Textile Design Lab Member Spotlight: Diane Labombarbe

diane_labombarbe_samples_1Diane Labombarbe is one of the more than 300 talented and passionate designers who make up our Textile Design Lab community, and we are thrilled to share her story and some of her beautiful work with you today! This is the second post in our new series highlighting the incredible work our members create both inside and outside of the Lab (check out our inaugural post HERE featuring Laura Muñoz Estellés.) Read on to learn more about Diane’s design background and a glimpse into her creative process!


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your career background and what drew you to textile design?
I live in a small rural city in Ontario Canada. When I was young my mother was a work-at-home self employed seamstress. I often got scraps to play with and learned to sew at a very young age. I designed my first plush toy at about 8. It was a strange black monkey type creature that I loved. I think that sparked my love of designing things, which over the years has included sewing patterns, woodworking designs, quilting and textile art.
I have a background in retail management but have worked as a freelance artist for over 10 years now.
What courses have you taken in the Textile Design Lab? What is your favorite aspect of the Lab?
I am working my way through “The Sellable Sketch” and “The Ultimate Guide To Repeats” at the moment. Although I am not new to surface design, I am not trained in textile design and have learned so many valuable things from the classes from how to discover your own personal design style to what size artboards to use in Illustrator.

I have found the Textile Design Lab to be a fantastic place filled with inspiring artists that are willing to share knowledge. I am self-taught so I find all the info invaluable.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently busy building my own portfolio site and blog and a set of patterns to display there using both digital and traditional methods such as block printing. I am also working of a series of sewing patterns that I plan to sell online. I am working on journal cover designs for a regular client of mine.
Where do you find inspiration when creating a pattern? 
Because I love nature and all things vintage I seem to have no end to things that inspire me. A walk outside in my overgrown garden beds or using that old 1950s colander I use to drain veggies. I am also a photographer and I love macro photography because you see things you would never know are there. I often start a pattern based on the seasons. For example, I see the vivid yellow black-eyed-susan flowers in my garden and think how great they’d be for a Halloween or fall series.
What do you do if you’re stuck in a design rut or feeling uninspired?
It’s so easy to become inspired or get yourself out of a design rut. Grab a favourite magazine and go curl up in chair with it. Even a tablet version would work but there’s something about holding a real book in your hands and leafing through pages. I’ve done it since I was a kid. Flip through and stop at any pages that catch your eye. It’s amazing how the photography in a well known food or fashion magazine can kick start your engine.
I am a traditional and digital artist but after so many years of working digitally I started using my sketchbook every day. I keep a can filled with colorful Sharpie markers on my kitchen table and each morning I doodle at least one page. I never have an idea what to draw, I just start with a line and it always becomes something.
What do you hope to achieve as a textile designer? What are your goals for your career/business?
My goals are to expand my client base, get a portfolio finished, and finally get that website and blog going so I can share sewing patterns with others. My main goal is to spend a little more time with fabrics.



You can find Diane online at her website, http://www.fabricwoman.ca/fabricdesign, on Spoonflower, Society6, and her iStock illustration portfolio.


Ready to transform your talent into a thriving career in textile design? Become a member of the Textile Design Lab today! Membership is just $42/month and includes seven different e-courses, a private forum, weekly live artwork critiques, guest expert tutorials, fun design challenges and lots more exciting and helpful content to get your textile design career off the ground. Visit textiledesignlab.com to learn more!

Hand-printed Fabrics by Soda + Stitch

Jemma Bell is the founder of Soda + Stitch, which specializes in selling hand block printed fabrics by the meter and also offers the opportunity for customers to order customized designs or for existing prints to be sewn into products. Recently Soda + Stitch also released their debut collection of children’s mix-and-match bedlinen filled with ”playful prints, bright colour palettes and soft textiles” which has seen a great response so far!

About the brand

“Soda + Stitch was founded by self confessed textile lover, Jemma, after a life-changing and rather spontaneous move to India. After landing in Jaipur, surrounded by the smell, colour and liveliness of daily life, Soda + Stitch was born… The opportunity to design and create textiles in India’s bustling chaos was just too appealing!

Soda + Stitch has a serious passion (addiction may be a better word) for all things colourful, textured and playful. We also aim to nurture the handmade textile industry which is exactly why all our textiles are hand block printed by seasoned masters in Jaipur, India.

Hand block printing is an age old artisanal technique which creatively embraces the beauty and imperfections of the handmade.

Each block has been carved from soft teak wood, each colour mixed by the careful eyes of our colour masters and each meter painstakingly printed layer by layer. It is for this reason that some variations in print and colour may occur. A lovely reminder of the fabrics beginnings.

All designs use quality cotton fabric, colourfast dyes and the amazing hands of incredibly talented block printers.

Soda + Stitch definitely shake off the norms of block printing in order to bring you a fresh, vibrant and popping range of textiles.”


About Jemma

“My work is a little varied but as a designer it explores a considered and intuitive meeting of hand generated work and computer aided graphics. A quirky, illustrative, yet pared back approach is at the heart of what I do. I like to have a little fun, without going over board and compromising aesthetics.

