A New Activewear Challenge in the Textile Design Lab

Softened Travels_RF

Each month in the Textile Design Lab we post a Chelsea’s Challenge with the goal of helping our members build their pattern portfolios. We provide a trend to focus on and throughout the month the Textile Design Lab team provides feedback on our private forum as designers work through the process of developing a main print and 2-4 coordinates. From work created in these challenges our members have gone on to land agents, freelance clients, and licensing deals, but what’s more is the feeling of community and camaraderie created as students work through the challenges together, providing feedback on each others’ work, bouncing ideas off one another, and cheering each other along through the process. Call me biased, but it really is a sight to see!

Most often with this design challenge we invite participants to develop a pattern collection geared toward any market of their choosing, but every so often we like to switch things up and focus on a particular market. This month we are so excited to delve into the activewear market for the Spring/Summer ’19 season with our new “Activate” challenge! In the Lab we offer three trend boards which include recommended Pantone colors and inspiring imagery to help get the creative juices flowing. This month’s boards explore

  • the juxtaposition between natural and urban environments
  • a twist on classic “sporty” patterns
  • and a soft nature-inspired theme that is well suited to yoga wear and athleisure brands

Sound interesting? Head over to the Textile Design Lab and join us to participate and build your portfolio…the deadline to complete the Activate challenge is Monday, August 7th!


Featured Designer: Cyrille Thonon


Examples of Cyrille’s Thonon’s work

Today we have the pleasure of featuring the work of Cyrille Thonon, a talented designer who creates original prints and patterns for clients, as well as her own brand. This is what Cyrille says about her evolving passions for design: “My designs are mostly inspired by the simple shapes in nature, graphic design (especially from old school comics) and geometric repeats in architecture. But lately I’m getting more and more interested in old crafts and techniques which also inspire me a lot.”

Cyrille got her start in the industry by studying fashion design in Utrecht, the Netherlands. During this time she discovered her love for textile and pattern design. To pursue this further she decided to pack her bags and move to Melbourne, Australia, for a year and a half to do a textile course at RMIT University. After graduating she returned to Holland and started working as a graphic designer and content manager for a fashion webshop, and later as a print designer for a fashion company. While this was wonderful work, her urge to travel and explore wasn’t gone so Cyrille decided to take the leap, quit her job, and start ODDstyles while traveling in Central America.


Cyrille’s studio and the home of her Oddstyles brand

Cyrille was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her client work and making the leap into a freelance career:

Can you tell us more about your client work?

Usually, the work I do for clients is more applicable and less extreme than what is featured on my website. On my website, I offer my own collection of exclusive allover pattern designs which are usually the results of the creativity I couldn’t put to use in my work for clients. When I work for clients, I work very structural and more commercial, with a clear goal in mind and in a tight timeframe. On the other hand, when I’m creating a design for my own collection, time and the level of applicability is of less concern, which makes it easier in one way. Yet, it also becomes harder because there are no frames. I love the combination of more commercial versus more creative work and it inspires me very much. This way of working helps me to develop my skills at a higher level and it gives me the time to try out new techniques which I can put to practice immediately—if they work ;).

What does a typical day look like for you? Do you spend most of your time designing patterns to sell or working with clients?

My typical workday differs a lot. It really depends on the work I’m doing. I try to design at least three days a week at my studio, either for a client or for my collection. One day is my “extra day” for last minute assignments, administration, visiting clients, business fairs, attending workshops, meeting inspirational people for coffee, and many other things.

The 5th day is now reserved for a new textile design project called ODDtextiles. With this project I want to showcase the beauty of old textile crafts in modern handmade products. This project is just in the very early stages but damn, I’m already so excited!


How did you land your first freelance client? Do you have any advice for designers who are just getting started?

My first freelance client was actually an old employer of mine. I wasn’t even up and running but he knew I was capable of doing the job and so I helped out during the busy collection period. It was a great start for my insecure – yet exciting – freelance career at a place I already knew very well. Not long after I got a job offer through LinkedIn, which I kindly refused but it did result in my second freelance job.

