Featured Designer: Catherine McGuire


This week we are thrilled to feature the beautiful work of Catherine McGuire. We were drawn to her use of texture and rich colors and were even more delighted when we read her compelling story.

“I grew up in Savannah, GA and I always swore I would never go back because I love New England, but my father talked me into visiting the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) when we were visiting a relative the summer before my senior year of high school. I fell in love with the campus and the options they offered, so I ended up going back to Savannah! I graduated from SCAD with a B.F.A. in illustration. The program was geared towards editorial, book, and advertising illustration, but I took one class with a professor who had worked in licensing and she introduced me to the market.

Flash forward to two years after graduation- I am married, living in Vermont (yay!) and I have been freelancing for almost 2 years! I jumped right in after college and started out knowing almost nothing about surface design. I feel like I have learned so much, and most of it the hard way! With the encouragement of some fantastic ladies in online circles, the best mentor ever, and hours and HOURS of researching and learning, I feel like I am getting to where I want to be! Thanks to the wonderful folks that organize the event, I exhibited at Blueprint Show 1 in NYC this year. I entered the Young Designers Competition with them early this year- I never thought I would win, but I did! I’m still a bit stunned, to be honest. I have been creating as many new designs as I can, and I have a fresh new portfolio of work that I took to the show.

Last year I gave myself a break from designing and committed to just “play” with art. It was the best decision I ever made! I discovered a fresh way of working that I enjoy and that resonates with viewers. I think my goal is to imbue joy and energy into each of my paintings to pass along the happiness that creativity gives me. These images reflect my signature bright colors and cheerful themes. I have really gotten into lettering recently and have to fight from adding lettering to every single one of my designs! All of the lettering in these designs is my own. As you can see, I absolutely love navy, indigo.. anything on that spectrum. You can also spot my addiction to hot pink! Usually my designs reflect my own preferences, which is why almost all of them are animal or nature-themed. Over the last year I have added more digital work to my process. It started out as a way to simplify cleaning up my scans- if I ink on top of watercolor it can be hard to clean up, and the lines usually don’t look as sharp as I would like. Along the way I developed a few signature “doodle” marks, and I think that the loose lines add a bit of fun to the work. I have been sketching more and more recently, and it has made a huge difference. The little blue cacti pattern came out of a sketch, and it is one of my favorites! The dinosaur was also inspired by a 5-second doodle, as is most of my lettering.”


Congrats on attending Blueprint! How did the show go for you? If you exhibit your work again what will you do the same? Differently?

“The show was great! In the end, the show itself was the least stressful part of the whole process! After a few months of working long, long days and weeks to get ready it was refreshing to just get to the show and chat with other artists (and clients, too, of course!) The show itself has such a lovely friendly, casual atmosphere. And I really love how easy set-up is for Blueprint. I have heard others say that set up for other shows can be a ton of work. Next time I will try not to stress so much!

I am hoping to exhibit at Blueprint in NYC next year, and at some point in the next few years, I would love to try out the San Francisco show.

A few things I am glad I did: A lot of people print their sell sheets on paper sizes like 11×17″ and 13×19″. My work tends to be in a tight format, and I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to make my designs fit on the sheets. A kind mentor and friend encouraged me to just go with what worked for me, so I did! I printed my designs on 11×14″ paper, and they looked fabulous. I also saw that a few others seem to have gone with 11×14″ sheets, too. My advice to first-time exhibitors is: don’t worry too much about how others are doing the show. There are great resources like the Facebook group where you can ask questions, but in the end just be yourself and show off your art!

The big thing that I wish I had done was created more work, but since I only had about two and a half months to prepare, I didn’t get the time to build up the portfolio that I wanted. I worked like crazy, though, and I was pretty happy with how much artwork I did end up taking with me. I am going to slowly start preparing for next year’s show in the next couple of months, then ramp it up to make a ton of fun work by next May.”


You mentioned that last year you committed to “just play with art.” What did this process look like? How did you stay focused on the “play” aspect of this challenge?

