Our latest featured designer’s love for all things historical is the inspiration behind her aesthetic for Peacoquette Designs. Sarah Walden is based in East Nashville, Tennessee, in a “wee stone cottage” with her husband, David, and daughter, Emily Haddyr. It’s there that her range of digital tools and skills help her transform public domain images into surface designs for today’s modern aesthetic, breathing new life into forgotten, yet beautiful antique prints. Get to know Sarah and see some of her most popular designs below!
My day starts with:
“Tea and a quick bite. I check in with my co-workers (my cats, Trixie and Avalon) and review my LeanKit which is a personal kanban that lets me know what projects I have open for clients and where I am in the process of each. I respond to emails, then spend half the day on commissioned work and the other half on my own work. Right now that includes prepping for my next art show.”
I fell in love with design:
“I was a little girl with an antique silk quilt. It was made of scraps of gorgeous prints that looked quite unlike the popular fabrics in the eighties. It was fascinating to ponder how old they were and what they’d been cut down from to make the quilt. I loved the idea that they’d been around longer than I had.”
What’s in your toolbox?
“I am primarily a digital artist, so my toolbox consists of my trusty computer, Wacom Intuos Pro tablet, scanner, and camera. I use the freeware program, GIMP, for all of my editing work. I pull a lot of my public domain images from my own books and art that I’ve bought from eBay. I also have many pages bookmarked that have public domain sources like the Internet Archive and The British Library.”
When I’m in my studio, I feel:
“I feel like a time-traveling treasure hunter. I am peering through my computer screens into these vast repositories of antique illustrations and pieces of arts, some not seen by anyone in a hundred years or more. I pluck one from obscurity and polish it up and give it a new life here in the present. It is a satisfying feeling to make the past breathe again for a whole new generation. There is something so fascinating about looking closely at these pictures made by long-forgotten artists. As I clean up the edges of an individual element, I can see their original techniques or choices the watercolorist made. It connects me to them. I love bringing disparate centuries and styles into one collage where they work together harmoniously. It is a challenge that I love to puzzle out until it ‘clicks’.”
Who or what influences or inspires your work and why?
“I think Terry Gilliam, who did the animated segments from Monty Python is a strong early influence. He is the first artist I remember who worked in collage style that incorporated both photography and antique illustrations. I love the beauty and the insolence of it all. I have a crush on whimsy! I’d say the art of Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone are very deep in my psyche. I was given an enormous fairy tale compendium when I was two that they illustrated. They had beautiful historically accurate costumed heroines but there was often a tattered edge or torn ruffle that was rendered just as delicately and lovingly. They celebrated the ragamuffin as much as the princess. They embraced the elegance of decay. I also adore the work of Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham. Their color schemes are dreamy.”
If I could live in a painting, I would live in:
“Symphony In White, The White Girl by Whistler. When I was 15, my aunt saw the painting in the National Gallery of Art and was startled by the resemblance to me. She brought a copy home for me and I had to admit that I definitely saw the likeness. I researched the painting and discovered the model was his mistress, Irish actress, Joanna Hiffernan. Ten years ago, I went to DC to see her for myself. It was fun to see all of the people in the Gallery do a double take and ask if she was my ancestress. I would love to live in that painting so I could be ‘myself’ but looking out instead of in.”
What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?
“I have a pair of antique gold satin slippers that are made to look a bit tattered with raw edges. I think they look like a princess was at a ball and had to flee a revolution. I am a bit shabby chic at heart.”
I’d love to see one of my designs turned into:
“A historical costume for Doctor Who. ”
The secret to a strong collection is:
“A statement print, a few strong variations utilizing the elements in the main piece, a few coordinating geometrics in various scales, and the three or four main palette shades in solids. It needs to tell a story through color, placement, and the description. Even the title and color names should be memorable and consistent to the designer’s style.”
Best advice I ever received is:
“From Craig Ferguson: ‘Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said now? Does this need to be said now by me?’ This governs me in conversation, online and in person. It also gives me direction in my art.”
Who or what drew you to Spoonflower?
“I was watching an episode of Project Runway, years ago. They had a challenge where they had to design and print their own fabric. I thought it looked like a blast, so I googled ‘print your own fabric’ and found the still-new Spoonflower. I designed a few prints using my 3D software and printed samples of them. When I put on my 3D glasses and saw my prints jumping off the fabric, I knew I had found a great hobby that would delight me and my friends. When it unexpectedly turned into a full-time career, I couldn’t believe my luck!”
Thanks for joining us for our latest designer interview! We loved getting to chat with Sarah and finding out how she puts a modern twist on historical artifacts. Check out what she’s up to by following her website and Instagram and see what others are making with her designs by checking out #peacoquette.