Through this process I learned that it is important to showcase your knowledge and work on a website such as LinkedIn. Writing tutorials and letting people know what you’re working on in a casual and personal way; just stay true to yourself and don’t try to “market” yourself too much. Just have fun! Oh, and don’t forget to reach out to that old employer/colleague/creative friend to let them know you’re now out there doing amazing print designs as a freelancer.

How are you currently marketing your work and finding new clients?

Currently, I still give people a sneak peek of what I’m working on through LinkedIn. And I still write tutorials to showcase and share my knowledge through LinkedIn Pulse and my own website. Of course I have an Instagram and Facebook account, although to be very honest, I’m probably not the best at social media. I like a more personal approach. So whenever I come across a brand which I love (which is actually very often), I just call them or send them a message to tell them that I would love to help them out whenever they need a print design. I approach them in a very casual and enthusiastic way and let my work speak for itself. No marketing tricks or special sales tactics—just a personal message to the right person. As for textile design fairs, I haven’t showcased my work at one yet, but I’m considering it for 2018. But for now, I like to keep things personal ☺!

You can learn more about Cyrille at her website, https://www.oddstyles.com/.


The 2017 Summer of Creativity

Summer-of-Creativity-Pattern-ObserverDo your patterns always seem to fall short of your vision? Before long you start doubting your work, trying too hard to make something happen, and eventually you end up losing interest in the entire project.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In our new Summer of Creativity course we’re sharing the exercises and techniques we use to bring our vision to life and create the patterns we see in our mind’s eye. This 7-week course runs from July 17th-September 1st and highlights include:

  • *weekly design tutorials: pulled from our popular Mastering Your Market Workshop (no longer offered), these tutorials cover techniques from Developing Photorealistic patterns in Photoshop, to creating dynamic patterns using cut and paste techniques, to using Blending Modes in Photoshop.
  • *weekly One Hour Challenges: fun, bite-sized tasks that can be completed in just one hour. If you find yourself in a design rut these challenges will offer quick ways to pull yourself out and can be used time and time again. Put these tasks into regular practice and you will develop habits that will make you a more efficient and creative designer!
  • 7 weeks access to WGSN Fashion or Home for the first 290 registrants
  • our annual Collaboration for Designers group study: In this course you will learn the importance of working alongside other designers whether they be peers or clients, how to handle conflicts when they arise and how collaboration will enrich your design process. You will identify your strengths and what challenges you when working with others, and practice your new-found skills giving you the confidence to put them into action.
  • a two week repeat challenge: Want to add repeats to your list of services in your design business? Over the course of two weeks you will practice your repeat skills and get feedback on our private forum. Learn to spot a poor repeat and how to improve it, what you need to ask before starting a repeat for a client, and more.

The Summer of Creativity kicks off on July 17th in the Lab and we hope you will join in the fun! Lab membership also comes with access to all of our most popular courses including The Sellable Sketch and The Ultimate Guide to Repeats, weekly live artwork critiques, guest expert trainings, and lots more. Learn more here.






Guest Expert Interview: Heather Powers

Each month we welcome a guest expert into the Textile Design Lab to share an exclusive training with our members. This is such a vast industry, covering so many markets and specialties, and we love hearing from various experts and learning from their years of experience.

This month we are thrilled to welcome Heather Powers, a talented rug designer and creative organizer. We can’t wait to share Heather’s guest expert training later this month in the Lab (join here to gain access!), but today we invite you to learn more about this inspiring designer in the interview below. Enjoy!


Heather Powers Interview with Pattern Observer1. Please tell us a bit about your design background and career path. What drew you to the world of textile design and designing for the rug/carpet industry in particular? What are you doing nowadays?

