It’s no secret how much I love well designed fabric. So much that this past May, I visited some of my favorite designers at Surtex in New Work city. One of the designers that instantly caught me eye was Laurie Wisbrun. Her work resonated with me perhaps because of the cute silhouette elements and bold colors she uses in her designs. Laurie has a few fabric collections licensed through Robert Kaufman Fabrics and her very first book Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design – an inspirational and practical guide that walks readers through the entire fabric design and printing process, which has just become available for purchase here. I am smitten with her journey into fabric and surface design and would like to share it with you. I hope you enjoy the interview and also participate in her giveaway at the end of this post.
1. How did you decide to become a surface and textile designer? Did you have any former training in it?
My degree is in marketing and advertising and I’ve spent 20+ years working in that field. I’ve always been on the business-side of the table working with clients to define marketing strategies, launching campaigns and managing projects. So although I’ve always worked in a creative environment, I’ve never worked as a ‘creative’. I’m a Texas native and started my career in Austin TX and have also worked in Portland, OR and in NYC.
Several years ago, while I was living in Brooklyn and working in NYC, I came to realize that I was really hungry for a change of pace and of lifestyle. So I started exploring different avenues and exploring new careers. I even toyed with becoming an artisan cheese maker for a short time (and realized I was a great eater of cheese, but not a great maker of it). I’ve always been enchanted by patterns and texture and a trip to the fabric store could always brighten my day. So I taught myself how to use a few digital design programs and started toying with textile design and digitally printing fabric with Spoonflower. I won an early Spoonflower design contest and was hooked. So soon after that I jumped off the corporate hamster wheel to focus on creating a new career for myself in surface and textile design. I didn’t really have a clear vision of what I wanted to do or how I was going to get it done but knew that I needed to give it go. So I packed up and moved back to Austin. It’s such a wonderful creative city and I have a really fantastic support network here. I started my Etsy store, Scarlet Fig and my blog and it’s all really taken off from there.
Within a year I had my first collection picked up by Robert Kaufman and was exhibiting at Surtex for the first time soon after that. The last few years have been a real whirlwind but I’m loving every minute.
2. How did you know where to start from? Was there a textile trend that helped you define your style?
I created my first design for textiles, Birdies on Chairs after an afternoon sitting on the promenade in Brooklyn Heights with my dog. We were watching the little birdies bounce from park bench to park bench. And I’d recently visited an exhibit of mid-century modern chairs. So that all came together and resulted in my first chairs series, Tufted Tweets.
3. How do you typically start a new design? What inspires you?
Although I track trends, I really design based on what I’m inspired by at the moment. I have a love of blended styles so you’ll see some sophisticated aspects of my designs that are generally balanced with something a bit whimsical or silly. I love spending time in museums, exploring new neighborhoods and just wandering about in search of something that catches my eye.
4. You recently completed your first book, Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design, to be published soon. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of how the book came about as well as what it is about?
The whole book process came as a great big wonderful surprise to me. I received an email from a publisher one morning and she had been following my blog and had seen my designs on Spoonflower. She asked if I would be interested in writing a book on textile design and printing and I took a deep breath and just dove into the process headfirst.
I was able to write the book that I wish I’d had when I started in textile design. It’s a wonderful mix of educational tutorials and content that I hope inspires people to design. It also includes interviews with some leading textile designers who were gracious enough to share their views and provide advice on textile design and their own processes. And I was able to collaborate with some wonderful contributors from all over the world who provided their expertise on fabric printing via silkscreen, dyeing and stamping. And of course, there are a slew of tutorials on how to create repeats (by hand and digitally) and get your files ready for digital printing.
The book (in paperback) is available for pre-sale in the UK on Amazon.com. And the US version (in hardback) will be available by the end of the year/beginning of next year. I’m so excited for it to release, so as soon as I have a specific date I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops and will post the details on my blog.
5. What advise would you give to someone who’s looking into pursuing textile design?
Do not under any circumstances let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. If it’s what you want to do, then you have to stick to it and keep trying to make it happen. Don’t get discouraged. Be flexible in your design approach, but always maintain your own style.
And if you want to try designing fabric and see how your designs look on textiles, I highly recommend giving Spoonflower a go. It’s a great way to get your arms around scale, color combinations and how to design in repeat.
6. What’s next for Laurie Wisbrun?
Right now, the sky’s the limit. And my plate is thankfully staying quite full!! Several days a week I try to spend time working on new designs and filling out my surface design portfolio. I’m also working on new fabric designs for my Etsy store that I hope to launch at the beginning of the year. And I have several new collections coming out with Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Modern Whimsy launches at Quilt Market in Houston at the end of the month (shipping early 2012) and we’ve just recently announced they are also picking up my Polar Bear and my Donkey designs (shipping next spring). There are also some other exciting things on the horizon in the world of surface design and book writing that I’ve got cooking.
And now for the giveaway…
Laurie is offering a set of 4 Fat Quarter of the Polar Bear Dot in Sherbet to one lucky winner.
Here is how you can enter:
Leave a comment bellow letting me know what would you make with these fabrics if you were the lucky winner. Please include a link to your blog and your first and last name.
To earn up to 4 additional entries, make sure you do one of the following, and leave a separate comment telling us what is it that you did (remember! each comment earns you an additional entry)
Giveaway ends Sunday, October 23rd at 12 am CST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced here on Monday. Winner must contact me with his/her name and mailing address. Winners have 7 days to claim their prizes or they will be forfeited.