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!
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.
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.
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 you give someone who wants to become a surface pattern designer?
EI: Draw, carry a sketchbook and always keep your eyes open. Inspiration is everywhere.