I generally start work with a pencil on paper or a big black marker on paper… Watercolour sometimes creeps in there too. When I’ve got some marks on paper that I’m happy with, I then scan into the computer where I can explore colour, scale and pattern repeats more easily.

My background was originally in Graphic Design, but I was always yearning for a more hands on approach, so when I discovered Textile Design I was a happy lady! Having a graphic background has helped me enormously and I still freelance in the field but Textile Design is the true passion – it gives you the opportunity to get your hands dirty and to produce a physical piece that can be kept and treasured.”


Visit http://www.sodaandstitch.com/ for more information or connect with Jemma via FacebookPinterest or Instagram.


Is your eye drawn to the colors and patterns you see on clothing or in home decor? Do patterns fill your doodles, drawings and artwork? You could make money in the textile design industry. Get our FREE video training today!

Featured Designer: Vanessa Binder

VanessaBinder_PatternObserverTextilePatterns_VanessaBinderTextilePatterns_VanessaBinder01Vanessa Binder is a creative designer, illustrator and maker based in the UK. Her many artistic talents center on projects from textile pattern and bag designs to illustrations and graphics.

Vanessa writes, “I’ve always felt like I’ve occupied life’s perimeter, stood on the outside, constantly looking inwards.

Frequently travelling hasn’t allowed me to sink into a particular landscape, but then again, I am content with floating. Saying goodbye so often, some roots have dried up while others have flourished.

My nomadic life has taught me a great deal I would otherwise not have the fortune of learning and I certainly don’t harbour many regrets in the port that is my heart.

I am equal parts graphic/pattern designer, illustrator, sewer and maker and I am currently based in England.

For the past twenty years I have always created and birthed ideas in a variety of mediums and projects.

I have a BA in Fine Arts and Fashion Design and have previously worked as; an art director, graphic designer and illustrator for both design studios and myself as a freelancer.

Despite the often bulky workload, I have always sewed. I broke my Mother’s sewing machine making clothes for my doll when I was just 12 and I realised if that didn’t quell my passion nothing would.

Often, I catch myself feeling bored. People say that ‘Boredom is the Mother of creativity,’ so that always gives me hope that I must be doing something right.”

Meet Creative Designer Vanessa Binder

Check out this lovely short video to learn more about Vanessa’s work process, and be sure to visit her website at www.bagthecat.com. You can also find her on InstagramTwitter or Pinterest. Have a terrific weekend, everyone! -Chelsea


Our FREE video training helps you turn your artwork into TEXTILE DESIGNS that sell. You’ll learn industry basics and how to make it easy to sell your work. LEARN MORE

“Getting Started on New Projects, Making Inspiration Happen, and Getting Around My Drawing Weaknesses”


Guest post by Angelina Rennell. Images in this post are all works done during Angelina’s daily journaling, as well as her “image” inspiration collecting.



If you’re a pattern designer, no matter your level or experience, you’re a visual person, always on the hunt with your eyes, eating the visual world around you. With a little organization and awareness, you’ll find that you’ve already started your “next project”. Often inspiration comes naturally, when it does run with it. But what about when it doesn’t? I say take a practical, unromantic approach. Here’s a variety of tools and my basic formula that I count on to get me moving from point A to point B.

One, have a location, a regular place to work that is all yours, as well as a regular time that fits into your schedule. It’s about building a habit and creating space, and yes daily journaling. In that location keep things like marking tools, paper, books filled with images you love, and perhaps little visual objects that speak to you.

Keep in mind that daily journaling is a loose term that can mean many things. Most importantly it simply equates to the routine of making. At minimum it’s 15 minutes of “art time”, a wide and general term that is kind of like a preschool teacher who just wants you to play with your markers, or look through nature books. Journal time is not an activity to confirm how great your work is, or confirm your talent. It’s adventure time; it’s fun and it has few rules or expectations, other than to keep a record of the journey.


Two, when you’re not working, keep working, in your head. Go about your life and pay attention to what catches your eye, and keep track of some of it, via photography, notes or collecting, and yes some social media platforms like Instagram & Pinterest. These records are valuable resources to go back to later. Not to mention the daily journaling that builds over time. This is precious, precious fuel you’re making, that will be returned, maybe not as finished work, but at minimum sparks for new work.

Three, it’s easier to find inspiration in other people’s work, nature and life, than it is to sit down and try to pull it out of thin air with a pencil. When the ideas aren’t flowing on their own, turning to other people’s work that I admire is a great starting place. Keep in mind, that doesn’t equate to seeing something beautiful and copying it. Instead it’s finding a part of that thing that draws you in, and then playing with that idea or thing, a starting point. For example, look at a favorite print and just use the colors, or work with the repeat, or the style, find the one thing you really love about it, and play with that. Pull it out and manipulate it in new ways, or see if you can take two favorite prints and merge them.