I was always a creative child, drawing and painting and creating my own fantasy “worlds” with my dollhouse. My mom and I made clothes and furniture for my dolls together and I later began to sew on my own, making clothing etc. After exploring many aspects of art for an Associate’s degree in Studio Art, I finally narrowed down my interest to fibers and textiles. I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design and got my BFA in Fibers. Shortly after sitting down at a loom to weave, I knew I wanted to go into the industry and pursue woven textile design. I was so intrigued by the use of both my left and right brain, all the planning and numbers required for woven design and then the freedom and tactile exploration that happens at the loom. After college I had the opportunity to work at one of the oldest and most prestigious weaving mill’s in America, Churchill Weavers (now closed). This opportunity gave me the chance to both design textiles and see them manufactured under one roof. I feel strongly that there should be a connection between what we design and how it is used, both form and function are essential to great design! Having the chance to see how things are manufactured helps us to become better designers. From Churchill I made the leap to larger Jacquard woven design at Mohawk Industries. This helped me make the transition to working with CAD design (at SCAD we were still creating gouache renderings for our designs and CAD design was just beginning to be taught). There is nothing wrong with taking a job that will teach you new skills and keep you at the cutting edge of technology! That was my approach and as I mastered my craft as a designer, I learned to turn my skills to other applications, including rug and carpet design. I finally made the transition to carpets at Tai Ping, designing for both woven and hand tufted rugs and carpets for residential and hospitality customers. This was a really fun and exciting transition. Ultimately, because I understood the process of manufacturing, I was more easily able to transition from one type of product (woven textiles to woven carpet) more easily. I’m no longer designing carpet or textiles (except for what I weave or dye myself), but the skills I gained as a designer and project manager are still used daily in my business as a Professional Organizer and Creativity Coach.


Ren Arlington Rug Design by Heather Powers for Tai Ping

2. Can you tell us a bit about your past position project managing carpet designs for Marriott? What did your responsibilities include? What were your favorite parts of your job?

The process of designing for projects at Tai Ping was one that required the designer to manage the project, including administrative duties, ordering samples, corresponding with the designers and sales personnel, picking and color matching, and being able to take a design from concept to digital rendering with scaled mockup’s for client approval. Designing woven carpet is different than other (print) textiles in that the aspect ratio is not square (your pixel ratio may be 7×9 or 10 pixels per inch or ppi). When I transitioned to carpet design there was terminology I had to learn and new software (Texcelle) as well as keeping up with the advances in manufacturing and installation that allowed us to work off of architectural renderings to create entire spaces that were installed to fit together like a puzzle (called Electronic Jacquard).  Some designers do not love the administrative aspect of their job but I loved it and ultimately, those skills serve me extremely well today as a small business owner. Because of my skills in communication and understanding of manufacturing I was selected to visit company mills in both China and Thailand. This cultural opportunity was both eye opening and life changing and I was able to spend a month in S.E. Asia to better understand our workflow process. The purpose of this trip was to help set up a “remote” design studio so that overflow projects that our in house US designers could not take on could be sent to this design group. In my final 5 years at Tai Ping, I worked directly with Marriott Headquarters and had the opportunity to collaborate with Interior Designers on stunning global projects. I loved the process of taking an idea from sketches and reference materials to carpets installed in entire ballrooms or other spaces.

3. What do you feel makes a successful design for a rug or carpet, or what considerations do you keep in mind when designing for this market? Are there any inherent pitfalls to avoid?

Great communication is essential to creating beautifully designed products. Sometimes as designers we have to read between the lines and understand the customer beyond the words or visual references they share with us. We have to also be willing to put our ego’s aside and do what is right for the project or product to shine (because our names rarely end up in neon!). Beyond that, having the ability to think about how space can be defined by the patterns in a carpet is essential and great interior designers know how to help execute this in the design process. The next time you go into any room, look at the flooring and think about how the colors, shape and size create boundaries or open the space up. I think scale is also the other factor that is really critical for carpet design and this can be a pitfall for someone making the transition into carpet from other textile products. There are some areas that require large, bold patterns and other areas that should be less obvious and use more subtle, small patterns. In carpet speak, these areas use to be defined by “Infill”-the center, more bold area of a carpet, “Border” and “outfill”, the smaller scale pattern between “rugs”. But, with the more frequent use of Electronic Jacquard design (pieced together as one custom design on site) these boundaries are more blurred. Designs can contain many different scales and shapes or elements to define space without traditional borders etc.


