Featured Designer: Emma Scott


Emma Scott’s “doodle series” was such a fun project that we could not wait to share! I think nearly everyone can relate to the act of mindlessly doodling while taking part in another activity like talking on the phone or listening to a lecture, but how many of us actually make something of those doodles?

Emma is a BA Hons Illustration student at the University of the West of England and “started the doodle series after realising just how much I subconsciously doodle during my university lectures. These doodles ranged from random scribbles, to circles and shapes, to flowers, leaves and dots and very rarely took on any figurative form. I thought it would be interesting to take these seemingly insignificant little drawings and merge them with my love of surface pattern design, therefore creating the doodle series. This is an ongoing project that I can constantly add to and it will become a much more exciting way of viewing and comparing my doodles.

To create the patterns I simply take the notebook page that I have doodled on and scan it at a high resolution into Photoshop. I then begin the process of breaking it down into separate layers and components that form the basis of the surface pattern. After I have the pattern mapped out I then decide on a colour scheme and often play around with a few to give different effects, as I like to show both light and dark versions.

It has been a thoroughly enjoyable project so far and has been incredibly interesting to see the sort of things I doodle, and how some range from incredibly complex patterns of shapes to just random lines and dots. I look forward to keeping the project going and being able to look back on it when I have a large bank of doodle patterns to see the variation in them!”


Emma decided to channel her love of all things pattern and set up her website, ELE Designs. “Within ELE I aim to create patterns that are quirky, unique and something a little bit different to what you normally see on the high street. I take a lot of my inspiration from conversations with friends and family, my interests and hobbies and general everyday life!

Stemming from this I also set up a small Etsy shop for ELE, drawing in my previous experience in studying fashion, that sells handmade cosmetic bags and pillows in the custom patterns unique to ELE. This is still a very small business, but is something I am very passionate about and it is great to see my designs on fabric.”

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and if you have the time for some design, maybe see what you can do with some of your cast-off doodles! -Chelsea

From the Textile Design Lab: Chelsea’s Challenge – Insects

Chelsea’s Challenge is a twice-monthly post series in the Textile Design Lab, in which we share design ideas and inspiration to help our students build their pattern portfolios and create work that might be outside of their comfort zones. Our latest challenge did just that by tackling a theme that I know may not be everyone’s favorite subject–insects! Lots of people can find them creepy or gross, and I feel that way too about some bugs. But I also find such amazing design inspiration in the insect world that I couldn’t keep them away from Chelsea’s Challenge, they are just too rich a source for pattern ideas! Here was one of the many awesome responses to this design challenge, by TDL member Joan McGuire:

1Joan_insect_mainALTcolor 2Joan_insect_COOR3_allover3Joan_insect_COOR2_stripe4Joan_insect_COOR1

Joan said of her collection, “I like the idea of an insect theme that isn’t immediately obvious but instead creeps up on the viewer. So, irony and humor were as crucial to the making of these prints as formal qualities like shape and color. I worked in Illustrator from sketches to create contemporary vector combinations of creepy bug elements with traditional Victorian pattern embellishments. My approach to this challenge was inspired by designer/illustrator Dan Funderburgh.”

See more from Joan at www.joanmcguire.com and join us in the Textile Design Lab to take part in our next challenge: activewear!

Photoshop and Raster File Formats

Each month Sherry London brings the Textile Design Lab an in-depth post on how to improve our design process by using technology to its fullest capacity. This is an excerpt of a longer post available to members of The Textile Design Lab. Join us to access the full post!

March 2015 Tech Talk by Sherry London


This month, I want to discuss file formats and take a look into some of the formats that Photoshop supports (part one of this series, on Illustrator file formats, is available in the Textile Design Lab.)


PSD: This is Photoshop’s own format file. It gives you the ability to save every part of your Photoshop file without loss. What do I mean by that?

In your working files in Photoshop, you can have layers, channels, adjustment layers, layer masks, Smart Objects, Paths, and live filters in addition to the original ‘flat’ file that you create when you choose File > New. Not every format will save every feature of the file; the PSD format will. I can’t urge you strongly enough to make sure that you save at least one copy of everything you do as a fully layered PSD file. This is your insurance that you will always be able to get back into the file and start working again.

