I love creating designs for fabric; it’s totally a dream come true to have my designs manufactured into fabric that I can actually sew with. The process of putting together a complete collection of fabrics from a handful of sketches is something I’m really fascinated by. I have always loved to see artists present their process from sketch to final fabric design (Tula Pink is one fabric designer who posts about her process quite often; check out this post and this post, SO AMAZING!). Although my initial sketches aren’t nearly as intricate or artistic as Tula’s (honestly, most my original artwork falls solidly into Doodle Camp), I thought it would be fun to show you some of my first sketches from my line, Lotus Pond, so you can see how a concept evolves as it goes from sketch to final design. Maybe you find this as fascinating as I do!!!
So here’s where it usually starts for me: a sketch. Do you recognize the Lotus Drop print that this one is eventually going to become?
I usually send a small set of sketches to Michelle Engel Bencsko (co-owner and art director at Cloud9 Fabrics; I am a licensed Cloud 9 Collective designer). Usually these sketches relate to each other in some way, sometimes they do not. Michelle sifts through them and gives me feedback on the direction the collection could go. “Let’s go with this pond theme!” she might say. Sometimes it’s two directions but we haven’t decided which one is better yet. Sometimes a sketch is based on a conversation I’ve had with Michelle about a print idea that is still needed (“do you have a turtle?”). Once we have a theme for the line picked out, I take the sketch and put it into Illustrator. At this point I usually try to pick some colors too so I can visualize what the print will become. Here is what that sketch turned into:
Here’s another color variation I delivered (can you see the resemblance to the final print yet??). You can see that at this point, the concept was a band of lotus blossoms that might work for a border print (something printed along the selvage of a fabric), but not an all-over design.
Once a handful of sketches have been digitized, Michelle and I work on tweaking the colors and pattern. The tweaking stage is a back and forth process, which I really love! Some fabric designers just deliver an entire line, complete with repeats, to the art director, but I personally appreciate having the feedback and being able to bounce ideas back and forth. Michelle is a fabric designer herself, so she has tons of fantastic ideas about where a print could go, but she is always great about saying “how about this?” and hearing when I do or don’t like an idea. If she has a strong sense that it will not be successful, I put the brakes on a concept; I trust her expertise and keen design sense. The idea of stacking the blossoms on top of each other instead of in a grid actually came from Michelle, and as soon as I saw it, we both knew it was the right direction!
Then it was just a matter of deciding which color(s) to go with for this print. We ended up choosing blue and orange for this design, and called it “Lotus Drop.”
This is just a small glimpse into the process — obviously it’s much more complicated in reality than what I’ve described. Coordinating the colors and prints in the entire collection once the prints are digitized is a HUGE job that takes a great deal of time and coordination between Michelle and me. It’s impossible to tease apart the work on one print from the work on the entire collection, because as a collection evolves in the design process, the individual prints are evolving as well. And then of course the colors need to be translated from computer screen to the fabric, which is another story altogether.
Do you enjoy getting a peek into the process? I think it’s fun to see where a single design starts and ends! If you liked this post, I might show you a few more!