At Spoonflower, we always love to hear when a Spoonflower designer gets the recognition she deserves from others in the fabric world, so we were delighted when we learned that Spoonflower designer Greta Songe recently released some new collections with Marcus Bros. that will be available in stores very soon. We wanted to chat with Greta a bit more about her evolution as a designer, and she graciously agreed to an interview. Read more about the talented Ms. Songe below and then look for the chance to enter today's giveaway for a deliciously large bundle of fat quarters!
It looks like you’ve had your fingers in all sorts of creative pies in the past. Please tell us a little about the creative path that led you to become a licensed textile designer with Marcus Bros.
The majority of my artistic background up until a few years ago was in the area of painting, drawing, and printmaking. I went to grad school for my MFA in Painting at the University of Iowa which led to a year-long artist residency at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee. It was there that I took a surface design class for a week and where a spark initiated, I think. We did some shibori dye techniques, screen-printing, and a couple of other methods of applying basic patterns to fabrics. After that, I got more into painting patterns in my still life paintings and using screen-printing to print patterns right onto the panels I was painting on. My love of pattern seemed to evolve very organically. I just loved how patterns helped define spaces in my images, how they sometimes worked as kind of a camouflage, and how they crowded the space with visual activity.
A couple of years ago, I decided that I really wanted to push forward on the illustration work that had always taken a back seat to my paintings. I made a conscious choice to put away my oil paints and focus on developing my skills as an illustrator and surface designer. I'm sort of a compulsive doodler. It’s always bothered me that the things that flow out of me quite naturally never really had a home in what at that time I considered my “real” art, my paintings. It seemed to me that there was room for all kinds of imagery in surface design and illustration. That, I really love.
So over the last two years, I basically enrolled myself in a self-taught crash course on creating patterns. I learned how to create repeats in Photoshop and Illustrator, read books on surface design, read every online tutorial I could find, learned how to sew, and soaked up every ounce of information that I could. A friend told me about Spoonflower. I entered contests weekly and really thrived from all of the fantastic energy and support that a community of creative souls provides.
I really haven’t looked back from there. I just love designing and more than anything, I love the fact that my art can be accessible to friends, family, and complete strangers who want to use the fabric in their own projects. It’s just amazing.
This past May, I signed with Marcus Bros. Fabrics after sending out my portfolio to them. I have a couple of really fun lines that will be FINALLY be in stores in the next week or so, "Here to There," which is bicycling-themed, and "Kitschy Kitchen," which, of course, is kitchen-themed. Then, my "Apple Dee-Doo-Dah" line will be in stores this summer. It’s so exciting!
I landed in this icy tundra to go to graduate school at the University of Iowa in 2000, a quite warm-blooded native of south Louisiana and straight out of Cajun country. I had only seen snow once in my life (and it was probably only an inch or so)! I don't think I'll ever get used to these crazy winters.
I moved around a bit after grad school, doing the artist residency in Tennessee, moving back to Iowa for a year after that, and then moving to Florida for three years for a teaching job at a college there. I've always just loved Iowa though and finally decided to leave my job in Florida and come back to Iowa. Something about this area is just so appealing. I am surrounded by great friends, my fantastic partner, John, and a really creative community of people that I thoroughly enjoy. I feel like because it's a college town, there's this constant flow of people in and out of here that is really great. I love our cute little downtown, the bikeable, walkable streets, and the sense of community that was missing for me in other places.
I do miss Louisiana a lot, though, because my whole family is still there. I get back a few times a year to soak up all the warm weather, family love, and delicious food while I'm there. And don't tell anyone, but I've even been known to smuggle my favorite local spices like Slap Ya Mama (that’s the real name) and andouille (a Cajun sausage) in my suitcases to take back to the Midwest. Sometimes the food needs a little spicing up in these parts! 🙂
What sorts of creative pursuits did you enjoy as a child?
As a child, I loved anything artistic. There was–and still is!–nothing more thrilling than a new blank sketchbook. I loved drawing cartoon characters and especially loved drawing fashion drawings for a while. I could fill up a sketchbook in no time (and still can)! I was always the messy and creative one in our family. My Barbie dolls always got new clothes and cut and dyed hair, while my sister's stayed as pristine as the day they were bought. It was pretty funny.
