Designer Emily Isabella has been dreaming of and drawing bright, fanciful worlds since childhood. As an adult, she taps into to her lighthearted inner child to create work with a joie de vivre that's contagious. Her art makes me smile and I find it inspiring, so I decided to learn more about her process and the lovely lady behind it. She generously agreed to spend some time answering my questions and I'm delighted to be able to share what she had to say with you. Thanks Emily!
| | SPDG: What is your background as an artist? How were you drawn in to surface pattern design?
EI: My grandfather was an illustrator and graphic designer, my dad is an illustrator and graphic designer and my mom is a painter. I grew up having “gallery openings” in the hallways of our house — selling paintings for a dime or maybe a quarter. My parents were always exposing me to art — through museums or projects or books.
I started experimenting with batik in high school because my art teachers ran out of classes for me to take. I loved drawing on the fabric with wax and even had the idea to draw with the sewing machine. (I didn’t know at the time that there was such thing as free motion embroidery.)
My love of fabric and tactile processes was evident so I went to Savannah College of Art and Design and majored in Fibers. I bounced around with different processes in college but one thing always remained — I couldn’t stop drawing. Print design came very naturally to me and I discovered it to be commercially viable out of school. So here I am!
Illustrations for mypublisher.com's baby photo book templates.
SPDG: Describe your style and how you arrived at it.
EI:I would describe my style as folky, yet clean and lighthearted with a bit a quirk. I am inspired by modern Japanese design, as well as folk art from South America and Scandinavia. I collect antiquated children’s books that are full of content that is a little off kilter. I have very specific taste so I am confident that as my work evolves and changes, it will always be recognizable.
SPDG: Who are some of your favorite artists and designers, past and present?
EI: Past – Mary Blair, Edouard Vuillard, Alexander Calder (his circus work), James Castle, Virginia Lee Burton
Present - Celia Birtwell, Jen Corace, Beci Orphin
SPDG: What is the mission behind the Emily Isabella brand?
EI: The mission behind my brand is to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. Life is not always cheerful but if we work to remember how we felt as children, we can approach each obstacle with a lighter heart. The hope is that Emily Isabella products serve as reminders of this theory.
SPDG: Give us a verbal snapshot of your studio. What do you love about it the most?
EI: We have an open floor plan in our home so my studio is sort of in the middle of the house. My husband and I are always creating so it makes sense that the studio is the center of our home. It is partitioned by an open bookshelf of art books and children’s books that I often reference.
The thing I love most about my studio is that houses all my inspirational belongings. My studio walls are filled with samples of my work, inspirational objects and odd little photos or treasures that I have found, made, or have been given. It is a happy mess!
SPDG: Do you generally work alone? If so, what do you do to combat loneliness (assuming you get lonely)?
EI: I work alone, yes, but my husband is always nearby in his workshop where he runs his furniture business. Also our cat has quite the presence. I really don’t get lonely, my ideas keep me busy and I suppose I have the personality for working solo.
Daisies wallpaper for Hygge & West.
Emily's Yay Day line for Birch Fabrics.
i-phone cases designed for the Case-Mate.
| |SPDG: What was your first job doing surface pattern design and how did you get it?
EI: My first surface pattern design job was a children’s collection of wallpaper for Hygge & West. Since then I have done four new designs for them. I am trying to remember how I got the job…I think I just emailed them!
SPDG: How did you get started working with the agency Colette and Blue? Tell us a little about your experience working with an agent.
EI: A friend told me about Colette and Blue and I just emailed them as well! They are a great agency, the work I do for them is minimal but it pays off. They have a good grip on mainstream print and color trends and it helps broaden my spectrum of work since I have such specific personal taste.
SPDG: Describe what your dream surface pattern design project would be.
EI: I would love to design candy! The colors, the molds, the printed packaging, the boxes. I would also love to design playful wool area rugs and whimsical floral prints for fancy silk gowns.
