New Design Challenge in the Textile Design Lab: “Romantic Fall”


Back to school is over and as Fall starts to set in and things slow down there is much inspiration to be had. For this month’s Chelsea’s Challenge in the Textile Design Lab we were inspired by the transition of plants, trees, and entire landscapes from their summer greens to rich autumnal palettes. Temperatures may be dropping yet warmth is evoked by feelings of coziness, nostalgia, and romance.

For the month of November we are challenging Lab members to dive headfirst into “Romantic Fall” to create a pattern collection made up of 3-5 patterns. Throughout the month members will workshop their designs on our private forum and receive personalized feedback during our weekly live art critiques.


In the full post in the Lab we offer four inspiring mood boards–“Prairie Dance,” “Pared Down,” “Decay,” and “Romantic Folk”–to kick off the creative process and provide a focus and direction for our students. These boards come with optional Pantone colors which can be downloaded and used within Photoshop or Illustrator. At the end of the month our students will have developed a cohesive, portfolio-ready collection of patterns that can then be used to market their work on social media, shown when reaching out to agents and studios, or in sales meetings with clients.

The monthly challenge is one of the most popular activities in the Lab and we welcome you to join in the fun! Head over to the Textile Design Lab and join us to participate and build your portfolio. The deadline to complete the Romantic Fall challenge is Monday, November 27th!




The Repeat Downbeat

Painting by Maria Osorio Driscoll

Painting by Maria Osorio Driscoll

For this week’s Repeat Downbeat I have collected a group of patterns, paintings, prints, and fabrics that I found to be especially inspiring. I did try to discover a clear theme within these pieces, but never found the perfect common thread between them all. Maybe you can help me in the comments below. It’s often easier to see themes in others’ work, than in our own.

To kick things off we have this lovely abstract painting by Maria Osorio Driscoll. Maria is a Painter & Color Explorer who lives in Roanoke, VA. I have been admiring her work for the past couple weeks. She is very prolific and I love seeing her latest projects in her Instagram feed. Her landscapes and florals are beautifully textural, and her color palette choices are really uplifting and inspiring.

Pattern by Mind Over Pattern

Pattern by Mind Over Pattern

Speaking of uplifting, I was drawn to this cheery pattern by Mind Over Pattern. The colors, painterly texture, and overlapping leaf motifs all work together to create a beautiful design. In the Textile Design Lab, we often discuss creating patterns with movement and flow. This pattern uses all the do’s when creating a dynamic leaf pattern. She has slightly overlapped motifs, the motifs are tilted and turned to move the eye around the page, and none of the motifs are placed perfectly horizontally or vertically. It’s one of those pattern that looks so simple, but really isn’t that easy to get right!

 Screenprinted patterns by Marcie Paper

Screenprinted patterns by Marcie Paper

I am not sure how I came across Marcie’s work, but I found it to be incredibly inspiring and fresh. The piece you see here is a part of Marcie’s “scrap book” of prints used for Shapes to Cuddle.

“Marcie Paper has designed and hand block-printed twenty-four different patterns and stripes for the 144 Shapes to Cuddle on view. Each of the cotton and linen shapes is stuffed by hand and features a different combination of prints and stripes. The Shapes to Cuddle are sized to be held and loved by people of all ages, but were made specifically with children in mind.”

A pop-up show of shapes for sale will be on view from 5-9 PM, November 3rd and 12-9 PM, November 4th at 279 Broome St. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. If you are in the area please stop by. Cuddling up to some beautiful, hand-printed textiles seems pretty wonderful right now!

Natural inks by Nadia Hassan

Plant based inks by Nadia Hassan

Ready for more inspiring work? Nadia Hassan is a designer who you should be following. For the entire month of October she is featuring a different handmade, plant-based ink. From beets to spices, Nadia has been creating these inks and then using them to create the loveliest patterns. Each day she shows you the beautiful ink, alongside her painting for the day. Watching her create not one, but a series, of these beautiful scenes has been incredibly inspiring and will be sad to see the month of October come to an end!

Print by Mami Yamamoto

Print by Mami Yamamoto

Another printmaker who has been very inspiring to my process is Mami Yamamoto. This piece is titled Fall Themes Scattered, and it celebrates the changing seasons. “Here is the first of October, the pumpkin color has already taken over the store fronts, giving us an urgent hint of a final chapter of the year. The sky is high and the light is crispy, I would fully love to embrace this beautiful time of the year….” I am really drawn to the layers and movement within Mami’s work. Her prints are bold, yet there is so much to explore and see within each piece.

