And, as you'll find out below, she was friends with the late creator of Peanuts®, Charles Schultz! Awesome.
What is your background as an artist? What led you to surface pattern design?
Most artists will say this, but ever since I can remember, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Since graduating art school, it has been a natural progression from my original intent to be an illustrator for books and magazines to creating designs that enhance and embellish consumer products. Having been fortunate enough to hold design positions with a few big name companies in the gift and stationery industry also helped shape my career as a surface designer. After seeing my designs on market shelves as gift wrap, tableware, gifts, textiles and greeting cards, I was forever hooked!
Describe your style and how you developed it.
My style is inspired by a love for world folk art, mid-century modern design, the graphic goodness of Gee’s Bend quilts and Native American textiles. I would describe it as bold, simple, spontaneous (the more I fret over a design the less I like it), with bright, eye-catching color palettes. But then my dual personality kicks in and I find myself fully and unabashedly playing in splotches of watercolor, ink and adding layers of details. Above all, I always want my art to have an approachable, 'hand of the artist' vibe. That is why I draw or paint my designs before scanning them and then add color and work out the repeat in Photoshop. I prefer Photoshop to Illustrator because I can keep all the wobbly lines and imperfections — perfectly imperfect.
I love David Weidman, for not only his amazing serigraphs, but also his wonderful personality! Stig Lindberg, Alexander Girard, Ben Shahn, Picasso and Matisse. As for present day artists and designers (keeping in mind there are multitudes of amazing artists out there), I would mention Sanna Annukka, ALL the designers of Marimekko, Rex Ray, America Martin and Mizuki Goto.
Please tell us a little bit about working at Hallmark. How has it informed your work in surface pattern design?
Having had the opportunity to work for a large corporation like Hallmark has given me invaluable insight into all business areas related to the manufacturing and selling of consumer products. As with other large companies, Hallmark produces more than just greeting cards. It also produces and sells gift wrap, paper party goods, gifts, invitations and photo albums, so I was able to gain experience in all of those areas. As much as it would be nice for one design to work across all product formats, it doesn’t always work that way. Learning as much as you can by partnering with sales, marketing, and merchandising greatly contributes to your ability to make more informed design decisions. Having said that however, I also need to add that it is important to know that ALL companies are different. Some large companies need their product to appeal to the broadest audience possible; whereas some smaller companies can market to a niche audience. That is why, when approaching a company, it is so very important to understand their product and their consumer target.
What opportunities have you seen for surface pattern designers in the greeting card industry?
I think the opportunities are wide open. There are so many avenues as far as greeting cards are concerned. You can approach everything from large companies like Hallmark and American Greetings, to the many wonderful independent card manufacturers, to selling your own card line from the print-on-demand sites. If you are diligent in finding out as much as you can about the company and it’s consumer, plus educating yourself on what makes a successful card design (for example, 99% of the time it is about the art supporting the message, not the other way around), your efforts to break into the market will be much easier.
Please give us a description of your studio. What do you love about it the most?
My studio is in my house. Since my husband is quite handy, I am surrounded with everything I need — tons of bookshelves, a computer area, a painting area and supply closet. It’s a good thing that I have all these areas because I’m a bit of an art supply and book hoarder. What I love most is that while Iiving in the Midwest, where winters can be brutal, I don’t have to drive in snow and ice to go to work. My longest commute is going downstairs for my coffee!
Do you have a favorite book in your design library? Why is it so special?
If you had any idea of how much I love books you would know how hard that question is! There are actually two that I treasure — the 'Whimsical Works of David Weidman' and a signed copy of 'Around the world in 45 years' from my late friend Charles Schulz. The absolute biggest perk I received while working at Hallmark was getting to meet and become friends with this amazing man.
Again, a hard question to answer! To narrow it down, I would love to visit the Scandinavian countries as well as Japan because I SO love their design aesthetic. Staying a bit closer to home, I am very much inspired by the Southwest region — places like Santa Fe and Taos, NM and Sedona, AZ.
Please describe what your dream surface pattern design project would be.
I would like to someday design a whole range of furniture and home accessories featuring my artwork. Not only the upholstery, but have it incorporated into wooden pieces as well. Everything from cabinets, lamps, dining room tables, bedroom furniture, you name it!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a surface pattern designer?
Study your market. Once you do that, then let the magic of what you love define your style. Be careful of 'paralysis of analysis', it can creep in pretty fast when you are trying to figure out where you fit in. Keep learning and don’t be afraid to ask manufacturers questions - they would rather you do that than waste their time offering up designs they can’t use. One more thing, which is something I’m trying to do better — toot your horn, promote, then promote some more!