Until those dream projects become realized, you can shop my line here and see my quilting fabric here!
SPDG: What advice would give someone who wants to become a surface pattern designer?
EI: Draw, carry a sketchbook and always keep your eyes open. Inspiration is everywhere.
| |We recently noted the death of iconic American designer Lilly Pulitzer on our blog. She can be credited with popularizing the pink and green combination, and the New York Times called her “a major force in prep resort wear”. Others have called her a "designer by accident." Lilly was a socialite who was just as famous for her fashions as she was for entertaining. How did she get there?
Photo: Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images. From elle.com. Lilly Pulitzer on right.
Capitalizing on her bright idea, Lilly closed the stand and started her clothing business a year after she sold her first dress. When an old classmate of hers by the name of Jackie Kennedy was photographed by LIFE magazine wearing one of her dresses (or the “Lillies”) her company took off. Soon she was also designing clothing for men and children and dressing the entire horsey set for their warm weather vacations.
Eventually Lilly employed her own design studio to produce her signature fabrics. They were literally signature designs, as she would creatively hide her name among the motifs. Most of her textiles were produced by Key West Hand Print Fabrics. The three artists mainly responsible for the Lilly Pulitzer look are Susie Zuzek dePoo, her daughter Martha, and Leigh Martin Hooten. Susie and Leigh were trained textile designers. “We focus on the best, fun and happy things, and people want that. Being happy never goes out of style,” Lilly said.
Here you see the name "lilly" in the motif fashionsfinest.fuzzylizzie.com
Lilly Pulitzer fashions are now available through specialty shops, select department stores and through their website. The new products retain all the fun, whimsy and sunny disposition of the original designs, because as Lilly famously said, “It’s always summer somewhere!”
What’s your favorite Lilly Pulitzer print? Go to our Google group to share!
Lillian McKim was born in New York to a wealthy family in 1931. In 1952, she eloped with Herbert “Peter” Pulitzer of the Pulitzer Prize family. They moved to Palm Beach, Florida where she embraced the tropical lifestyle, typically spurning shoes and underwear.
But even carefree, wealthy socialites among waving palms can suffer from depression. Lilly ended up undergoing inpatient treatment while in her twenties. When she emerged in 1959, she was looking for a new hobby and decided to open a juice stand in Palm Beach using the fruits of her husband’s citrus groves.
It turned out to be a messy business and Lilly's clothes were often stained with juice. She recruited her friend, Laura Robbins (a former editor at Harper’s Bazaar), to help design a simple shift dress and, using bold, tropical prints, Lilly fashioned a wardrobe that effectively hid the stains. Her dresses ended up drawing more interest from her customers than her juices!
Photo: Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
When the 1980s arrived, interest in her kitschy designs waned so Lilly filed for bankruptcy and retired. Then in 1993, her brand was sold and revived to introduce her bright, optimistic fashions to the children and grandchildren of her original customers. The tropical preppy wardrobe was back. Lilly returned to work as a consultant for the new company which has thrived ever since.
Photo: Slim Aarons/Hulton. Lilly and her fabric!
| | Internationally renowned textile artist, knitwear designer, painter, author, and color phenom Kaffe Fassett (rhymes with "safe asset") is a living treasure in the world of art and craft. Kaffe's career is still going strong after 50 years and his creativity is blooming as vibrantly as ever.
Kaffe can currently be found on the art and craft instruction site Creativebug, where you can learn about how he assembles prints to create his Rosy quilt design.
Not familiar with this extraordinary artist? Watch this video and be inspired by someone who followed his own path rather than conventional wisdom. ~Sarah
| |If you haven’t seen the documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, it is well worth its 1.5 hour running time. The movie provides an intimate portrait of Diana Vreeland, one of the most influential women of the 20th century. Though she may come across as a bit eccentric, Ms. Vreeland’s work as fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and editor of Vogue spanned decades and demonstrated what an exceptionally motivated and highly creative visionary she was. Fashion would not be what it is today without her. She was truly a woman who followed her own path.