“It is kind of hard to describe the “play” process that I went through to recharge my creativity. I think the majority of it was psychological- allowing myself to try new things AND forcing myself to stop over-thinking what I was doing. I had a problem with overthinking my concepts, and I realized that I also put tremendous pressure on myself to create something great every single time I painted. Which, we all know, is impossible! I took two months off from making designs to sell and focused on trying new things. I am sure most other designers understand- it’s hard work to not work!

Besides those mental roadblocks, I had to work through my “creative vocabulary.” I was surprised to realize that I was subtly using the same framework of imagery and ideas over and over, and my muscle memory was actually keeping me from being able to mix things up! I looked at shapes, colors, and themes in artwork, online, and on products at my favorite stores and doodled things in my sketchbook to see what I could learn from them. I took basic concepts and branched out, made messes, and had fun… and I made a lot of work I didn’t like at all. Even that was important, and the results that I did like were definitely game-changers. For example, the process led me to then use brighter colors and more abstract shapes in my work when I decided to hop back in. I also started allowing myself to create more patterns and geometrics from doodles, which is just so much fun. Some of the patterns I have created while sitting on my sofa watching a movie are my favorites!

I think stepping back and making myself do things in ways I hadn’t before really opened up possibilities, and I am having so much fun exploring new ideas that pop into my head! It really did open up my creative mind, and now I make sure to keep learning and playing as I go along.”

You can explore more of Cathrine’s work on her website.

Surtex Recap

Pattern Observer Surtex Booth

Michelle Fifis in the Pattern Observer Surtex booth

Last month, Michelle and I had the exciting experience of exhibiting for the first time at Surtex at the Javits Center in New York City. We brought the work of over 100 Textile Design Lab members alongside those of our Pattern Observer Studio designers. We wanted to share a bit about this experience with you, what it took to prepare, what it was like being at the show, and some of the insights we gained along the way. If you have additional questions that aren’t answered here, please let us know in the comments below! -Chelsea




Michelle and I started preparing for Surtex in January, starting with a big brainstorm in a shared Google doc. One of the first things on our mind was how we should set up our booth. We knew we wanted to keep things relatively simple/clean, taking into account the visual overwhelm that can occur at a trade show, with buyers seeing pattern upon pattern, booth after booth. We mocked up several ideas in Photoshop and finally settled on a large Pattern Observer logo for the back wall, and a playful garden theme for the side walls, with patterned flowers, flocks of birds, and plenty of open space. This theme carried over to all of our marketing materials for the show as we wanted to put out a consistent look that would stick in buyers’ minds.


Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 3.06.38 PM

Our magical goat flyer holder

We printed our banners through smartpress.com and they turned out beautifully–crisp and with exactly the colors we intended. The process was easy and the Smartpress team was super helpful as we made minor adjustments to our banners before printing.


We had a small portfolio book printed through blurb.com featuring some of our past client work. Unfortunately this went missing early on in the show as someone thought it was a take-away (it was pretty small, about 8″x8″, so it was an easy mistake to make!)


We used moo.com to print Michelle’s and my business cards, along with flyers that talked about the Textile Design Lab and what we offer.


Then of course the most important part, was figuring out what artwork to bring! When looking through our existing pattern collection, we knew it was strong on abstract, textural, and geometric designs but lacking in certain categories that would be popular at Surtex, such as conversationals and holiday themed patterns. We also really wanted to get the Textile Design Lab students involved and offer an opportunity for their work to be shown at the show. This led to creating specific briefs for Lab members to design around, including florals, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and winter holidays. Lab members had certain requirements to meet in order to be involved, including:
  1. Submitting their work to Textile Design Lab’s private forum
  2. Each design receiving a critique by the Lab’s team of expert designers
  3. Based on critique and feedback, the opportunity to revise work was offered
  4. After additional review of member’s artwork, including checking the technical aspects of the file in Photoshop or Illustrator, we made the decision of whether they were ready to be presented at Surtex.


