Featured Member – September, 2018
Meet our new featured member, John Wylie. John is originally from Toronto, Canada, where he worked in biomedical research, studied fine art, and served in various arts organizations. While studying Graphic Design at UC Berkeley, he discovered pattern design. He now works as a freelancer, creating patterns using traditional art techniques as well as digital graphics. We are so happy to have him as a member and to be able to showcase his unique style.
What is your background as an artist and what led you to surface pattern design?
I have always been interested in the visual arts but decided to pursue a career in biomedical research working in research labs in Canada and the United States. While I had worked in biomedical research for over 25 years, I never lost my interest in the visual arts. I studied wildlife drawing and botanical watercolor painting through the University of Toronto. At the Toronto School of Art, I studied figure drawing, acrylic painting, sculpture, and printmaking. While living in Toronto, I served as the exhibition chairperson and president of the Art Guild of Scarborough, exhibited my work on a regular basis, and served a term on the Toronto Arts Council’s Community Arts Committee.
After moving to California in 2006, I completed the Graphic Design program at the University of California, Berkeley. I was always fascinated by textile design but it was through my courses in graphic design that I really got introduced to pattern design. I loved being able to use traditional art techniques, as well as digital tools, to create repeating patterns. Textile design also seemed to fit with my love of printmaking; the idea of multiples, repeating units and screen printing.
How would you define your style?
I feel my style is refined, well crafted, balanced, contemporary, and elegant. I like to create traditional designs like damask and toile that tap into my love of wildlife and botanical illustration. I also like to develop patterns based on my interest in children’s book illustrations. Of course, like others, I’m always exploring the world of surface pattern design and discovering different traditions that I can interpret in my style. I use traditional art techniques such as watercolor painting, graphite, linocuts as well as digital methods to develop the motifs for the designs. Basically, the type of design I create depends on the project but also what I’m curious to explore.
What was your first job doing surface pattern design and how did you get it?
When I wrapped up my career in biomedical research, I was committed to working independently as freelance surface pattern designer. This meant that it was up to me to create the collections, and sell or license my designs to other businesses; I’ve never worked in-house. My first contract was licensing my MicroLife Collection to Robert Kaufman Fabrics who in turn created three colorways of the collection. It has been an amazing and rewarding experience working with Kaufman and I have learned much through them about the industry.
Where do you look for inspiration?
For me inspiration comes from the world around me and my personal travels and experiences. I have a wide range of interests from astronomy and cosmology to art history and architecture. I love looking at images from NASA, biotech company websites, art magazines, children’s books, museums and nature. Of course there is always Instagram and Pinterest. You never know what you might see that will inspire your next design, so I get out and look around. It’s important to be curious.
You can see more of John's work on his website: jwyliedesigns.com