Is Surface Pattern Design for you?

Lately whilst figuring out how my career as a designer is going so far I’ve come to consider what the pros and cons of choosing the freelance path in design. By the way, is it just me? But it really annoys me when I listen to podcasts for example and people label anyone remotely involved in design a designer and you have to listen 10 minutes before you realise what type of designer they are..web/graphic/interior/computer games etc…

One of the interesting things in my case is that I’ve come to this practice from a non-specialised field...I wasn’t a fine artist, a graphic designer or a fashion designer before I got started...I think that makes a huge difference as to what people find challenging about surface pattern design.  Leaving your paints and brushes aside for a while to transition to learning a computer program trips a lot of people and many don’t persevere the initial hurdles and give up...I can relate to this giving up guitar lessons! :)

As I wasn’t too rooted into any of these, I think I found it easier to take on surface pattern design as a career...all the rules were new to me so it wasn’t a question of re-learning things.  The key here is differentiating the practice of art with that of design and I’ve observed how some artists making the switch to design struggle with “restrictions” that come with working not just for yourself but as part of an industry which as the name suggests is a means of production for an end product.  Art can meet and serve commerce well but ultimately it is not a slave to it...design on the other hand, is intrinsically linked to production so disregarding this can be a costly mistake. In other words, you have to have a different state of mind to make it as a designer if you’re coming from purely an art for art’s sake background.

It’s also important to develop an understanding of the industry as a whole as this helps you identify your niche which will ultimately be what makes you stand out.  You just can’t be a designer of all things to be really successful. This takes time and effort! However, one of the first things you can determine quite early on is whether your style suits a more illustrative or painterly handwriting….meaning, will you spend endless hours mastering Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop?  Ideally, you’ll get good at both but trust me, specialising in one over the other complementing your natural style is beneficial.

Making a commitment to the making it work for the right reasons is important too.  It’s no use being a struggling artist and thinking that going down this path purely to make money from your art will lead to success.  What I mean is that surface pattern design is an art of itself and your artistic talent alone won’t take you far. You can’t disregard all the other parts of becoming a designer in the post millennium era such as learning the tools of the trade, developing your design handwriting (how your natural style translates to design in your particular niche e.g. women’s swimwear).  Plus keeping an eye on what is likely to sell, knowing the studios you can work with if you want to freelance, knowing the jargon, being super adaptable, adopting new technology trends e.g. apps, trending colours, themes/motifs etc. Ultimately, who doesn’t want to make a buck from their artistic talents? Becoming a successful surface pattern designer however is not for everyone.  If you hesitate for a moment for more than a moment, you should really question whether you’re in it for the long run or are just wasting your time. Like the owner of a successful studio recently told me: “yes it’s a very competitive field but we can’t find really good designers”.


Out & About London - Part 1

I decided to start a series of short blog entries covering all the events and places I am planning on visiting in the coming weeks.  There’s a few gallery exhibitions, social/networking events and end of year students’ shows I will be visiting so I plan on sharing a bit of that with you.  London is one of the best places in the world for art and fashion so I hope this will be useful to anyone remotely interested in this scene.

I started yesterday on a glorious but super hot day visiting the William Morris gallery a fellow artist called Lara Harwood.  She told me about this exciting new venture she’s doing combining travel, art and teaching. I love the idea of going somewhere new to explore and taking direct inspiration from it with expert guidance in whatever field you work in...ceramics, drawing/painting, textiles...definitely something I will seek to do in the future and it’s also a great way to travel solo and meet a like minded group to share your passion with.

In the afternoon, I travelled across town to the Chelsea college of Art which is opposite Tate Britain.  It was a mixture of Fine Art, Textiles, Graphic Design and Interior Design student work galleries. I was especially impressed with some of the Textiles work which was really high quality.  Not a lot of printed textiles on show but interesting mixed media for sure.