The standards were high and we could not have been more proud of the collection of patterns we brought to the show. Our members really brought their A-game and while the preparation of over 800 patterns was a real bear to get done before the show, it was well worth it as the majority of work that got buyer interest at the show was created by our Lab members (including the two patterns we sold!)

In the two weeks prior to Surtex we reached out to attendees via the Surtex exhibitor console, an online platform that allowed us to see all registered attendees, what companies they worked for, what positions they held, and whether they preferred to buy or license patterns. While this did not prove fruitful for us in terms of landing appointments, it was interesting to see who was going to be at the show and to familiarize ourselves with lots of new-to-us brands.


About a week before the show, Michelle shipped two large boxes to the Javits Center which were stored by the show contractor, Freeman, until they delivered them to our booth on Friday. She also shipped a large box of prints to our hotel. Everything went smoothly and arrived as scheduled, phew!


Empty Surtex Booth

The empty Surtex booth

Pre-Show – Friday and Saturday

Textile Design Lab member Susan Brand met up with me at the Javits Center on Friday afternoon to help with our booth set-up and I couldn’t have asked for a better set-up buddy, what a rockstar!! We had a great time chatting and hanging banners, and joking around with the Freeman crew as they went around to the booths setting up lighting, wall panels, and laying down carpeting for the show. We were one of the earlier booths to set up, and many did not start setting up until Saturday afternoon. Now that I know our booth set-up only takes a few hours, I would be comfortable setting up the day before, but it was nice to have the extra day since it was our first time exhibiting.


Freeman offered lots of customizable options for booth displays, but the basic options for our booth size (8 x 10 ft.) were a short or tall table and two chairs, and we opted for tall to allow us to either stand or sit at eye level and feel more active in our booth. The table and chairs were delivered to our booth shortly after Susan and I met up. I was surprised at how spacious it was under the table and we were easily able to store everything we needed, including a step ladder and the large suitcase I rolled over from our hotel on Sunday morning containing all of our printed patterns.


After Susan and I wrapped up at the Javits Center on Friday, I walked back to our hotel a few blocks away to meet up with Michelle who had just flown in. The next day Michelle and I put finishing touches on the booth and then worked most of the day at the hotel, organizing patterns into categories in Dropbox folders, with the royal wedding playing in the background. Michelle (aided by her precocious daughters Ruth and Cora!) had already organized our printed patterns into categories before shipping them to the hotel, but with the huge number of patterns we had to show some digitally as well.


We went around the corner for some delicious Thai food to wrap up our Saturday evening, then with the show starting at 9AM the next morning, tried to get some shut-eye!



Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 3.04.43 PM copyShow Day One – Sunday

We got up around 7:30AM and grabbed some coffee to bring over to the show (we found out later that the Starbucks lines at the Javits Center are loooooong!) Exhibitors were allowed on the sales floor starting at 8AM, but since our booth was ready to go we got there close to 9 when the floor opened up to buyers and other attendees. I rolled my suitcase over containing our printed pattern collection and Michelle and I set about displaying the patterns in categories on a metal rack we had ordered from Amazon, as well as some in stacks on the table. Throughout the show we alternated the patterns that were on top to try to attract different brands’ styles, and to get different artists’ work seen.


Michelle gave me a quick run-through of the Quickbooks software we would be using to invoice for any sold patterns, then we introduced ourselves to our neighbors in the Atelier section (where studios who typically sell rather than license were placed.) We were surrounded by Lili Graffiti to our left, Colwill & Waud directly across from us, and Plinto Studio to our right. It was wonderful to chat with our neighbors a bit when traffic was slower and to hear their take on how things were going, particularly Colwill & Waud who were show veterans and have been exhibiting since Surtex’s early days!
We sold two patterns on Sunday which was a great way to kick off the first day of the show, and made several strong contacts to follow up with post-show.


Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 3.07.59 PMShow Day Two – Monday

Monday morning got off to a slower start than Sunday but once it got rolling seemed to have more activity over all. We made two really good contacts in a row who flipped through a lot of prints. We got a lot of interest in conversationals and holiday and autumn designs.
It was really exciting putting faces to names–meeting lots of our Textile Design Lab members in person, and others whom we’ve interacted with online for years but never met face to face. We chatted with students and recent grads walking the show and trying to get a feel for exhibiting next year, agents, and fellow exhibitors who came to our booth to introduce themselves. We had the pleasure of meeting artists from the US, UK, France, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, and more! We also had some people come to the booth who were pitching us on their products or services, which were interesting exchanges as well that we hadn’t anticipated.


Surtex hosted a happy hour for the last hour of the day which was a nice way to wind down and socialize a bit with other exhibitors in the Atelier section.



Show Day Three – Tuesday

The last day of the show was the busiest one for us. We made several great contacts that we were really excited about, including chatting for a good 45 minutes with a team from a women’s fashion brand. They were one of the only fashion clients we met at the show, and of course being from a fashion background, we instantly hit it off! They loved a particular conversational print from our “Mystical” category but weren’t sure about the background color, so I pulled the pattern up in Photoshop on Michelle’s laptop and was able to show them a new background color in real time.


We also had a great chat with an agent, as one of our goals at the show was to find a sales representative to help bring a continuous stream of sales for the Textile Design Lab community. (If you know of an experienced sales rep who might be interested in the job, please feel free to pass along their contact information to us at info@patternobserver.com!)


Lots of exhibitors started to tear down at 4PM. My assumption was that they had flights to catch as the show officially ran until 6PM, however there was not much traffic for those last hours so buyers likely got the memo! Michelle and I started to tear down somewhere around 5:45 and spent the better part of the evening in the booth getting things packed up and ready to ship back to Michelle’s home in Asheville, NC. One of our shipping boxes got lost in the shuffle but the Freeman team was super nice and helped us fashion a new package out of a big piece of cardboard and lots of shrink wrap! They took care of shipping the banners and metal rack, and the next morning Michelle and I brought the print collection to FedEx to ship back to her house.
Chelsea at the Pattern Observer Surtex Booth

Chelsea had fun with our photo props!


*Having never attended a trade show prior to Surtex, I had built it up to be something in my head that was intimidating and out of my league. I want to say to all of you out there considering exhibiting, it’s not so scary! Yes it is a significant financial investment, but if you can get over that hump, there is a place for you there and you will make some wonderful connections (not just with potential clients, but with fellow exhibitors as well!) We found the camaraderie at this show to be so lovely and noticed that studios would refer clients to other booths if they knew their style wasn’t the right fit, but someone else’s was. I definitely felt a sense of community and an appreciation for the kind and talented people who make up our industry.


*It was so interesting to see the different ways people set up their booths. Some used peel and stick backing to mount images to the walls of their booth, others used double-sided tape, some hung banners from the tops of their booths using binder clips, and we used Command Strips to affix our banners to our booth panels. Most studios displayed paper printouts of their artwork, but there were definitely some booths who had their designs on fabric headers, and even artists whose portfolio consisted entirely of hand-painted designs. There were a few booths I noticed take down all of their artwork from their booth walls each night as an extra precaution, but most booths stayed completely assembled and we felt comfortable to leave the Pattern Observer booth assembled–we just pushed our rack of prints to the back of the booth and turned it around so the prints were facing the wall. Some booths covered their prints with a cloth or put them underneath their table. The point here being–there’s no “right” way to do any of this–if you plan to exhibit in the future, do what feels right for you and will cause the least amount of stress! Booths don’t have to be super complicated! Some of the most beautiful and striking displays were super simple. Our neighbor, Plinto Design Studio, had just a black backdrop, two large potted plants, and a sign with her studio logo, and it looked absolutely stunning!