Another smart place to look to is your old work. Look for things you wanted to continue to explore but ran out of time. When going through other people’s work, try to figure out the individual parts you admire and then try to replicate. Locate something you love, from tea cups, to time periods, to monkeys to collages. Give yourself a theme to work with and explore. Take old work and bring it into the context of new themes. Keep notes of ideas that can be used when you feel empty of inspiration, as well as notes on your entire process.


I’ve never thought of myself as a natural drawer. I can be impatient and easily frustrated. Years back when I started keeping daily journals I gave myself realistic doable daily drawing projects, and mediums that were friendly to imperfections, like pastels and black ink and brush, as well as a framework or theme, like animals, grid work, circles or other single objects. Once I came up with an idea to make an image vocabulary, titled “Shaggy Objects” which was mostly a sincere love of fringe, in all its forms. (See above sketch book image.)

Some of us are natural drawers and illustrators and this is how we ended up in pattern work, but many of us are not that at all. We love images, color, texture and have a deep passion for textiles, or surface design, etc. and we do speak the visual languages, but that doesn’t equate to being trained in classic arts. So please do yourself a big favor and leave that baggage behind.

All that, and a strong cup of tea!


Angelina Rennell designs her eponymous line, Lina Rennell, an art brand with a heavy focus on original print work and USA production. She also owns the online boutique Beklina, filled with like minded independent designers and dense with patterned textiles. You can read more about her in our recent feature!


Interested in textile design but not sure how to start? We’ve created a FREE video training just for you! LEARN MORE

History of Surface Design: Athos Bulcão

 Series on the history of surface design by Julie Gibbons


I discovered Athos Bulcão (1918-2008) quite by chance, when I was pinning something of his on Pinterest (I do love me my Pinterest!). The image was wrongly attributed to architect Oscar Neimeyer, but shortly after I pinned it I got a comment to let me know that it wasn’t Neimeyer’s work at all. So that prompted me to do a bit of a search for Bulcão… and I fell deeper and deeper into his seemingly endless world of tiles and murals and so much more.

I’m a little mystified as to why his work is scarcely known outside his home country – he must surely be the king of geometric patterns. A Brazilian artist, sculptor and designer who worked often with his good friend, architect Oscar Neimeyer, his designs are at once surprising and harmonious, always outstanding for their inventiveness and freshness.

PO - bulcao1{all images copyright and used with permission, from Nara Roesler Gallery – http://www.nararoesler.com.br/ and Athos Bulcão Foundation – http://www.fundathos.org.br/1. Instituto de Artes da Universidade de Brasília; 2. Instituto Rio Branco Arq Luis Antonio Reis 3. Centro Cultural Missionario da CNBB; 4. Museu de Gemas Torre TV Brasilia; 5. Mercado das Flores Brasilia}


Part of his magic is his approach to pattern. After designing the individual graphics for each tile, he often left the final on-site installation to construction workers – preferring to allow the element of chance, and the workers’ lack of art-school-type preconceived notions to do the work. The result is an array of organic, shifting designs, consistently lively for their absence of tight repeats. Our eyes dance over the surfaces, with patterns too big for our minds to grasp all at once.

PO - bulcao2

{all images copyright and used with permission, from Nara Roesler Gallery - http://www.nararoesler.com.br/ and Athos Bulcão Foundation - http://www.fundathos.org.br/: Clockwise from top left – 1. Aeroporto Internacional de Brasilia Juscelino Kubistschek; 2. Ministerio das Relacoes Exteriores 3. & 4. exhibition views — Galeria Nara Roesler ; 5. Aeroporto Internacional de Brasilia Juscelino Kubistschek}


Born in Rio de Janeiro, he first studied medicine but abandoned it in favour of the arts, making friends with Neimeyer along the way. They continued to work together for most of their lives, with Neimeyer referring to Bulcão as his “constant and necessary friend”. Bulcão likewise spoke of their close working relationship, and likened it to that between a film director and composer – where his patterns added orchestration and colour to Neimeyer’s expansive volumes.

Bulcão had already established himself as an artist of note in his home country, working on murals from the early 1940s. These featured abstract geometries and stylised forms, and were installed in numerous sites, from churches, to hospitals and hotels, often in collaboration with Neimeyer.

However, it was in the late 1950s that his career exploded. It was a period of radical change for Brasil – a new and charismatic president had been elected who promised to revolutionise the country and the economy by stamping out the corruption that had plagued it, especially in the then-capital, Rio de Janeiro. Cue a brand new capital city – Brasilia – and a massive injection of funds into the arts and a building program that would turn it into a modernist architect’s playground.

And it was perfect for Neimeyer and Bulcão. Working together, moving from project to project to project, Brasilia is now beautifully littered with their public buildings and decorations, from schools to airports to libraries and everything in between.

And there is so much more. Bulcão was prolific, and when he wasn’t working on murals, he spent his time painting, drawing, creating sculptures and designing costumes and sets for the theatre, amongst other things.

He really should be more well-known than he is, don’t you think?


Is your eye drawn to the colors and patterns you see on clothing or in home decor? Do patterns fill your doodles, drawings and artwork? You could make money in the textile design industry. Get our FREE video training today!

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.