Finding Your Calling

Today I was reflecting about how finding your calling is like finding your soulmate.  When you face each other you just can’t imagine how your life was before you met them...as cheesy as that may sound.   Anyway, I think you get the analogy… for me, this path of working in pattern design has seriously seduced me and all I want to do is devote the rest of my life to it...I think that’s officially a “calling” or vocation?!  I know I’m still in the honeymoon period (it’s less than 2 years into the relationship and it wasn’t exactly love at first sight either).

Anyway, my point is that this type of work ticks so many boxes for me in respect to working creatively and I feel so lucky for it! Ok there’s I’m sure an element of naivety in all this on my part as I’m not yet a true “professional” but who ever advocated starting a new relationship with skepticism or cynicism?  I’m sure reality will strike at some point but the point is that the love of your profession should sustain you through hardships and sacrifices. Plus, I’m definitely not doing it for the love of money or fame...ermmm, it’s a drop of ten grand in salary last time I checked!

Staying with the topic of vocation, I recently finished reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield and I can’t remember the last time I read a book and wanted to start reading it again the moment I got to the last page!  It is a real account of deeply felt personal conflicts that the author encountered on his journey to becoming a writer over the course of many years. One part that really fascinated me was the idea of the “Muse”. This otherworldly entity that overlooks and directs any creative endeavour. In other words, the force or inspiration driving the artist to manifest this abstract, untouchable creation that comes into being in our 3d world.  OK, sometimes it did feel a little too far fetched when he talked about invoking the Muse or praying to it though it’s not an uncommon concept found through civilizations, right?

The other fascinating lesson I took from this book is that “Resistance” is the antithesis to the  Muse. The author goes into great depth to reveal how resistance manifests itself and how to beat it.  I seriously can’t recommend this book enough. It’s my first read of 2017 (11 more titles to go!!) and what an impact it’s already having.  If anything, it has reaffirmed my calling for this precious art form and that I’m in it for the long haul for better or worse, for richer or poorer, I do!

I picked these images I took in the last couple of days around Valencia because I think they are evocative of my life long creative path search.  The first on the left is a hanging cage which to me symbolizes the stale state of mind we find ourselves in before we find our true vocation.

The middle picture, represents the climbing up to unknown or uncharted territory...it takes courage!

The last photo symbolizes for me those moments of joy when you stumble upon something beautiful unexpectedly...the creative process or the Muse does reward us sometimes! :)

If you like this post or have any comments, do leave them right below!





First Competition of 2017

2017 has already brought so much into my life already...a temporary move to Spain to work on design, a fresh perspective to move forwards creatively as well as a bit of peace from the noise and pace of city life.  Yet, with all this positive mojo on my back, my to-do list seems never-ending and forever expanding like a black hole in my universe! So the thought of entering a design competition wasn’t quite planned...especially when I found out I only had 2 days to come up with a design concept and produce a collection to upload onto over 20 garments just to enter it!  But I immediately knew I had to forge ahead when I read the brief on the theme of the competition by PAOM which was: “Resistance” (definition: the refusal to accept or comply with something).  Quite topical though taking a political point of view wasn’t required.


As I had been photographing a lot of graffiti in the previous few weeks, I decided that this would be my starting point/inspiration.  I love street art in all its manifestations and recall fondly taking a two hour street art tour in Berlin a few years back which for the first time really made me appreciate the artistry involved and the spirit behind it.

To get started, I referred back to a Pinterest board I had created a while back appropriately called “Artistic Licence” based on a WGSN trend I was interested in.  I think graffiti art is the ultimate artistic licence an artist can take to some extent. This Pinterest PAOM Resistance board I created has some of the photos I took around me. So here’s how things developed from there…


I’d love to hear from anyone who’s done anything like this before for PAOM or other print on demand websites.  I definitely think it’s a worthwhile exercise irrespective of the final outcome. Let me know your thoughts if you have or are thinking of doing these types of competitions in the Comments below!