You might have noticed that Illustrator in unhappy and refuses to read a file that was written with a later version of the program. Does Photoshop balk as well? It can—but it usually doesn’t. There are two reasons for this.

  • Photoshop will try to keep what it understands of a later file.
  • You might have saved a flattened copy of the file inside of your layered file. This is a setting that I urge you to turn on in your Photoshop preferences. In the Preferences > File Handling, the bottom option deals with File Compatibility. Change the Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility to Always. That way, even if you lose access to Photoshop (perish the thought!), other programs will at least be able to recover flattened images from your files.

Photoshop tries to save space when it saves your file, so it does its own compression. The compression is lossless—not a pixel is altered, but it still creates a fairly compact file. I have found that if I try to ZIP a PSD file, the ZIP compression can’t get much more out of it than the original Photoshop compression.

Photoshop also reports the size of the image both flattened and current for any open file. Those numbers, which you can see under the Doc Sizes at the bottom of the document window don’t directly relate to the actual file size on your hard drive. The technical reasons are long and not especially interesting to relate (!), but know that the numbers aren’t accurate other than an idea of how much space you could save if you flattened the image –but please don’t! Here is one of my files in progress.


Photoshop tells me that the file is using 17.4M flat or 427.6 M in the current layers and smart objects. Every layer in the image contains an embedded Smart Object which is a photograph as the basis of my design. On my hard drive, this file actually weighs in at a whopping 705.5 MB file. The flat version of it is actually 14.74 MB. Below, you can see the contents that are in most of the Smart Objects.


Inside most of the images are the masked original photo, and several adjustment layers. When open, this image is reporting doc sizes as 24.1M flat and 44.6M layered. If I tell Photoshop to un-embed this Smart Object and make it a linked Smart Object, my main file size goes down to 662.46MB and the Smart Object file on my hard drive is 43.06 MB. If I decide to link rather than embed all of the Smart Objects, my file size becomes 206.79MB. However, I then need to remember to send the linked files along with the main one if I need to send this file off to a client or print house.

Here is the image and all of the linked files in Bridge. Notice the circled icon on the original file that shows that it contains linked files—and the menu that allows you to find the linked files.


Photoshop CC has a maximum file size of 2 GB. I have hit that on occasion as I am building a pattern file. One way to cope with that is to unlink all of the Smart Objects. In case you are wondering about Smart Objects, let’s talk about that file format next.


PSB: The Photoshop Smart Object, first introduced in CS2, is the most significant addition to Photoshop efficiency since layers were added in version 3.0. A Smart Object can protect your original image from change, allow you to resize it or rotate it or even crop it without losing a pixel. It also lets you edit the contents and add filters where you can change the filter after the fact—still with no image loss. I think of it as a miracle in a box; many of my students think of it as a total puzzle.

The most common comment I get is “Where does it live?” The next one is “How can I save it when I save the file?” Let’s see if I can simplify this file confusion a bit for you.

Do you remember carrying around a briefcase or a large portfolio of artwork? You might have had a file folder inside the brief case for every part of the project on which you were working. Inside of each file folder, you could have put all the pieces that related to that part of the project. If you bring this analogy forward into Photoshop-land, the briefcase is the main file. It contains layers—each file folder could be a layer. Each layer could actually be a holder for other documents though—a Smart Object. All of the contents of the file folder (Smart Object) are stored inside the folder and the folder and the folder is inside the briefcase. So, you don’t need to “save” pieces—that happens automatically.

Photoshop indicates a Smart Object file by the extension PSB. Actually, that is the Photoshop large document format and if you should ever really need to save a file larger than 2GB, the PSB file format—not inside another file—will handle it. As you can see from my Bridge snapshot above, when Photoshop un-embeds Smart Objects in a file, it also writes them as PSB files. Should you go out of your way to save a file as a PSB? No, not unless it is huge. It doesn’t hurt anything, but other programs that will otherwise be able to read your PSD file might not be able to interpret the PSB.


