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Welcome to our first post sharing 12 Days of Design!

Sometimes the hardest part of fabric design is just getting started. It’s common to feel completely uninspired, but luckily there are a million ways to get the creative juices flowing! Today we’re sharing our favorite places and ways to find inspiration.

Below is an excerpt from textile designer Bonnie Christine’s post on finding inspiration for a textile collection:

Pattern design can be one of the most fun and fulfilling ways to express yourself as an artist. Coloring your world with prints and patterns you’ve designed yourself truly allows you to express yourself in a unique and joyful way. Possibly the most important step to take before beginning a pattern collection, is to gather lots of inspiration.”

Bonnie’s tips on where to find inspiration: 

Photography. Photography is often a huge part of the inspiration stage of a pattern collection. Exploring and visiting sites and scenes that support your theme can give your entire collection direction and a huge amount of inspiration to pull from. If possible, it’s always important to take your own photos, so you can pull directly from them during the design phase (more on that in a moment). Keeping several photos in a file (or in print) that you can reference will be invaluable as you begin sketching and designing.

Two polaroid pictures, one in color, one in black and white of a man standing on a dock in the ocean
Image credit: Hans Hendley

Get outside and source your own inspiration. Sourcing inspiration for a project is something that we all must do, as it’s an important step in conceptualizing and developing an idea. For example, if I want to illustrate a horse, I pack up my things and hit the road. By actually visiting a horse farm and taking pictures of the horses there myself, I‘m creating original inspiration that I can use in my design work. I can draw color stories from them, sketch from them and use them as inspiration in every aspect of the design!

For example, this….

two horses, one brown one brown and white spotted
Image credit: Glenn Cooke

Can become this:

Red, yellow and green repeating design with brown horses and scrolling embellishments
Scrolled Horse by Ragan

Of course, it would have been easier to just search and pin images and use them for my inspiration. but that just doesn’t feel right. And it’s definitely not right if you’re using other people’s copyrighted photos to trace from.

This is also a great motivator for getting up from the computer and spending time outdoors and traveling. Immersing yourself in the thing that you’re working around is an incredible experience, and it makes the final project all the more personal.

Artist Interviews

The other thing that really really inspires us? Reading the thoughts of the greats—the illustrators and designers who we look up to that make us want to grab a paintbrush and paper like nothing else! Check out some of our favorite artist conversations from over the years with Julia RothmanLeah Goren, Elizabeth OlwenEmily Sanford and more.

White woman with brown hair, arms raised over head, sitting down. On the right, a green bike in front of a wall with red bird wallpaper
artist interview: Julia Rothman
On the left, a young woman with long brown hair who is painting in a sketchbook. On the left, a pink, red and purple design featuring illustrations of women putting on makeup
artist interview: Leah Goren
On the left, woman sitting in her art studio painting in a sketchbook. On the right, a green, blue and yellow painting of a herringbone design taped to the wall
Artist Interview: Emily Sanford

Still not inspired yet? Really?? Check out this video of Elizabeth Olwen with how she gets inspired to create her surface pattern collections. It’s hard not to immediately grab your paints and walk through the forest floor sketching after watching it.

You can read our chat with Elizabeth here.