Who is inspiring your work these days? Let me know in the comments below! Let’s start spreading the inspiration around.



Setting Boundaries Within Your Design Business

Setting Boundaries for your Design Business

Setting boundaries and following through on those boundaries can be extremely difficult in such a competitive industry.

It’s difficult to find clients, so when you do it can be challenging to say “no” to their requests and demands—regardless of how disrespectful they might be.

It’s hard to say “no” to, “I need this NOW and I need it at this price.” Especially when it is a price that completely undervalues your craft and the time that it takes to create something of quality.

Even after all these years, and in my (thankfully) stable business, I have a difficult time saying “no” to client demands that cross my boundaries. The thought of it immediately triggers fears of scarcity – and even worse — letting someone down (gasp!) The horror of it all.

If I say no will…

  • The client replace me with another designer?
  • The client, who I love and care for, be put in a difficult situation with her boss, factory, partner, etc.?
  • This client no longer like me?

Here’s a thought to consider. Maybe it is not just about saying “no.” Maybe it’s about standing up for your boundaries and coming to agreements that feel fair for both parties.

For example, my friend Lacy Boggs recently had a client request a rush project that they needed by the next day. This request was going to be a major disruption to Lacy’s work schedule and she couldn’t find anyone else to cover the project. She told the client, “I can get this done for you by tomorrow, but I will have to charge my rush rate. Happy to do it! But I don’t know if the investment is worth it to you…”

Business-BoundariesThe client initially declined the offer, but Lacy left the exchange feeling proud of herself for what she had done. She had respected her boundaries and felt good about her decision. But you know what??? The next day the client got back to her saying they were happy to pay her rush rate. The agreement was fair. The client got the high quality work that they needed – in the amount of time that they needed it – and Lacy was fairly compensated for whatever she was giving up in order to rush the project.

At the heart of the matter, each time we cross our boundaries and choose our clients well-being over our own we give something up.

My friend Breanne Dyck posed this question: “What would you be doing instead?” It’s a question to ponder and what she was getting at was…

  • What would you be doing if you weren’t spending your night on that rush project?
  • What would you be doing if you didn’t have to work sixty hours a week because your prices are too low?
  • What are you losing each time you disrespect your boundaries?
  • What dreams are you giving up on when you let your boundaries slide?
  • What important, business growing, soul enriching projects are you pushing aside each time you accept a project at bottom rate price or give up your personal time to rush a project?

These are the questions that I am currently asking myself , and that I want you to ask yourself as well.  What would you be doing instead?

  • Would you design a collection for that product line that you have always dreamed of launching?
  • Would you update your website so that you can reach more clients?
  • Would you paint that series of paintings that you have been thinking about for years?

These are examples of the things that you are giving up when you let your boundaries slip.

Now, I am no expert on boundaries–this concept is new to my business and I am currently devouring Randi Buckley’s beautiful content to learn more. She’s brilliant and authentic and her work will delight and empower.

In my quest to continually respect my boundaries I am trying to trust my instincts and listen to my initial reaction to proposals.

If my response is “Ugh..” or “What in the world???”, a boundary has probably been crossed.

Boundaries are not a one-size-fits-all solution. We are each going to have different boundaries and business standards, but when you feel as if a boundary has been crossed return to that question, “What am I giving up when taking on this project…and is it worth it?



Featured Designer: Erica Cizek


We are wrapping up this week’s focus on florals. Today I’d like to feature the work of Erica Cizek, a talented pattern designer and illustrator. Erica has a degree in computer graphics, graphic design, and typography, which is highlighted in her print and pattern work featured in today’s post.

I was really drawn to the charming nature of Erica’s work. When I look at her florals I feel swept up and taken to an idyllic land of dusty florals, lazy days, and friendly neighbors. Her work is such a nice escape from it all…

Erica explains that a huge part of her inspiration comes from her childhood.  “I grew up in a small beach town in Southern California, though crowded with residents and beach goers, the residents always found some creative and unique way of planting a tiny garden, whether in a small pot, or a hollowed out tree trunk.  The collection of flowers and plants always intrigued me. Additionally, every year I would visit my nana in Victoria B.C., Canada, where the gardens bloomed with the most amazing flowers. I would spend time working in the garden with her and learn about the different types of flowers and plants. We would also have tea in downtown Victoria, a place where the streets are lined with ornate lampposts with hanging flower baskets; truly inspirational. My trip would always include a visit to Butchart Gardens where the flowers and plants are planted in the most amazing designs and patterns. I learned to sew at a young age, and taught myself millinery style of making flowers out of ribbons and fabrics and would fashion my flowers after the flowers I saw. I ended up starting a business selling the flowers to shops around the world. Designing, creating, and mixing and hand painting the flowers has given me a deeper understanding into arrangement and picking colors in illustrator.”