Where do you draw creative inspiration?
I have to say it comes from so many places…..nature, my imagination, from my doodles. I really do get a lot from the doodles. I have notebooks from meetings where the side margins are just filled with so many unfiltered little designs. Sometimes some really great stuff can come from those. I always thumb through my legal pads of notes if I'm stuck and looking for a filler in a design.
I also like to see what's out there, what's trending, what others are doing, what's hip in other product areas. With my newer ventures outside of Spoonflower, the designs need to have some mass market appeal so while I might love a design that features breakdancing elephants, that might not speak to a larger audience. I try to pay attention to those things to guide some of my work, too, but it doesn't guide all of it. There will always be the "breakdancing elephant" designs. They're not going anywhere!
What do you do when you get stuck creatively? What gets you going again?
Well, I just signed up for my first triathlon–eek! So as of late, when I get stuck or frustrated, I usually take a break. I go for a run, ride my bike, or swim to clear my head. I've learned that sometimes working with designs can feel like banging your head against a wall. So walking away from it and doing something else often helps. Also, sometimes I'll work on a sewing project. That helps, too.
What does your studio look like?
Oh my, it is a mess! It really is. It's so hard to keep things in place in my creative space. I suppose that's why it's good I have a studio and that I don't work in our living room or something. I am constantly fluctuating between drawing and painting designs, working digitally, and sewing. So, my studio reflects all of that. There's a computer area set up in one corner, and the other side of the studio transitions between a table area for sewing on some days and an area for painting and drawing on other days. It can get a little chaotic in there. The walls are tacked with lots of different things–fabrics I'm inspired by, little drawings that I'm holding onto for possible use in something.
I really love my space though. My partner John is also an artist. He has a studio–a much cleaner studio!–on the other side of the house. It's really great that we can both work and then check on what the other is doing. I just love that creative energy and exchange. It's very motivating for both of us.
What role does Spoonflower play in your creative life now?
The Spoonflower creative community is really like no other. The feedback of other artists, and the advice and general support they offer up is so inspiring. Spoonflower plays an important role in my creative life. I love the weekly contests. They are always such great challenges. And, I just love seeing all of the possibilities that people come up with for each theme. It's quite remarkable. There will always only be a limited number of designs that are able to go to print with Marcus, so having a space where I can put up my creations and have others see and buy them is really great.
How does your textile design work overlap with or inform your other creative projects (if it does)?
Textile design has led to a greater interest in sewing and embroidery for me, and I just learned to sew a little over a year ago. I've really wanted to have sewing skills so that I could understand how the fabrics I designed would be used. It's had a HUGE impact on my designing and is still a work in progress, but understanding how my designs could be used in a project seems to be a pretty fluid part of the process. I've also begun working with embroidery techniques and thinking of ways one could embellish the designs I create on fabric.
Can you give us a sneak peek or hint at what you’re working on next?
Where would you like to be in the next five years in terms of your creative work, professional life, or just in general?
I'd really like to keep expanding my surface design work. I love having my designs on fabric, but would love to work on licensing to other markets, whether it's stationery, children's clothing, or other kinds of products. I also am really interested in creating more project patterns and embroidery patterns. I really like that aspect of the design process, too.
Thanks, Greta! For this week's giveaway, Greta selected six of her Spoonflower designs to be printed onto Kona cotton, then sent along six fat quarters from her "Kitschy Kitchen" and "Here to There" collections from Marcus Bros. to go with them — a big bundle of lovely fabric inspiration! If you'd like a shot at winning this big bundle, just follow the entry link below. Entries will remain open until next Tuesday, 2/12, and we'll announce a winner on 2/13. Good luck, everyone!
Last week, we gave away three Spoonflower Welcome Packs containing $35 in Spoonflower credit and Laurie Wisbrun's Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design. The winners were Marie Novak, Jean Miller and Amy Petersen. Congratulations to you all, and we'll be in touch soon with details about how to redeem your prize!