Fabric8 Finalist Profile – Tamara Serrao

MAY 28, 2012

This is the sixth in our series of profiles of the eight finalists in the Fabric8 contest, a competition from Spoonflower and Robert Kaufman Fabrics to discover a handful of the world's best amateur textile designers. Today we're profiling Canadian designer Tamara Serrao. Look for our penultimate Fabric8 designer profile tomorrow!


Dappled Migration by Kayajoy, Tamara Serrao

I was born in northern Ontario but when I was 4, my family sailed to Trinidad to live. There I grew up exploring the outdoors in a sunny and colourful environment. I left Trinidad to come back to Canada at age 17 but tropical birds, insects, fish, and flora were an enormous part of my younger years and remain ever present in my memories and imagination. Today I live in Montreal, where I long for the colour and warmth of summer for far too many months of the year.

I have a bachelors degree in art, with a major in textiles and a minor in art history. While in school, however, my main focus was in weaving. It wasn’t until last year, after many years of not being involved in textiles to any great degree, that my sister introduced me to Spoonflower and I quickly became addicted to the design process. I set myself the goal of entering as many of the weekly contests as I could manage so as to push my boundaries aesthetically and technically. I have learned so much through this exercise.

When I’m not designing fabric, I'm either at work designing packaging and labels, trying to cook an interesting meal (I stress “trying”), or being creative with my kids. In the summer I love being on our rooftop deck, planting beautifully coloured flowers in every available spot and enjoying the fresh air and sky.

I grew up with a mom who sewed most of our clothes. Delving into fabric shops, bags of ribbons, boxes of buttons, and stacks of patterns are some of my earliest distinct memories. I learned to sew at a very young age and have gone through phases of fervent stitching, embroidery, quilting or knitting when the inspiration has hit.

My favorite period has been the anticipation of and first years of my children’s lives. I still have the quilt my grandmother made for me when I was a baby and I wanted my kids to each have that tactile keepsake of their own. In typical parenting fashion, my firstborn’s was pretty much finished before she was born.

But my son’s quilt was only finished a couple of months ago. (He is now 4.)


I also enjoy making baby clothes because the scale is perfect for me. I get a great sense of accomplishment from such adorable, small, quickly finished projects.

Having two young children, I read a lot of kids’ books. Some of my favorites are Where the Wild Things Are, Iggy Peck Architect, Grandpa Green, and The Red Shoes. I derive so much inspiration from ideas and styles of illustration in our younger home library. My favorite musician at the moment is Michael Kiwanuka. His voice is spellbinding. As for fabric designers, that’s a tough one to narrow down. There is quite a range for me, from Amy Butler to Kate Spain to Lizzie House to Skinny Laminx.  My list of favorites goes on and on.  Probably due to the fact that my own work is usually quite detailed & controlled, I'm really enjoying the paintings of Lulie Wallace and Michelle Armas right now.

I was completely ecstatic when I learned that I was one of the Fabric8 finalists. I had just flown into Halifax in the late morning to spend some time with my mom and dad. Not being one of the most technologically advanced individuals around, it took me a good hour to get wi-fi running on my laptop. My email was the first thing I checked and there at the top was a message from Stephen saying I was in. I literally squealed with delight!

I would say that 95% of my fabric design work thus far has been created using Illustrator. I am a self-taught computer graphist and have been learning as I go. I have, however, been wanting to get back to drawing and painting for some time now, so the Fabric8 contest was just what I’ve been waiting for. It hasn’t been as easy as I'd thought it would be, though. It's literally been half a lifetime since I’ve used watercolours, so I've gone through whole days of sketching, drawing with technical pens, experimenting with paint, scanning, manipulating with Photoshop, and then starting all over again from scratch the following day. I think I'm finally on track, and I'm creating a collection based on sunlight and wind with fantastical patterned butterflies being the main characters. As always, colour and pattern are driving me.

Dappled Migration by Kayajoy, Fabric8 finalist

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