All of Erica’s designs begin with sketches. “I keep a to-go bag of pencils, brush pens, and a small sketch book that I take with me everywhere. I have two teenagers, which means I spend a lot of time relocating them from one place to another. Some of my best sketches and ideas came from sitting in my mini van waiting for my kids to come out of practice. My sketches then end up in illustrator or on my iPad Pro, where I select colors and I use the pen tool or brushes to draw over my sketches. I like to vary styles and incorporate different techniques, such as adding details with textures or lines made with various pencils, brush pens, sponges, and crayons. I’ll bring the textures into illustrator to digitize and recolor to add to my designs.”


Erica is actually new to the pattern design industry (welcome Erica!) after spending many years in advertising and packaging design. “Working in advertising and packaging design helped with my self-critique, eye flow for my illustrations and patterns, and my use and design of typography. When I designed ads for magazines, it was crucial to consider eye flow, where the eye is drawn first and where it goes next and does it get trapped in a particular spot. I also consider the eye flow when I design a pattern or illustration.”

“Use of scale and color for the focal points, complimentary and contrast within the ad and also the surrounding ads and artwork has helped with designing complimentary and blending patterns. Though I do design fonts as well as hand drawn and illustrated typography, type styles and font choices and how they work together and the scale and size of the ad has helped when designing typography in my illustrative work and inspired the fonts I have designed.

“Packaging design has helped me think of the tangible side of illustrative and pattern design. If it’s a pattern, I think of what it would be applied to, would it have a textured finish or a smooth finish, and how I can use that to compliment the pattern.”

You can see more of Erica’s charming work here. Stop by and say hello!



The Repeat Downbeat: Embracing Florals

Florals are one of the most popular motifs in our industry, but when I mention florals to some designers, it is often followed by a frustrating sigh. Then perhaps a comment such as, “But I am so not a floral person.”

I get it. At one point in time, I also categorized myself as “anti-floral.”

Pattern design by Kevin Brackley

Pattern design by Kevin Brackley

Are you ready for a challenge?  I challenge all you “non-floral” designers to create a floral that is you. Not because you have to make florals to make it in this industry, but because your unique perspective and point of view is valuable. It will likely lead to unique, eye catching work. Florals don’t have to be overly sweet, classic, or vintage. They can be bold, emotive, layered, and 100% “you.”

Let’s look at some of the unique florals that I observed this week:

Expressive Line Weight

This beautifully delicate, yet bold floral from Textile Design Lab member Kevin Brackley quickly caught my eye. The expressive line weight variation and detailed background texture all work together to create a very bold, dynamic floral that I feel appeals to those who prefer a bolder take on the traditional floral.

Pattern design by Kathleen Ruhl

Pattern design by Kathleen Ruhl

Pattern Fills

Not everyone might read this stunning pattern from Textile Design Lab member Kathleen Ruhl as a floral, but the abstract stem and petal motifs are very floral-like—with an almost camouflage twist. I was really drawn to the pattern fills, bold colors, and various layers that Kathleen included in this pattern. It’s a wonderful example of making a floral pattern that doesn’t feel overly floral or delicate. Like the floral from Kevin Brackley, I think the layering of motifs brings so much depth and dimension to the piece.


Abstract Motifs

To continue to study the benefits of layering within your florals, this piece by Textile Design Lab member, Pamela Gatens is definitely an eye-catcher. The more abstract floral motifs are a wonderful variation on traditional floral motifs. Additionally, the layering of various leaves and stems in various colors keeps the eye searching and moving through the poetic pattern layout.

Floral pattern by Pamela Gatens

Floral pattern by Pamela Gatens

While we tend to have preconceived notions of floral motifs and patterns, the possibilities are endless. Run wild with the floral category and make it 100% you. Layer, get messy, or stay sweet, it’s all appreciated and accepted.

Florals are just one of the many popular motifs that we discuss in Surface Pattern Design Mastery. In this course you’ll discover:

  • The most common motifs used in surface pattern design
  • How to gather ideas and inspiration for motifs
  • A reliable system for turning your sketches, paintings, illustrations, and photographs into digital motifs in both Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Tips to working around some of the common issues that arise during this process, including how to reduce time spent on the technical process so there is more time available to work on creating motifs and designing your surface pattern layout

Grab your spot by Monday here.



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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.