I got a very nice email from a long time reader the other day. Andi Whalen is a stay at home mom with plans to attend school for textile design one of these days. She wrote to ask me a couple of questions and I thought it would be nice to answer them publicly, because I think a few other people may also be interested.
So, this will be my last post before I head off on my week-long hiatus. I've pre-written a couple of little posts just to keep the interest flowing and a little "light on" in the shop. I've been pretty frantic trying to tie up loose ends and finalizing shipping (I also had 100 feedbacks to answer! sheesh, I slacked there, didn't I?)
Without further ado, let's get onto the questions:
How long does it take you to complete a single pattern from conception to finish?
There is no one answer for this. Most of the time my prints start with a sketch. This generally happens when I have a spare moment to look out a window- like on the train ride to or from work. tip: keep a sketch book with you at all times! I think I've mentioned, I am not a fan of my sketching, but it's effective for getting the idea out of my head and onto paper where I can visualize it much more clearly. Most of the time I'll scan the sketch and work over it in Illustrator- loosely. Working in Illustrator is something I can practically do in my sleep, so I work very quickly at this point. I have been told, and indeed I can see the difference in speed between me and my workmates, that I am VERY fast at this process. So when I say it might take me less than an hour, that's probably pretty accurate. But then I will stare at it for some time and realize the print needs adjustment. Coloring it up is the last thing I do- this also goes fast because I'm fairly decisive when it comes to that aspect.
Do you ever get it right from the start or do you just scrap an idea?
Good question! It will go either of these two ways. I have rarely revisited an idea that I didn't get right the first time. If I can't edit the original idea to a state that I can live with, I will toss the whole idea out the window. There are a number of reasons I might do this:
- The motifs aren't coming out the way I envisioned them. If the idea in my head looks better than the product on my screen, it's not going to happen. I have my challenges in realizing certain looks- either because I can't manipulate the sketch well, my drawing skills are lacking or because they are too complicated for this impatient designer to work out completely.
- They don't fit in with my "look". Note the three examples above of prints that I did just this past week. These aren't going to go any further. It's not that I don't like them... they just don't resonate "me" and that's very important to me these days. I don't want to put things out there, even if they may be *wildly popular*, if it isn't the look and feel of what I, personally, hold for my brand image. Sticking to my guns is the Number One perk of having my own company!
- The repeat won't work. Certain motifs are difficult to achieve a balanced repeat- and I'm a virtual freak for balance- even if it's a perfect imbalance- so I can get easily frustrated. Sometimes there's ways to make them work, but then it takes it so far from my original concept that I'm disillusioned with the project.
- They just suck. Yes, it's been known to happen! (rather often)
Do any of your ideas feel forced because of trying to fit them into a collection?
Another great question! Yes. And no. It depends. If I originally conceive of a collection of 6 prints and only 4 are really working... I can live with this. I try not to have high expectations for myself because I know it can't always work out. I'm having this situation with my Earthly Delights. The three above were intended for that group, but I nixed them. Just not right. I'm not disappointed, though. It is much more important to me that the collection is tight rather than large. Quality over quantity type of thing.
On the other hand, when I did my Dogwood collection, I knew that the quilting market would require certain types of prints... allovers in various scales (like the leaves and birds), near-solids (like the stitching and stripes), and basic color-driven patterns that help tie in and unify the collection (like the plaids). This is where my merchandizing training comes in very handy. For years this is what I do for boxers because most of the time it's a 3 pack and the prints or plaids need to be balanced and unified within the assortment. For this, I have to work a little harder to achieve and there's more trial and error. Sometimes it's a scaling adjustment or color position issue or sometimes it means back to the drawing board for a new idea altogether.
I can separate these two categories and live with the idea that I need to merchandize for the latter type. This type of collection HAS to work as a whole and that's part of the challenges of doing this type of work. You want the customer to have options within the group- something they can decide upon but still keep in with the vision of the group as a whole. (*this is not necessarily true for all craft/quilt market designers but this is the method I subscribe to. There are no "rules" but I think most designers for this market understand the conjunction between the patterns they develop). When doing collections for Cicada Studio- like What's Buzzin, Cuzzin?, I don't have these same restrictions because I'm not trying to sell the collection as a whole- they are not necessarily intended to be used together, but rather, they carry a common theme and look and color palette and each supports the other and (hopefully) makes it a bit of a challenge for the buyer, which one they like best.
I really enjoyed being asked these questions. I love being put into a position where I have to think about and articulate my methods. It's just the type of thing I'm faced with as I write my book.
So, thanks Andi! I really appreciate your interest in my work and methods. If anyone else would like to write me, I'd welcome the emails. I don't know if I'll always have the time to reply in this manner, but I can see this sort of being a running theme here on the blog, if I get asked the goodies like these.
I will sign off now! Google Reader is back on track so I can check out my friend's blogs before I sign off. One last hoorah! OK, take care and I'll see y'all after the 8th!