I found the following quotes from Ms. Vreeland exceptional:
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“I realized if I was going to make it, I must stand out.”
“There’s only one really good life, and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.”
“You’re not supposed to give the people what they want. You are supposed to give them what they don’t know they want yet.”
| || |This documentary is available on iTunes and DVD.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Amy Karyn of Amy Karyn Home give a presentation on the labor-intensive (labor-of-love!) art of hand-screening fabrics. Amy and her team create gorgeous fabrics, taking extra steps to ensure that they have that little extra something, whether it’s using her special “tint-glaze” technique or her softening process. Amy gets much of her inspiration for designs and colorways from antique fabrics, and the longevity of her designs (she has been printing some for over 20 years!) attests to their classicism. Amy is incredibly passionate about her craft. I encourage you to watch her fascinating video about the hand-screening process.~ Sarah
Here is a photo I took while walking on a nature trail. I really liked the shape of the snow between the small rocks—I was sure I could do something great with it! Using Photoshop, I started to apply filters to my photo. I wanted to focus on the abstract shape that the snow was forming, so I tried a couple different filters until I found one that created a shape that I was happy with—the cut out filter. The shape looked great, but the filter gave it a texture I didn't like so I made it a flat object. Problem solved! I then cut off one end of the motif that was too spindly. The shape finally felt just right to use in a design. See my first attempt at a pattern below. Next up: a modern looking Jacquard with this funky shape from nature.Jen T.
| |Ever heard of the Design Center at Philadelphia University's Historic Textile Collection? It's a treasure trove of over 200,000 textiles and fashion items, mainly from 19th and 20th century America and Europe. The collection is part of the university's textile design program and is open to everyone online via Tumblr and Pinterest. I subscribed to their RSS feed on Tumblr and receive a lovely snippet of antique textile eye candy every day!-Kiera | |
This photo was taken by my niece Olivia. I gave her my camera and turned her loose on a rose garden. I watched her as she ran around snapping away at anything that interested her. When I got home I was struck by her picture of this bench. I don't think I would have photographed it at the same angel, but she made that stark white bench into a really interesting shape.
Olivia's bench made me think a lot about how you see objects every day—always from the same height or a preferred distance. So my challenge is to change this. I will get closer or shorter or lay on the ground looking up. I will find a different view than the one I am used to. Or I will hand my camera to someone else and see what kind of magic ensues!
Recently I took a series of pictures of leaves because I loved the natural placement of these skinny ones on the ground. Their movement was so beautiful. I spent the rest of my hike thinking about how I could use these simple leaves in a design—tossed, overlapping, with other elements . . .
However, when I got home I was struck by the wonderful color palette that I captured in this photo! There aren't too many colors to be overwhelming and just enough really great ones to pull out and use for a palette.
Here's an idea: flip through your old photos for a little color palette inspiration. You may find another reason to love the images you took long ago.
| |I was cruising through the blogosphere last week when I came across a wonderful post about one of my favorite surface pattern designers: Vera Neumann. I love all things mid-century modern so it should be no surprise that I found the Vera piece on Retro Renovation, an amazing resource for vintage-loving DIYers.
In the blog post, Kate B gives us a brief overview of Vera Neumann's life and work. I learned a few things—did you know Vera painted many of her designs with a sumi brush? It's what helps give her work that brushy, whimsical look. Cool. And, at her peak, she was producing 500 paintings per year! That's truly inspirational.
The real gems in Kate's post are the links. They include the fabulous Vera flickr pool, two videos about Vera, a web page featuring a 1958 LIFE magazine story about Vera and her wallpaper designs, a list of places where you can buy newly produced items with vintage Vera designs, and a link to the Vera Company's website, which is still going as strongly as ever!If that's not enough for your Vera fix, you'll also want to get a copy of the book Vera: The Art and Life of an Icon.Kiera
Image from Amazon.com