for these within your finances.
What do you love about working for yourself?
One of the best things is receiving recognition for your work which you perhaps wouldn’t get if you worked for a company as an in house designer. Also being able to plan your own time and have a more flexible way of living is great. It is also really exciting to work on different product categories, if I worked for someone else there is no way I could work on a interiors project, fashion collection & stationery range all in the same year!. It is such a high when you secure a new client in an area that you haven’t worked in before and that you have always wanted to break in to. It is important not to forget to celebrate your victories & look back on all you have achieved.
Now my business is growing I love working with other designers as its great to see how they interpret different briefs and how talented they are. I also find it rewarding to be able to feedback to someone on their designs which can then result in them producing their best work.
What advice would you give to recent graduates?
I’d recommend doing work experience because I never did and always regretted it!. I’d also say to focus on one niche in your porfolio, e.g fashion, stationery or interiors and really develop a commercial portfolio to suit that industry, or do 2 separate ones!. I’ve always found that approaching clients works best if you are specialised in their field and can show work that is relevant to their products, rather than a one fits all approach (the jack of all trades, master of none scenario). A website is really important even if it is just to show your portfolio to potential employers. Have confidence and make sure if you face rejection that you learn from it, there is always something that you can take away from a situation that will improve your skills for the next time around. Most importantly, get yourself out there! you are probably very talented, its just that you need to tell the world!.
What are your future plans for your business?
Well if you are reading this then hopefully my new website has been launched!. Now that is out of the way & I am back from maternity leave I intend to carry on working to bespoke briefs with my existing clients, and gaining new ones in different areas as that is what excites me the most. I have also been involved in online teaching so would love to continue & develop in that area & also with my mentoring service.