*Some buyers liked flipping through the patterns at their own pace and some wanted to be more guided. For these buyers we would either pull specific patterns out of the stacks for them that we felt would be a good fit for their brand, or we would flip through particular categories for them that were of interest and let them just take it in. When a pattern caught their eye we would set it aside and write down the pattern name to follow up with them after the show. For each person we talked to I tried to write down notes about what we talked about, what categories they were interested in, and whether they preferred to buy outright or license. I also took down their contact information and paper-clipped their business card to these notes. This was really helpful to refer back to when working on follow up emails as all of the conversations we had would have been hard to keep straight after three days of networking!



Pattern Observer flower seed packs

*We handed out custom printed seed packets, containing wildflower seeds as a giveaway. These seemed to be a big hit and were a fun way to draw people into the booth. As people walked by and had a “just browsing” face on, we would often catch their attention by offering them a seed pack. This was a quick and easy way to hand out information about Pattern Observer as we had a little blurb about the company written on the back. Lots of booths were handing out candy, and there were some other beautiful items being given out like coasters, stickers, magnets, and postcards.


*If there’s anything I might do differently next time it would be to get out of our booth a bit more and be more proactive about introducing myself to other exhibitors. Michelle was great about this and made lots of new friends at the show. Being a bit more of a homebody I was most comfortable planting myself behind the counter at our booth and greeting people who walked by, but the balance between Michelle and I worked out well! We had a great time at Surtex and plan to come back next year.



If You’re Considering Exhibiting…

*Read as many blog posts as you can about other exhibitors’ experiences. This helped us SO much in preparing and making decisions prior to the show. Here are some of the posts we found to be really valuable:














I also spent a lot of time combing through the Surtex photo galleries from past years trying to get a feel for how people set up their booths, even what to wear (by the way, at this year’s show it ran the gamut from jeans and tee shirts, to business professional, to custom printed ensembles–we even saw custom printed sneakers featuring an artist’s designs, which were so cool!)



If You’re Definitely Exhibiting…

*Watch the Surtex webinars. They put these presentations together to help first time exhibitors, and the pointers provided by the presenters definitely helped guide some of our decision making throughout our show preparations.


*Try to attend some of the presentations on “The Boulevard.” This was an area of the floor between Surtex and the National Stationery Show (which shared the lower level of the Javits Center with Surtex,) behind all of the booths, that was set aside for presentations by industry experts throughout the three days of the show. Michelle and I each went to two presentations and found them to be really informative and inspiring. It’s also nice to step out of the booth for half an hour and get a change of scenery to feel refreshed before returning to your booth. (This was definitely a benefit to having two of us manning the booth–if you are flying solo it might be more difficult to get away for that period of time.)



I hope this post was helpful and if you are a Textile Design Lab member be sure to tune in to our print show recap which Michelle and I will be hosting on Wednesday, June 20th at 11am EDT. (This webinar will be recorded for those who can’t make it!) We will be discussing our Surtex experience in greater detail, as well as Michelle’s experience attending the new Inception print show at Showtime last weekend. Hope you can make it!

Featured Designer: June Mineyama-Smithson of MAMIMU


It’s our pleasure to feature the striking work of MAMIMU, which was founded by June Mineyama-Smithson; Japanese entrepreneur, and award-winning graphic designer in London. Her work has been featured internationally in YCN (UK), SCMP (Hong Kong), Cow Parade Niseko (Japan) and on our blog wayyyyy back in 2013!

“I am an ardent believer that inspiration and moments of happiness can be found everywhere – and that beauty can be discovered in the most ordinary of places. Growing up in Tokyo in the late 70s was a time full of groovy patterns. I saw textures everywhere – my mother’s blouse, TV commercials, even my rice bowl. Patterns continually and profoundly influence the way I see the world.” says June Mineyama-Smithson, founder of MAMIMU.


The simple idea that inspiration is everywhere is a philosophy practiced for centuries by Japanese Kimono Shokunin who used everyday surroundings and distilled them into minimalistic patterns. MAMIMU brings this concept into a postmodern urban landscape, drawing inspiration from the things they see everyday.