Courtyard Marriott Rug Design by Heather Powers for Tai Ping

4. What roles did trends play in your design process as a carpet designer? What are your current favorite print and pattern trends for rugs & carpets?

Interior trends were critical to carpet design but not as much so as they are in residential interior design. Tai Ping (and other companies) would create several collections a year based on the latest color and design trends and though we didn’t always sell these designs “off the shelf”, these collections set our company apart from competitors because they created a brand identity around our interpretation of trends. Being able to interpret a trend into different products effectively is a skill that requires subtle interpretation at times. The chances are that if tropical fruit is all the rage in residential design, it may not apply to a longer cycling market like hospitality. So when it comes to trends it is vital to understand how cyclical the market and company you are working with are. Some industries cycle faster (fashion and residential, stationary and gift) but commercial and hospitality design are not changed out as frequently and designs need to be more long lasting but have a fresh interpretation. We created a lot of designs that had traditional elements and I’d say the term transitional would be the most popular in carpet and rug design…not too traditional or too trendy. Some of my all time favorite patterns for rugs and carpets are organic elements, especially when they are quite life like…water, wood grains and vegetation or florals but in larger than life scale or non-realistic colors.

5. What are your go-to sources for design inspiration? Any books, websites, design tools, or other resources you would recommend?

When I was designing full time I would cycle through a ton of online and print resources for inspiration including Design Sponge, Apartment Therapy, tons of interior design magazines, industry publications like Hali Rug/Modern Carpet & Textiles, Cover Magazine, Rug News & Design, the Surface Design Association, Print & Pattern, Pattern People, Pinterest and more. I’d also follow color forecasters like Pantone and Color Marketing Group. I attended Surtex many times as well as other trade shows including ITMA-Showtime, ICFF, NeoCon & HD Expo. If you are thinking about designing for the carpet and rug industry, start reading and looking at top manufactures as well, any of the trade publications will lead you to the many manufactures and design companies.


Fairfield Inn Suites Rug Design by Heather Powers for Tai Ping

6. Who are your design heroes (past or present)? What about them inspires you or influences your work?

Annie Albers and Jack Lenore Larson are two of my favorite past designers because of their fundamental understanding of form and function. They knew how to create a great design on paper and how to execute that design as a beautifully manufactured product. So many times, things get lost in translations and having a foundational understanding of the end product and process really shows in the finished product! A couple of my favorite current day designers are Caroline Friedlander and Amy Butler, for basically the same reasons as Annie and Jack. And now that I’m thinking about this, I’m realizing that all of these designers are also entrepreneur’s paving the way by setting trends but being true to their own creative vision.

7. What would you consider to be your most proud achievement(s) or greatest success(es) so far in your design career? What are your goals for the future?

Being selected to work at Churchill Weavers was an exclusive privilege because at that time, they were one of the last high end weaving mill’s remaining in America. Not only did I get to help expand their designs to use Dobby looms but I worked side by side with the President of the company to learn the entire design and manufacturing process as well as help to design showrooms and attend trade shows domestically and internationally. Having this kind of ‘big picture experience’ and working with exquisitely crafted products early in my career set the bar high and kept me striving to work with the best designers and manufactures through my career. While at Tai Ping, setting up a successful remote design studio in Thailand, getting to travel to the mills there and work first hand with these designers and return to the US to continue a more productive working relationship was extremely rewarding! Being selected to work with Marriott headquarters at a time that the market was really exploding and helping to build the relationship with this brand was also very exciting. Ultimately I can think back on a handful of projects I LOVED designing, the reason I loved them is that I loved the collaborative process of working with the others on the team and that working relationship shined through in the end products we created! The relationships we build in the process of designing products can be far more lasting than the products themselves! Since I am no longer working on designing carpets and rugs, my goals include working on projects that are rewarding because of the relationships I build and creating a beautiful end product (in this case a well organized home or small business) that brings joy to my clients and the people who live in these spaces!