Wondering about Photoshop’s other file formats and when to use them? Join us in the Textile Design Lab to continue reading this in-depth post, where Sherry discusses things to be aware of when saving files as TIF, PDF, EPS and more.

Featured Alumna: Sandra Hill of Simply Sandara


It is always such a joy to hear about the successes of our alumni and today we are thrilled to share one such success story. Sandra Hill was one of our first Sellable Sketch students back in 2011 and has since launched a beautiful line of hand-printed fabrics, and she graciously agreed to share her journey with us today:

“I had this amazing ‘light bulb’ moment in my life – I was working as a Marketing Manager for a small Aviation company in Kenya and was so bored at work – that I started browsing the Internet when my boss was out! I followed a link from Facebook and stumbled across the ‘Print & Pattern’ blog. I literally ‘lit up’ inside. I had discovered there was actually something called ‘Surface Pattern Design’ and that people were making a career from it! I had finally found my calling!

After this discovery – I was on fire! I consumed everything possible about pattern and signed up in 2011 for The Sellable Sketch e-course with Michelle. This was the beginning of my journey into Textile Design. A couple of years later, after a lot of experimenting, I took another surface pattern e-course – The Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design with Rachael Taylor. Through this journey, I discovered an even more powerful passion for hand printed textiles and began teaching myself how to hand print my designs onto fabric. I began printing fabric using carved lino blocks on my dining room table after the kids were in bed. I had to teach myself everything through the Internet, from books and by trial and error, as there are no Textile or Surface Pattern Design courses available in Kenya.


My pattern design and fabric printing skills evolved and I finally hunkered down to put two fabric collections together, which I hand screen printed on a homemade 3 meter printing table. By this point, I had discovered that if I was going to make this a commercially viable business – I needed to be screen printing as opposed to hand block printing. I love the look and feel of hand block printed fabric though  – so I still use hand carved lino prints in my initial artwork and translate these onto my silk screens to achieve the block printed appearance.  It is vitally important to me to support Kenyan industry, so I only print onto 100% cotton fabric that is manufactured here in Kenya.

Elijah & Bancy

In August 2014, after 3 years of sweat and tears, I finally launched my Hand Printed Home Furnishing Fabric brand, Simply Sandara. I had an incredible response from people and started receiving my first orders! The journey is always ongoing and I am now, designing new collections, building a longer printing table to increase production, training more people to help with the screen printing process, working with Elijah (a fellow artist and my first colleague) to develop his own designs and fabric collection and taking Marie Forleo’s B-School programme to help me take Simply Sandara online in a more effective and meaningful way.

In the bigger picture – my dream is to transfer my knowledge & experience to fellow, artistically inclined Kenyans, in order to help create and develop a thriving Kenyan Textile and Surface Pattern Design Industry.”


The Simply Sandara website is still under construction but in the meantime you can learn more about the brand via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Have a great weekend everyone, and happy first day of spring! -Chelsea

Interview: Angela McGrath of Epoché

Today we are delighted to share an interview with Epoché founder Angela McGrath. Epoché is a line of high quality leather goods designed by Angela in Vancouver, BC. Learn more about the brand here and be sure to check out their Kickstarter which runs for 18 more days and has some wonderful rewards up for grabs for its backers! For now we hope you enjoy reading more about Angela’s fabulous creative process:


Tell us a bit about your design background and how/why you founded Epoché. 

My interest for art and fashion started from a young age and grew naturally from watercolour kits, to my mother teaching me how to use a sewing machine. This natural progression eventually led me to attending Parsons The New School for Design in New York City for Fashion Design; however after a year I came to the realization that taking a direct path into fashion design wasn’t for me. After leaving Parsons I enrolled into the Visual Arts program at Emily Carr University in Vancouver BC. In 2014 I found myself with a BFA in one hand and lump of uncertainty in the other. I felt torn between wanting to return to the practicality of fashion design while also still wanting to evolve my artistic practice. Instead of deciding on one path, I became determined to merge the two fields together; this later became the catalyst for the creation of Epoché.


What drew you to working with leather? What do you enjoy most about this medium and what are some of its challenges?

