From the Textile Design Lab: Chelsea’s Challenge – “Earthed”

Chelsea’s Challenge is a monthly post series in the Textile Design Lab, in which we share design ideas and inspiration to help our students build pattern collections their portfolios. During the month of January our Chelsea’s Challenge focused on the Earthed trend and the results were phenomenal. See for yourself in this small sampling of the stunning collections created by our members:


Cynthia Jacquette


“My collection was inspired by Zion National Park and the amazing textures resulting from rock erosion. To capture this fractured, earthy feeling, I experimented with painting and layering watercolor washes. Using pencil, marker and watercolor, I did tons of little sketches of primitive lines and graphics which were then combined and layered with the washes in Photoshop. I designed this collection with the women’s activewear market in mind, appealing to a customer who loves nature and the outdoors.”




Robin Fernstrom

Into-The-Woods-PO-“My Into The Woods collection was inspired by the idea of sitting on the forest floor and taking in the sensory splendor of early autumn. I referenced micro views of mushrooms, lichen, tree bark, pinecones and animal fur. The patterns were hand drawn on a tablet in Adobe Illustrator and designed with the home decor market in mind.”




Jenny Bova

Bova Creative Jenny Bova for Pattern Observer

“These designs were intended for the apparel/activewear market and were inspired by the natural patterns created by mother nature. My design process always starts with sketching and watercolor, and sometimes block prints. I then manipulate the motifs in Photoshop to create the desired effect, which includes creating some custom Photoshop brushes made from sketches. I love layered, full prints and usually find a way to incorporate multiple elements to get the result desired by the client.”



Heather Winterling Ota


“Inspiration for my forest collection came from the rain, moss, lichen, and trees of the Pacific Northwest. I used ink and watercolor sketches to create textures then further manipulated the images with photography layers in Photoshop and Illustrator. The lichen pattern in the upper left corner, for example, was created with watercolor then simplified and recolored in Illustrator. This collection reminds me of the rich, earthy colors and textures of the Northwest forests.”

Fine Art Website: or


Hélène van der Laag


“As the Earthed theme came along I immediately thought about the pictures I took last fall of all kinds of bark. They were the base of the textures you see in the diagonal design and the tiled design. The other two are inspired by bark of the Eucalyptus tree and my moneymaker [main print] is all about annual rings of trees.

I love to work with watercolor and that’s what I used for the Eucalyptus design. The annual rings were drawn with pen and ink. Then I scanned my designs and image traced them in Illustrator. And finally I recolored them.

My star customer shops at Didi Fashion in the Netherlands. This brand has my name written all over it. I love the bold colors and the patterns they use. This collection is a part of a portfolio I’m going to send to Didi for a job application next week.”




Jere Brooks


“For the Earthed challenge I was inspired by raw crystal formations and the folds and structures of the earth’s crust, both monumental and microscopic. I sketched the basic motifs in ink then scanned and traced them in Illustrator, adding textures created in Photoshop. This collection, Raw Earth, is aimed at the activewear/athleisure market.”

Web site coming soon @



Feeling inspired? We have over 80 challenges now available in the Textile Design Lab, with a new one released each month. Join us to participate and build your portfolio!

You can also check out more student responses to this challenge and others on our Chelsea’s Challenge Pinterest board.

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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