Last week I received a link in my inbox to an inspiring blog post by Michelle Fifis over at Pattern Observer. The post was titled “Filling the Void in Today’s Textile Design Marketplace” and if you, like me, are trying to find your way in this surface design world, I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already.
Michelle shares that the competition in this industry has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. So, if you want to stand out, you have to step it up. You can earn your place in the industry by being a designer who creates great artwork and runs a professional business. She defines a professional business as one that has focus, authenticity, consistency and an understanding of how to communicate with clients.
One thing many designers struggle with is a lack of focus, according to Michelle. I can attest to that! There are truly so many directions you can take in this field. You could choose to design for wrapping paper, quilting fabrics, greeting cards, lamps, wallpaper, tabletop, fashion fabrics, you name it! Thanks to digital technology, just about every product can be printed and personalized these days.
Then there’s the way you work: You can choose to work for a company, or you can choose to work freelance. As a freelancer, you can choose to work with clients, an agent or represent yourself at trade shows (or some combination of the three). You can also manufacture your own product line. Blog. Teach. Etc.
You can see examples and be inspired by just about everything around you, because surface designs are, in fact, all around us, all the time!
It’s truly a bit overwhelming and I must admit I feel I’ve spent a lot of the past few years feeling a bit lost, or worse, schizophrenic. I just want to do everything I see around me. A bit unrealistic, I know …
But I’m hoping those days are behind me. Last night I quickly wrote out 5 pages about my past, present and future as an artist/designer, so that it would be there in black and white, and I’d no longer lose it in a sea of influence and inspiration. It’s taped up on my studio wall now, and it was a great support to me today as I started working in a whole new way (a way that I’m really excited about!) Stay tuned for more on that.
I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to take this precious moment to think about our natural focus. I know I’m always so eager to get down to the designing, but wait … Stop. Breathe. Make yourself a cup of tea and answer the following questions first:
What types of products/industry do you most want to design for? Why? What is your history/feeling/experience with this type of product/this industry?
What kinds of designs do you want to create? What are the 7 most important adjectives to describe them?
What is your process/style? What is unique about it?
What are your strengths as an artist/designer and how will you work to them?
How do you want people to feel when they interact with your work?
Anyway, Michelle’s advice is to identify your natural focus, then “run like the wind!” Learn everything you can about it. Become an expert in it. Specialize. Market yourself specifically to that industry. You know the old saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none?” That’s not what we’re going for. Having lots of choices isn’t always a good thing, at least not until you’ve made them. So, dig deep, look inside, and make those choices. I think you’ll feel relieved. I do!
A few posts back, I announced that my wallpaper obsession was taking hold. I’m still in the throes of it. So, I think I’ve identified my natural focus.
In the spirit of specializing, I spent part of my Saturday afternoon leafing through wallpaper books at Otto Van Iersel Paint & Wallpaper here in Vught. They were very nice and directed me to the latest florals from Eijffinger (NL), BoråsTapeter (Sweden), Origin (NL), Arte (BE), Esta (NL), Cole & Son (UK), Designers Guild (UK), Osborne & Little (UK), etc. Are these same brands in your local wallpaper store? If not, what brands are popular where you live?
Here are some highlights from my browsing session. As you can see, the middle images of papers by Eijffinger have a texture to them, and even in some cases a metallic background color. I liked that. These designs all seemed to share pretty simple patterns. A plain ground with one or two motifs, and you’re done. At least, traditionally.
But look at what Louise Tiler is doing with wallpaper:
Do you see anything you like? Would you consider any of these for your home? Why or why not?
Oh wait, here are some more choices from a company in the UK called Sanderson … What was I saying about too much choice not being a good thing??
So, so far I’ve bombarded you with flowers, because that’s what I love. But I have to admit I was surprised how much I fell for this new Brooklyn Tins wallpaper from NLXL/Merci and Piet Hein Eek, a product/furniture designer in Eindhoven known for his use of scrap wood/scrap materials in general.
Is it because it reminds me of my glory days in Park Slope in 2001-2005? I don’t know. I think it’s just cool. Really cool.
Have you seen any interesting wallpapers lately, or do you know of any good places to study up? I want to know all about it!
P.S. Michelle Fifis is offering a new class called Building Your Textile Design Business, starting October 29. To find out more about it, click here. It’s sure to be great!