I first started working with leather at 15 when I began up-cycling old leather jackets from thrift stores and turning them into purses, and by 16 I had started my first leather accessory line. My interest in working with leather grew out of a respect of leather’s rich history and embedded social associations and because it is such a long lasting material. As I strengthened my relationship with leather I steadily became more conscious of the implications of my material choice and its affects on the environment, which is why I have chosen to only use vegetable tanned leather.

Using leather as the main material for my craft can be intimidating, as it is an expensive material that leaves little room for mistakes. However, there is something about working within limitations of leather that really excites and challenges me. New techniques are balanced by traditional methods, each move affects the next, forcing you to slow down and be in a state of constant awareness.



Are there any special considerations you need to take into account when screen printing on leather vs. a more traditional surface like paper or fabric?

There are a lot of things that I have to be mindful of when printing on leather appose to paper. One of the most important considerations was figuring out the right process to make screen printing ink adhere to a leather surface and stay over time. In addition to this the color of the screen printing ink varies slightly between what you usually see when its printed on paper. I also have to take the colour of the leather into consideration developing a colour palette.


Tell us about your design process. How do you choose your silhouettes, colors, etc? What role (if any) do trends play in your design process?

I begin each new project by first focusing on what I want to design, whether it is a bag, wallet, backpack, etc.  I then start researching its current design flaws and how I can maximize its functionality and simplicity. Next I start creating a series of prototypes out of paper; once I reach a final design I begin creating the pattern that will be screen-printed onto the leather. This is the one of my favourite steps in the process as I am able to tap into my artistic side and play around with ways to visually communicate the inspiration behind the product. After the pattern is created I start the technical process of turning that pattern into a screen-printed image.

While the majority of my patterns and color choices are created intuitively, reacting in the moment there is always a theme or idea I’m channeling. For example, the patterns for my current collection are inspired by the different places I have traveled to. The freedom created through working spontaneously opens me up to an affective relationship with the materiality of the surface and the medium, allowing me to create vibrant and exciting compositions that capture a moment in time.



What are your go-to sources for inspiration? Are there any resources that you would recommend? 

I find a lot of inspiration from going out walking in nature and experiencing new landscapes. After these walks I’m usually full of ideas, which I then sketch out using gouache paint.

I am also really motivated by the principal Bauhaus methodologies that directly speak to the discussion of how a crafted object can fit into the art world and vice versa. The ideologies behind the Bauhaus school of designs represent the launching point of my ideas I put into the formation of Epoché.  I find great inspiration in the work produced by the Bauhaus school as they’re minimalistic and usually have an unexpected pop of colour.


What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your business? How have you overcome them? What actions or decisions have made the biggest impact on your design business? 

For me one of the most challenging factors in my business is the affording the initial cost of my materials such as leather and screen printing supplies, as well as being able to afford the minimum order cost for purchasing leather. These issues of affordability became particular problematic when I recently got accepted into the West Coast Craft show in San Francisco on June 13th & 14th. While I was ecstatic to be offered the opportunity to show internationally, it also brought with it a major obstacle of affordability and how I was going to build inventory, create new products and build packaging collateral. To help in counter acting these cost I have chosen to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help me cover these expenses. A link to my Kickstarter can be found here: http://kck.st/1ATVhi1


What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you? Do you have any words of advice for aspiring designers trying to build successful businesses of their own?

When I started Epoché my boyfriend Kevan D’Agostino, who is a communication designer, encouraged me to approach my brand and design decisions slowly and deliberately. This was very hard for me to do as I had to fight the overwhelming feeling that everything has to be done immediately but it helped me focus on each step. It sort of felt like I was building a house and instead of buying a pre fabricated pieces I had to put it together brick by brick which gave me a strong foundation resulting in a robust brand with a clear message and image. I would suggest this slowed down approach to others looking create their own business as it really helps you focus in on what exactly it is that you want to create/do.


Where would you like to take your business next?

I hope to expand Epoché beyond being a local product and launch into stores worldwide. I also want to continue to strengthen the relationship between art and design through creating new limited edition collections of Epoché totes with new hand printed patterns that are accompanied with limited edition prints.

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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.