Step into Katie Kortman’s studio in Chesapeake, Virginia and you’ll quickly leave any worries at the door thanks to Katie’s infectious positive personality and colorful outlook on design. Sewing and designing her way to a completely handmade wardrobe (Katie hasn’t bought clothing in over a year), it’s no surprise Katie’s artwork has caught the eye of the #spoonflowerapparel community. See why we’re buzzing about this new Spoonflower designer in our special Meet the Designer video interview below.

My day starts with…

My family. After I have sent the big kids to school, posted something witty and fabulous to Instagram, worked out at the gym, sent my kindergartener off, made and ate lunch with my toddler and put him down for a nap… I get to do my creative endeavors! I usually sip my midday “reward” of Diet Dr. Pepper which often fuels some kind of dancing to go with my newly made clothes. I then like to paint, work on my fabric designs or sew something before my kids get home two hours later.

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
While Katie has dedicated the past year to sewing her own wardrobe, she hasn’t forgotten about her family. Using Sport Lycra and her designs Sew Frosting and Blue and Pinks, Katie stitched up a collection of swimsuits for the entire Kortman crew.

I fell in love with design when…

I was little. I took art classes, went to art camps, attended a middle and high school for the arts from 7-12 grade, and then studied drawing and painting in college (BFA). In the middle of my BFA I really wanted to do fashion design, but my school didn’t offer it. Near the end of college one of my professors urged me to study textile design for my MFA. I didn’t end up going that route, but it has always been something in the back of my mind because my paintings lend themselves to pattern. Now I get to do that with Spoonflower!

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
Inspired by her hand-painted clothing like the top above, Katie has turned her artwork into repeating patterns with Spoonflower.

When I’m in my studio, I feel…

Incredibly happy. I look forward to studio time every day during nap time, and every evening when my kids go to bed. It never seems like work, and I don’t mind the stress of deadlines because I am doing what I really enjoy. I have been a non-stop creative person my whole life – and now as a mom of four, I only get small amounts of my day to work creatively, so that time is treasured.

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
Katie works on another project for her handmade wardrobe featuring Green with Peach Dashes

What’s in your toolbox?

Watercolors, gouache paint, lots of fabric and some hip thrusts for #thehandmadehustle.

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

What is your process for creating a new design?

For many of my designs I start with my watercolor/mixed media pieces. Some I paint specifically with fabric in mind (and those are easier to work with in Photoshop) and other designs come from dissecting paintings I made years ago. Then there are designs I just do totally on the computer using my Wacom tablet or Procreate with Adobe® Photoshop®.

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

How has your love of making a handmade wardrobe inspired your fabric designs?

Because I sew, I am aware of what IS and IS NOT on the market for the home-sewist. I am always searching for large-scale prints and bold color. There is a lot of the same out there, and I want designs that look more like what I can find in quirkier ready-to-wear clothing. When I design fabric I am always thinking of what I would want to sew, and what would look bold and elevated beyond “homemade.”

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
@readrunsew shows off her Zadie Jumpsuit featuring Katie’s design Aqua Watercolor in Lightweight Cotton Twill | Spoonflower team member Meredith poses with the artist herself in an Ogden Cami featuring the design Sew Frosting in Silky Faille during a visit to Katie’s studio.

If I could live in a painting, I would live in…

Robert Rauschenberg’s Hiccups. I saw this piece at Rauschenberg’s retrospective at the Guggenheim when I was in 10th grade and that changed my artistic life (so to speak). I had never thought that zippers could be part of an artwork. The idea that Robert could make a bunch of different little art pieces and zipper them together blew my mind. He became my favorite artist of all time after that exhibition and seeing it set off something in the back of my mind that sewing and art could be connected. It wasn’t until a few years down the road that I would begin exploring those ideas in my artwork and my job as an artist for Anthropologie. 

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
Robert Rauschenberg’s Hiccups via Rauschenberg Foundation

The best advice I ever received was… 

“Weird is different and different is good.” My mom always told me this and I’ve tried to think of that throughout my life when I was leaning towards just being like everyone else for the “easiness” of doing what everyone else is doing. It also helped when I was feeling like an outsider and to remember it’s okay to be different—it’s GOOD!

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

What drew you to Spoonflower?

The ability to try my artwork out on fabric, without the risk of “failure.” I could design, print and see if it worked out, and no one had to see me make mistakes! Designing fabric was such a far-off dream and I had to teach myself how to do it, so having this service that quickly turned my painting into fabric was life-changing! I loved sewing and I loved painting, and with Spoonflower, it’s enabled me to SEW my PAINTINGS!!!!

Meet Designer Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog