collection building, colour, and pattern talk with
KHRISTIAN A. HOWELL
Why are collections important when it comes to selling or licensing your work? Great collections are good storytellers. Just as great store windows and displays help to set a mood at your favourite shops (think Anthropologie), collections pull the viewer in. The hope is the story will in turn pull the consumer into the overall story of the marriage between the artwork and the product the artwork adorns. If you can create a captivating story with your collections, it makes it that much easier for the buyers and merchandisers to see your work on their products. Buyers, merchandisers and art directors are always thinking “How can we make our product rise to the top of the heap?”, “How can we get through all the noise in the market?” A complete compelling story at the instinct level of colour and artwork is one of the key components of winning this never ending battle for consumer attention.
What makes a great pattern collection? There are many things that make for a great pattern collection, and every designer has their own opinion on this. There are many categories that need a variety of styles, and there are many ways of bringing a pattern collection together. That being said, for the kinds of categories and markets I enjoy working with, here’s my take: I think great pattern collections have a central idea. Of course the colour story binds the pieces together, but a great collection does not have to be matchy matchy. Think of some of your favourite style icons. Most of them don’t wear pieces that are perfectly matched. Instead the pieces just seem to go together in a really effortless way. You may find yourself saying, “Wow, I would never think those two items would go together, but it just works”. That is the intrigue I love about great pattern collections. They make you think and explore, and push your idea of what a collection really means. How do you go about building one? EVERYTHING starts with colour for me. I’ve spoken with other artists who will draw away in black and white and then colour later. My
brain just does not work that way. The colour is really what drives the story for me. I’ve often said that travel is one of my greatest inspirations, but rather than the buildings, people or food it is the colours of a place that leave the most lasting impression in my mind and create the storyline for me. So, first, I build a palette. Sometimes, it takes me a whole day to get just the right combination. Once the storyline has emerged from the palette (maybe the palette feels like the Hamptons, or India, or maybe a time period, or a Cirque show I saw…), I build the first print. These days I am thinking a lot about how things will work together in a room. So after I create the first print I’ll think, for instance, “If this were wallpaper, what would I do for the rug, the pillows, the wall hanging?” I often think about what it would actually look like in a space. I consider the scale and make sure it is varied. I consider the balance of bold, multi-colour combos, and more reserved two-colour combos that will give the eye a resting place. I also consider if each print can stand on its own. I want every piece in the collection to be strong and beautiful. What do you keep in mind when putting a collection together? I do consider the end use because there are specific categories and companies I really want to work with. It is not so much that I am tailoring my creativity to suit their needs. It is more about having an understanding that at the end of the day, the artwork must be suitable for product to get it out into the world. A part of my job is to understand this fact and make sure it makes sense for the companies on my (long) list of dream clients. I am working on taking this a step further by not only identifying the companies I want to work with, but also the demographic of their end user. I think it is important for every business in any industry to have a deep understanding of their customer. Art and artists are not excluded from the need for this valuable information. When I create collections for the quilting fabric industry, I have a different goal than when I create collections for the home décor fabric industry. The end use is different. The end user is different. I feel the collections are more likely to be successful if I take this into consideration. How do you pick the colour palette to work with? Wow. This is a tougher question than it seems! It is hard to say because colour is so instinctual for me, but here are a few key things I can point out. At any given moment you will likely find me in the midst of a particular colour obsession (This could
be one colour or a combination). My eternal obsession is turquoise of course. This spring I had a fleeting love affair with burgundy and cerulean. I usually have one colour that I am just dying to use. Then I have to find it some friends. I’ve really been enjoying working tangibly to build collections lately instead of on screen. I have a great stack of solid colour fabrics I play with, and I am a sucker for any paint store! I like working in contradictions, so I’ll gather maybe four or five colours that will sit with my star colour of the moment. Then I will make sure the palette has depth by working in the appropriate balance of medium tones and highlights. How do you go about choosing a name for a collection? Honestly, the collection really names itself. Once the collection is done, the name is just so apparent to me that I don’t really spend much time on it. Do you tend to sell an entire collection, or sell it in pieces? Of course I would love to always sell entire collections just as they are created! However, different product categories have different needs. Quilting fabric is sold and marketed in a collection, so naturally this is the way the artwork is selected. Something like a design for a puzzle book cover would only need one image. When I first started exhibiting a few years ago, I showed my work in books created via Blurb.com. At the time I think I was the only (or nearly the only) artist showing work this way. I loved it and it was well received. In my mind, it went hand in hand with the goal of creating a storyline. Since then I’ve seen lots more artists and agents showing work in this way. I can be a bit defiant, so if others are doing things a certain way, I want to find a way to do it differently. This year, I scaled back the books and instead showed my work as one large spring collection with a central story. The large collection of about 50 pieces could work together in varying ways and was pulled together with a strong central colour story. It was much more like presenting a fashion collection. The central theme was strong and apparent but there were a few pops of art and colour in there too. I wanted the attendees to be able to explore possibilities and really feel the potential for true collaboration. Instead of many collections that were all distinct from one another I chose one, so art directors were able to play mix and match right there. They could create combinations that suited their product categories and
What should new designers be wary of when showcasing new collections on their website? How can you do that whilst protecting your work? Putting the work out there is vital. If you have the most amazing collection of work that no one can see, what’s the point? I have a “move in faith not fear” attitude about it all. However, I do take the appropriate steps to protect myself in the event someone decides to do something awful. I choose to only show a handful of images on my website. The full catalogue is accessible by approved access only. I make it very clear this password protected area is available to buyers and manufacturers only. Everything is watermarked and I do not post any new artwork to the site until it has been registered with the US Copyright office. What is the single most important thing you have done to build your profile as a designer? Jump! I’ve said “yes” to things that I thought I was not ready for. My thinking was (and still is) that if I am being presented with an opportunity, I would be silly to not take it and figure it out as I go. I am a firm believer that we can do so much more than our minds will allow us to believe and if we wait for everything to be perfect, nothing will ever happen.
needs. Everything really could work with everything so there was no wrong answer. It was fun to see how different categories would use the different pieces. The process was great because instead of being an observer at arm’s length, they got to participate and really get into their heads about how they would use the art on their actual products. I think it made for a more lasting experience and impression.
More and more people are discovering the exciting world of surface pattern design. What is your advice to new designers for standing out in the crowd? Be authentic and don’t discount the importance of researching and understanding the markets you want to work with. What do you wish you had known when you started out? There is nothing I wish I would have known before. All the lessons have come exactly when I needed them and not a moment before. I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had and I am so excited for what is ahead. Khristian is a colour and pattern expert, bringing her design collections to a range of licensed products including fabrics, stationery, wallcoverings, and more. Experience as an in-house artist with Nordstrom Product Group has given her a keen understanding of product development. Her passion for travel, balance, and colour comes through in every project she touches. Khristian has been lucky to work with amazing and varied clients including Better Homes and Gardens, Tiny Prints, Andrews McMeel Publishing, HGTV, and more. Find out more about Khristian on her fab website www.khristianahowell.com or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter @khristianhowell.
4. 1. 3.
A postcard fr
The art deco building of Ljubljana Centromerkur, with its stunning entrance and spectacular staircases, is now a beautiful shop
Serene and laid back, natural, clean and cozy. Ljubljana is all this and more. With the deep green river Ljubljanica, a castle on a hill, the imposing stone Triple Bridge and many art deco buildings, this city is both a perfect weekend getaway for art lovers and or a destination for more serious travellers. If you want a mix of culture, delicious cuisine, wonderful vines and serious rest – this is the place!
SEE The Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) // Old centre with bars, restaurants and shops // The market place, an architectural jewel bustling with farmers, florists and shoppers Art deco buildings and those by famous architect Joseph Plecnik.
DO See the castle via train or cable car // Enjoy a glass of local sparkling wine as you cruise down the river by boat // Rent a bike and see the city with the wind in your hair. It's cheap and is the best way to really feel the vibe of the city.
One of the many art deco buildings in Ljubljana
EAT Tuck into local specialities in the Castle’s restaurant // Try gibanica, potica and struklji – Slovenia’s best speciality pastries // Savour pies, cakes and homemade ice cream in Zvezda // Get happy with the local wine – you may just be surprised how delicious it is!
OTHER TOP TREATS
You can spoil yourself with good food
Discover the charming farmer’s market near the riv er
Visit art market Artish and discover the work of 70 local artists on the last Saturday of each month. In Spring and Summer it takes place in the beautiful Gornji Trg. In Autumn and Winter the market is in Kino Siska. // Dive into past and present at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. // Spoil yourself with cup of coffee or a chocolate masterpiece the beautifully designed patisserie Lolita.
"The new kid in town" Babushka Boutique is very new, design driven shop where you can buy clothes, accessories and home products from local and global fashion and graphic designers and artists. // There's always something for fashionistas and those who are looking for talented fashion designers around the globe. Check out Almira Sadars boutique on Tavcarjeva Street. // If you're looking for a cute cup or a nice wallpaper there is always something interesting in Sisi Shop in old town.
Petra Kern Designs Ljubljana, Slovenia website
PETRA SAYS: “I wanted to capture a dragon which is the symbol of the city. Its very distinctive green colour represents the Ljubljanica river and its banks. The dragon is wrapped in Idrian laces and surrounded with the national flower – a carnation.”
facebook Image credits: Uros Z
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‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design’ is the definitive guide to becoming a surface pattern designer. Thriving surface pattern designer Rachael Taylor will guide you along this exciting path from developing your signature style to putting a collection together, and from protecting your work to monetising your designs. With a rich combination of design inspiration, practical advice, demonstrations, creative exercises, resources and interviews with leading industry practitioners, this is the go-to guide for anyone wanting to develop their design skills and break into the industry. Our alumni have been signed by leading design brands, won national competitions, been featured in design books and on major design blogs, and launched their own design studios. You could be next! The online course can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and includes advice, insights and examples of creative work from a host of industry experts. The course is split into three modules, each five weeks long: Module 1: Designing your way In Module 1 you will learn everything you need to know to turn basic sketches into elements for pattern design. Find out more about colour and pattern, and how to create moodboards. Learn how to develop your signature style and get industry insider tips and tricks! Module 2: Creating your professional identity In Module 2 you will learn how to develop your brand image, put a collection together and start your own label. You will also learn how to understand and predict trends, how to get noticed and get press, and how to protect your work. Module 3: Monetising your designs In Module 3 you will learn everything you need to know about monetising your designs. This includes freelancing, licensing, selling outright, manufacturing and more! Module 3 includes a host of trend resources and our little black book of industry contacts!
Classes run throughout the year. The three modules of this course can be taken individually or in combination to kickstart or boost your surface pattern design career. Each module builds on the previous one and the course is open to everyone. “Creative trainers and colleges better watch out – some could learn a lot from this course’s customer service, structure of modules and weeks and balance between technical and practical exercises.” - Module 1 graduate
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E TO VISIT
FAB PLAC A H C U S IS IT Y H W
Hiking: a favorite
Hello from Los Angeles! LA is home to one of the most diverse pastime of Angelinos. Sometimes with views populations of any U.S. city, which makes it an incredibly all the way to the ocean. inspiring place to live and visit. It has been billed as the “Creative Capital of the World” because so many artists, writers, filmmakers, actors and dancers live here. This lends a truly eclectic feel to the art and Silverlake: a great design being produced. Because it is so vast, visiting can feel overwhelming, but don’t fret urban neighborhood LA is just waiting to be explored! On the west side, the coast has a laid back bohemian vibe. for shopping, Malibu has gorgeous scenery where earth meets water, and Santa Monica is always a great restaurants, and day trip. It’s full of stores, cafes, and galleries to explore, all just a stone’s throw from the ocean. people-watching Venice is a short jaunt away, and home to the favourite store of many local designers: Urbanic. While there check out the absurdity that is Venice Beach. Taking in the east side of LA has a decidedly more urban feel. Silver Lake and Los Feliz are two of my favorite neighbourhoods. Here you’ll find great restaurants, design, food and houseware stores, plus tons of vintage shopping. Tucked away in downtown LA, the up and coming Arts District is quickly becoming a favorite place for many designers and artists to hang out. There are too many ethnic neighborhoods to list. All have amazing food but for a true LA experience, stop by one of the Taco stands dotted along the roads or hunt down one of the many food trucks via Twitter. Because it’s such an expansive and varied place, it’s hard to describe LA with a single postcard. One thing is for sure though: no matter how long you’re here, there is always something new to discover.
TOP 3 THINGS TO DO/SEE Visit the Getty Museum. The building architecture and city views alone are worth the visit, but it’s also home to a very diverse collection of art. Dine at Café Stella. A warm, eclectic, neighborhood café with fantastic food Stop in to the newly opened Poketo Store. Poketo has been putting independent designers’ artwork on products for years, and now they have their very own brick and mortar store to call home.
Los Angeles is bursting with dining options, but Café Stella is always a great choice.
The newly opened Poketo store is a must-stop for anoyone who loves design.
Sarah Ehlinger Very Sarie Portfolio Blog Twitter Vintage Cactus Bloom: Succulents are a favorite Angelino houseplant, and putting them in a stylish mid-centurystyle pot is always an LA designer’s preference! Farmers markets run 365 days a year with fresh, locally grown produce!
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