8. What have been some of the challenges you have faced throughout your design career and how have you overcome them?

When I graduated from SCAD I said “I will never use a computer to design”, HA! The joke was on me because throughout my 15+ yr career, I had to work to keep up with technology and learn new skills and tools! As I mentioned earlier though, there is nothing wrong with working somewhere that will help expand your technical skills in a new direction. The carpet design software most commonly used is very expensive for a freelance designer so working in house was the best option for me for most of my career, even though I ultimately knew I wanted to be my own boss. As a “field designer” I was required to maintain the discipline of a 9-6 schedule on my own, which was not that challenging for me because I honestly had a tendency to overwork! So maintaining a good work/personal/creative life balance was/is really important. The other big challenge I found in the industry was a lack of mentor’s. There is no “trade association” for our industry of designers and it can be difficult to find others who will share tips, skills, tricks of the trade and insight. I had several wonderful mentor/bosses in my career and found lasting friendships with other designers who’s skill sets were different than mine. I knew I could turn to these friends and mentors when I hit a challenging time in my career to help talk me through it. I’m also going to just say that the carpet industry is dominated by men at the top and that can be a challenge! As a designer, we want to be creative but some of us want more (money, recognition, creative freedom etc) and I finally hit my “glass ceiling” decided that the best thing for me leave and start my own business since the only other option was to go into sales and/or management therefore leaving the creativity aside for the most part. Having my own business certainly gives me more freedom but of course the challenges of being self employed are not for everyone but was absolutely the right choice for me.

9. What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you? Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring designers trying to build successful careers of their own? Any advice for designers hoping to break into the carpet industry in particular?

I can’t emphasize the importance of finding mentors enough. I had a couple in college who really helped me clarify what direction I wanted to take my career and that foundation helped me to take the steps that helped me to grow both creatively and technically. The industry and your opportunities will always be in flux, so staying true to what you know you are best at while striving to increase your skills (taking classes, taking on projects that are a bit of a reach but not out of your ballpark etc) is really essential. I think the two qualities that serve me well are my curiosity and my versatility, I was able to work on a variety of different looks but still remain true to my skills. Looking back it’s really easy for me to see the path that led me to where I am today, hindsight 20/20 etc…but honestly I was very intentional about my career choices and was clear about the kind of products and companies I wanted to work for. Ultimately, my values led me to design products that were lasting quality. My best advice is to learn to follow your instinct, if you are designing for a products you can never imagine using you have to ask yourself why. Is it to gain the experience or is there something else about the process you love? As designers we are very process oriented and sometimes we can overlook the outcome but ultimately doing what you love should go hand in hand with your why. Why are you designing what you are? I have finally realized that the relationship between the person and the product (or service) is what is most important for me.

You can learn more about Heather Powers on her website: http://hkpowerstudio.com








Using Layers to Bring Your Patterns to Life

Buyers are looking for the unique, the special, the spectacular. They want depth, dimension, and details. As designers, when we close our eyes and imagine our piece-de-resistance, we too envision work that is smart, rich, and has depth and dimension.

But all too often, our final design falls short of our vision, which is an extremely frustrating experience for any designer. No matter what you do, the final product just never looks as good as what you imagined. Before long you start doubting your work, trying too hard to make something happen, and eventually you end up losing interest in the entire project or you just push it aside, hoping that you’ll get back to it in the future. It doesn’t have to be this way. With the right guidance you can learn how to bring your vision to life quickly and easily.

One of my favorite methods for adding dimension to my work is to layer various motifs and patterns within my design. By combining and layering patterns this way I increase the visual interest and can make the patterns more appealing to the eye.

By copying your existing motifs and layering them below or on top of your main motifs, you can begin creating more dynamic, appealing patterns with little additional effort. Simple techniques like this one will enable you to begin bringing your vision to life quickly and easily.

Now it’s your turn!

In our FREE 5-Day Design Shake Up I’m sharing the exercises and practices I use to stay creative. Even when life is hectic and busy with work, children, errands and all the rest, the creative habits and techniques I’m sharing keep me inspired and creative. I know they will do the same for you! Get started 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.