Interview with Shyanne Clarke, Guest Expert for June in the Textile Design Lab

This is me at Kukukachu Print StudioShyanne Clarke is an Australian textile designer who runs Print Sea, and creates “print ready, on trend designs, using watercolour, illustration, ink, photography + digital/graphic design.” Please enjoy this interview in which Shyanne discusses her design process, the role trends play in her work, how she landed her first client in the swimwear industry, and more. Then check out her exclusive Textile Design Lab training on creating a multimedia print for women’s fashion.


Tell us about your design background and career path. How did you become interested in textile design and what drew you to the swimwear market in particular?

I’ve always loved art and I have drawn from a very young age. When I left school, I was sending my artwork to Billabong because I wanted to design placement prints for them. I had no computer experience and thought that the internet wasn’t going to catch on so I didn’t learn how to use one, as you could imagine I was unsuccessful. I was actually in banking and owned an online baby business when I met my mentor Alana Gunn at a charity ball and we got chatting. She was just about to open her own print studio (Kukukachu Print Studio) and I asked if she would teach me how to design textile prints. I didn’t actually know this was a profession until then and it just clicked, no wonder I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t even know about it. I’m drawn to the swimwear market more specifically because I am such a beachy person, it comes through in my artwork, so I naturally drew attention from swimwear labels.


Dail Design Print Salt Active Wear

Could you talk a bit about the different avenues you currently pursue in your business? What is a typical day like for you on the job?

The majority of my work is custom prints for clients, particularly start up swimwear labels. I also get sent mood boards every 6 weeks to design on a freelance basis for Kukukachu Print Studio. I have a white board with jobs and their due dates in my home studio and I structure my schedule to what’s due first. I have two kids under 4, so most of my work time is organised around them, its hectic but I love it. They go to Kindy Thursdays and Fridays, so these are my appointment days and when I meet with clients in person or via Skype.



What do you feel is the hardest step in creating a successful print? 

Creating a repeat that flows and a balanced colourway, I find is the hardest part in creating a print that makes people look twice. When you can get this right, you’ve created something amazing. Pattern Observer’s Ultimate Guide to Repeats course is fantastic, I recommend everyone doing it, no matter what level you are with textile designing, its perfect for creating statement prints.


image2Tell us a bit about your design process. What media/design tools do you like to use?

I really like to do mixed media prints. I am still such a paper person so I tend to draw most of my work free hand first in a visual art diary. I am slowly bringing this process over to drawing directly with a Wacom tablet but I still find pencil to paper the most natural. I love digital as a complementary, I just love how something as simple as a flower drawn on paper can be chopped/cropped/colour blocked and made into a completely different piece on the computer. My prints are predominately done digitally in Photoshop CS6, I very rarely use another program. My art supplies are Staedtler pencils and pens, Windsor and Newton inks, I love the colours of cheap water colours (like what kids use, from a department store), but they aren’t long lasting so don’t use them for a piece of art to be hung on the wall. With brushes though, get the most expensive you can afford in lots of sizes, this is when expensive is best.


Where do you gather inspiration for your work? Are there any books, blogs, magazines, etc. that you recommend?

I really do get inspiration from anywhere. I can open the fridge for a drink and something just flashes in my mind of what I could design next. Then I get that drink and get designing. I get a lot of inspiration from nature, I love all the colours and how clever nature works with itself to create a great composition. Florals are my favourite prints to design so I collect lots of gardening style books from charity stores, 2nd hand books shops and markets, because they have great images in them of all types of flowers. This helps me to then search for them by name on Pinterest… I don’t know what I would do without Pinterest. I love it.


Sets Of Seven bikini SS16What role do trends play in your work? Do you subscribe to any trend or color forecasting services and if so, how does this affect the way you design? What are your current favorite print and pattern trends?

I’m fortunate enough to freelance for Kukukachu Print Studio and the beautiful creative director keeps me up to date with all the style and colour forecasts. If you aren’t as lucky, following the runway shows and designer labels are a good indication of what’s coming. Following other designers, print studios, fashion blogs are all helpful too, they will help you to see trends differently so you can learn how to make your style work with trends. Again Pinterest is great for finding images and putting them all together for reference. I mostly design to trends as it’s the nature of the business but I do like to go off trend too. I’ve noticed over time though, that I naturally design to trends from everything I see. My favourite trend for the coming season is prints with Diamonds incorporated.


Who are your design heroes? What about them inspires you or influences your work?

I will forever be grateful to Alana @_kukukachu_ for taking the time to teach me how to design for textiles. I always love the repeats she creates and it pushes me to be better as a designer. Other designers I love are Sharnee Thorpe @sharneethorpe + Gabriella Laruccia @gabilaruccia


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

Getting creative block is probably the biggest challenge, especially when I have lots of work on, a short deadline and I’m not taking time out. I always find though, that if I just go have a cup of tea, play with my kids, go for a run or sit outside and read a book it really helps to de-stress and get back on track – cleaning helps too, I get foggy when there is too much clutter, clearing some space helps. If that doesn’t work, I stop procrastinating and just start, get all the crap ideas out on paper and then the good stuff starts to flow.


artwork of first print i sold to Sets of Seven copy

Over the course of your career, what actions or decisions have made the biggest impact on your design business?

I’m never afraid to ask to work with or for someone. My first custom print I sold was for then start up swimwear label Sets Of Seven (seen above.) I came across their page on Instagram, sent an email to see if they would be willing to work with a beginner for a reduced rate. I’ve designed every print in their collection since. From this one decision I have never had to advertise, work just followed from seeing my designs on that swimwear from then on.


image1Do you have any words of advice for aspiring designers trying to make their way in the textile industry?

Just keep getting better.  Try different styles and ways of doing things. When you think your print is finished, save it, and then try different filters, techniques and images to push outside your comfort zone, this will make your designs different and stand out from the crowd. Practice, Practice, Practice. It took me 18 months of practicing every day before I was designer ready. Don’t be disheartened if your designs don’t sell straight away, you’re good, you just need to get better. Don’t get complacent either if your designs are selling, always push to make yourself better as a designer, then you won’t lose that rush when you create something amazing. If you can, get a mentor from someone better than you in the industry. Work for free. Be proactive and ask for work. Don’t be afraid to take the next step. You are always learning, there is never a perfect time to start. Give more than people expect, be nice, help others and collaborate with others.


See more from Shyanne at or visit her on InstagramTumblr, Pinterest or Facebook.


Become a Textile Design Lab member to gain access to Shyanne’s full training on creating a multimedia print for women’s fashion, in addition to all of our past guest expert tutorials and the other wonderful e-courses and features of the Lab. Read more about what’s included in our updated curriculum guide.




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

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