12 Days of Design: Day 1 Finding Inspiration

JAN 1, 2017

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Today kicks off the first day of our 12 Days of Design! Have you signed up to get daily emails outlining the steps to create your first, or newest, textile 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, from her article 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.” Continue reading the article. 


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.

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….

Image credit: Glenn Cooke

Can become this:

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.

artist interview: Julia Rothman
artist interview: Leah Goren
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.


Okay! That concludes Day 1 of the 12 Days of Design: finding inspiration. Let us know how you find inspiration in the comments below, and be to snap pics and tag them with #12DaysofDesign on Instagram so we can see and re-post our favorites.

 If you’ve signed up, stay tuned to your inbox for tomorrow’s tips on how to narrow in on a theme. See you then!

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  • Sidartha Ellis

    I have been \\\”doodling\\\” for over 60 years.
    Everyday, I never know where my inspiration will come from, or when it will hit me. Nature is always a wonderful source..it can be a strangely shaped rock, the meanderings of a woodgrain, or a caterpillar.
    My inspiration also comes from children\\\’s drawings..their innocence and choice of colors is amazing.
    I hope to do more with Spoonflower assisting me…these are 12 days I am looking forward to.

  • I wish I could understand how to turn an image or a drawing into fabric. I’ve tried uploading designs, but the repeat just doesn’t look right in any fashion……

  • I am inspired by nature and culture of different countries. I use those themes on my dresses and paint them. I also use to make patterns on sketchbook. It’s my dream to be an designer But beside all these I have no idea how sell them or how I can find the right stuff for it.

  • Finding inspiration when I go on outside and online Pinterest and instagram Also like looking through some of my drawings that I have done.

  • I was born decades to late. I crave the 50’s and 60’s. For textiles we now have several great clothing companies, However I want to create some unique patterns for shirts and skirts for those of us that know where to come. The clothing companies are great and produce good quality items, but to keep costs low it means batch production. This can mean sometimes the same items of clothing are seen in the same room. I hope to create some designs that will allow a few more bespoke items to limit that from happening, while also creating the textile, pattern that I cannot find! I used to be a modern that when he went looking for clothes found nothing he liked or fealt good in. Now I know what I like and can spot what I like. Vintage or used clothing from the 50’s is more sought after but general had several owners and not in great condition. I want to harness the designs and patterns to allow new items that have the patterns and styles they used.

  • Monica Gomez

    I really find my inspiration at the nature and in the colors of the pictures of the Carnaval de Barranquilla.

  • As I have a full time job a day, it sometime difficult for me to go and travel to really see new inspirations. But it something that I really want to improve so much in my life.

    To my day to day inspiration, it can come from everything I see in my day. The color of the wall on the subway, the nice print on a guy shirt, the bird flying in the sky…. I think the most important thing is to pay attention of every little thing around us, because it will maybe become a new inspiration.

  • Jeanne luddeni

    I work full time day in and day out loathe my job but, I’m slowly doing more and more ideas on paper and material . I can’t draw or paint even though my mother was an artist in all medium’s I’m learning to get my self to enjoy painting on material getting great ideas thanks to spoonflower. I’m doing things and just loving it soon I will upload my beautiful ideas and I will run with it, and I have to hurry as I’m 70 years young and I need to step on it.

  • Marie Mul-van der Roest

    Perhaps it is very arrogant to tell, but it is really true: I have a lot of inspiration and because I have been a drawing and paintingteacher for years I can draw and paint my ideas. My great problem is how to transform it in Photoshop or Illustrator. For the moment I can immediately send Spoonflowers my designs, but do you accept my work without the additive changings in Photoshop or Illustrator. I am really very glad that you send me and give me the opportunity to see your tutorials. I am already begun ( the very very first steps) with Photoshop, but I know it will take a lot of time to do it fluently and without mistakes. Meanwhile your challenge is over and I can still not send you my designs. And I really want – it is a dream for years- to design fabrics (for clothes and furniture), wallpapers and so on. I am graduated at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, Holland. (Illustration, graphic arts, drawing and painting) and I have worked for the Dutch T.V,and several garden magazines etc. etc.
    I know I must go on with my very first steps to learn photoshop, but I can submit to your challenge without the repeating patterns? I want it so much. Thank you in advance.

  • Diane Sheckells

    I sometimes am inspired by my reading. I am currently reading To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey. Set in Alaska in the 1880’s, the vivid descriptions of the wilderness beg to be interpreted in color and design. Glaciers and rivers imply abstract shapes. Ms. Ivey’s tale does not linger totally in descriptions of nature. She has a lovely feeling for folk tale and has woven shape shifting into her story. Familiar tales where a person can assume an animal form open other vistas for design exploration. These tales cross cultures and geography.