The ‘City Tote’ collection reflects this philosophy, referencing manhole covers in Tokyo, London and New York, as inspiration for their bold graphic patterns. And combining them with considered functionality such as laptop pockets, document holders and water resistant linings, to create the perfect bag for the urban nomad.


“Our mission is to make urban people happy. So our goal is to expand our medium beyond tote bags to fashion, homeware and stationery. If you would like to collaborate please get in touch through our website www.mamimutokyo.com

New Design Challenge: Land, Air and Sea


One of my favorite events in the Textile Design Lab is our monthly Chelsea’s Challenge, which we share with the goal of helping our members grow their pattern portfolios. We provide a theme 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. Our members also benefit from feedback from their peers, bouncing ideas off one another on the forum and in our weekly live art critiques, cheering each other along through the process!

The theme for this month’s challenge, “Land, Air and Sea,” came about after Michelle and I exhibited at Surtex last month; we spoke with a number of brands from markets as varied as accessories, bedding, women’s apparel, quilting fabric, and classroom decor, all of whom were interested in seeing conversational patterns. Animal patterns were a particular standout in terms of what people were looking for, so I decided to bring that back for this month’s Chelsea’s Challenge and encourage Lab members to develop a pattern collection based around animals, birds, or sea creatures.

If you’re like me, your portfolio may be filled with abstract, geometric, and textural designs, but noticeably lacking in conversationals. This real-world subject matter and more illustrative style comes naturally to some designers and pushes others far out of their comfort zone, but no matter where you fall on this spectrum, it will enrich your portfolio to include some conversational critters in the mix.

Ready to give this challenge a shot? Join us in the Textile Design Lab to participate within a supportive environment and receive expert feedback throughout your design process. Once you are a member you will have access to tons of inspiring content, from in depth e-courses to guest expert trainings, an extensive resource guide and more. You’ll also have the opportunity to join our Print Studio Work Group, which will meet once a week for four weeks and will walk you step-by-step through the process of reaching out to print studios for representation. The work group kicks off next Monday, June 11th and is free to Textile Design Lab members. We look forward to working with you!

Featured Designer: Katy Welsh


The days have been busy – and exciting – at Pattern Observer, and as such, I have taken longer than usual to bring you our next featured designer post. Today, the wait is over, and it is my honor to introduce you all to the work of Katy Welsh.

What I love about Katy’s work is how it draws me in. There is a certain vibration and energetic feel to work that is so appealing to me. I find it keeps you on your toes, and that it is impossible to not desire continuous exploration of the patterns.

Katy studied at Leeds College of Art and received a degree in Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern. She was featured on Pattern Observer in her final year. Since that time, she has been working in the greeting card industry day-to-day, and fulfilling her other design dreams along the way. One, in particular, that brought her great joy was her work with a capsule collection with the British Museum, as well as designing the SS18 window display for Heals flagship store in London!

When asked about the work being highlighted in this post, Katy shared: “I’ve included a mixture of designs, a lot of them coming from my most recent collection, which was influenced by icons of the Greco-Roman period, especially sculpture and ceramics. I am influenced by many elements in my work – plants, fruit, and flowers, as staples – but I also find new inspirations as time passes by. At the moment, I am drawn to looking at interiors.”


Knowing the detail of Katy’s work inspired me with a natural next question. How do you go about your creative process? Katy said, “My work usually starts out as collage and then gets translated into repeat patterns using the wonder of Photoshop. I love to take things back into analogue and print my designs by hand using silkscreen whenever I can.

“But when it comes to the future… Someday, I would love to have my work made into a rug. I would also love to see some of my prints on clothes!”

In addition, a final bit of advice that Katy wanted to share with designers is something that has always worked to her favor: “Keep yourself filled up with inspiration and if you want to do something, you can be the master of your own destiny!”

Great advice, Katy! If you want to see more of Katy’s inspirational work, visit her website.

Follow Us

About Us

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.