So – This Valentines Day my amazing husband Kam got me the best gift ever. An opportunity to attend a Master Design Class at Spoonflower. Don’t let the title scare you – there were ladies of all skill levels and backgrounds there but one thing we all came with was excitement and passion for design, creativity and making things.
When I arrived Friday evening we were treated to a sit down with the owner Stephen Fraser. He was incredibly candid with us sharing the Spoonflower journey, talking to us about learnings they have had along the way, and about the process they go through to print custom fabric. Being a Process Engineer during my day job – I was very excited to hear about and see their printing areas and learn about how they get our orders out everyday. It was fascinating. He answered all of our questions and then some for over an hour while we all were getting more and more excited to be there and dive into design.
Our Instructor Becka Rahn, artist and co-author of the Spoonflower handbook finally wrangled us away from Stephen and got us started with some printed wallpaper and a gifted water bottle from Spoonflower. It was great – while we all got to know eachother we started with a simple fun tactile project to get us going. I didn’t go too crazy because I was really interested in hearing about everyone but here’s my finished waterbottle. Frankly I had only thought about wallpaper going on the wall – but now I have tons of ideas for it.
Next she handed out sheets of small animals constructed of simple shapes, a white sheet and black sheet of cardstock, and scissors, glue etc. We were to make a simple animal using shapes to create it. This was an example of drawing using cut outs as artist Ed Emberley creates. Now I like to draw so this was completely new to me but I decided before I even got here – I would not stress about perfect design – but try to learn as much as I could with simple examples so I could remember it when I got home. This seemed simple enough so I created a little owl. Looking like something my son’s could easily have put together when they were 6 I looked around and we were all creating some simple animals. This was all that we were tasked to do tonight so we headed to our hotel filled with excitement for the next day.
I literally barely slept the whole night. Worried I might miss my alarm, excited to dive in – I was up early and out; Starbucks in hand ready to get going. Becka our instructor wore one of her designs every day. If the class wasn’t inspiring enough – her clothes and examples of how she has used pattern was. We ventured into adobe illustrator and took our scanned owls and learned about basic illustrator tools. Becka also created tea towels for each of us with all the tools she taught in the course which was really great. We also got the Spoonflower color guide and swatches of all the fabrics printed to take home.
We were able to send a design using our cut out animals to the printers Saturday so we could learn about what we did right -and wrong on Sunday. Becka had some background repeats already prepared for us to leverage for our designs but we each were able to customize them as we saw fit. I love plaid so – of course – I chose it as my background which really made no sense with my owl but I liked it. Everyone was super excited to get our fabrics back.
During the afternoon we had a great tour of the facilities. The printers were enormous. I was expecting plotter like printers but these were massive. One of the first printers we saw could have easily filled my living room and had three major components. There goes my idea of having a home one.
Seeing the process of how orders come in, the quality checking, cutting, sorting, packaging and sending was really impressive. We were also excited to see the Sprout Patterns area, see and learn about cut and sew patterns (which has totally opened up a whole new world for me) and also see where the new team for Roostery was set up. R&D is a big segment of this company in that they are always innovating. Overall it was amazing to have this kind of behind the scenes tour. Meredith, our Spoonflower events coordinator was with us all weekend and gave the tour and had a comprehensive knowledge of the business and operations. Everywhere you looked in the buildings there were examples of fabric, custom upholstered furniture and wall coverings. Inspiration overload! Here are a few shots of fabrics and decorations around and about the offices.
Saturday afternoon we also practiced creating a silhouette with the pen tool. I took some additional training from Lynda.com prior to attending this weekend so I was feeling up for a challenge and selected a giraffe to outline. I thought my giraffe turned out pretty good. In the end I think it will become a handkerchief once I determine “what the giraffe says” ;-). Here’s my progress.
Saturday evening Meredith took us out and about downtown Durham. I sat by some of the ladies I hadn’t yet had a good chance to chat with and was so glad. So much talent in this group – I really was blessed to meet each one of them and it was wonderful to see their work and hear about their process. After dinner we explored the city a bit and landed at the C Museum Hotel. They had art all through the lobby and hallways. I was so inspired by Becka’s creations I thought this would be a great time to try and capture some images that could become backgrounds, repeating patterns or textures that I could use in my designs. Here are a few of the many images I was able to take.
Sunday we talked about patterns and how the brain responds to repeats. With the examples Becka talked through it was really clear that I was making some obvious mistakes and could see ways to improve my layout and repeating patterns. I also realized I was working small and could work much bigger. This actually was what I was hoping to hear and everything that we discussed during this part was really eye opening for me. I wasn’t worrying about my art at this point I was just practicing creating a seamless repeat.
We also were able to play with a site called Repper that took an image and would create a blended image kind of like a kaleidoscope did when you were a kid. I took this beautiful picture of a butter fly to create this pattern.
Becka also spent one on one time with each of us Sunday afternoon where we could ask her anything and hosted open studio time that evening to work on questions we had or to get additional help. I probably could have talked to her for hours but she was really accessible all weekend so I didn’t feel rushed or pressured during my 5 min of Becka. What a great opportunity to talk to someone successfully navigating the creative market. If you want to learn more about Becka or attend one of her classes – I highly recommend her. www.beckarahn.com
So to sum up – this weekend was amazing. I met the most amazing friendly talented women who all were inspiring in their own right, had a great teacher and spent time in a very inspiring creative environment at Spoonflower. I have learned a lot about design, have new ideas to simplify my process and improve my design quality and am so excited to get creating! Becka is hosting a Photoshop class tentatively in August. If you go and you read my post! Let me know – I’ll be the one with the big geeky smile that is thrilled to be there ready to learn and create!