Designing fabric

I've gotten several emails lately asking if I could talk about how I got into designing fabric. It's not a very complicated story... I was working as a graphic designer (still am) and blogging on the side for fun (still am), when Caroline of jcaroline creative sent me an email. I knew of her online shop, but didn't know her at all. Essentially she said, "I like your blog. Want to design some fabric for me?" Essentially I said, "Sure." Without having a clue how to do it.

I have a BS degree in Design Communication and have been working as a graphic designer since college. I use Adobe's Creative Suite every day, which includes Illustrator and Photoshop, so I imagined it couldn't be that hard. Other people do it, right?

So I figured out how to make repeating tiles of pattern in Illustrator, my program of choice because I like flat graphic shapes. Essentially you do it like this (the best tutorial I could find for you.) I set to work making a page of patterns, and from those Caroline selected her favorites. I designed some prints to coordinate with them. Then Caroline picked a set and I refined them until we ended up with Modern Flora, my first collection. She found a vendor to manage the printing. I sent them files and they magically turned them into screens. Yes, using magic! And then in January of 2008, Caroline and I met in Massachusetts for the print run, which was great fun.

An aside: the prepress/printing process will cost you thousands of dollars, unless you find someone to license your artwork and they foot the printing bill. Or unless you go the digital Spoonflower route, which at the time of this writing, is still in Beta. (Their minimums are tiny.) I'm curious to see their quality.

My process: If I have an idea for a pattern or interesting shape, I might spend a nanosecond sketching it on whatever piece of scratch paper is handy. Or I might not sketch it at all. I might just start making it in Illustrator. I don't have a sketchbook. Sometimes I doodle on computer paper, or notebook pages, or junk mail. Then I put it next to my computer until it's time to make it in Illustrator. Sometimes I lose it or decide to throw it away because it sucks. I don't try to make nice sketches AT ALL. Just a shorthand notation so I'll remember an idea. And then it usually turns out completely different, anyhow. I take my hat off to all you meticulous sketchers out there. I swear, if anyone saw my chicken scratchings, they would never know I used to make naturalistic pastel drawings and watercolors. How did I ever have the patience? Now I'm all about simplicity.
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