Today it is our honor to feature the work of Isabel Serna of Black Lamb Studio. Isabel has lived an exciting life, filled with travel and new experiences. I believe these adventures are reflected in her stunning and energetic print and pattern designs.
Isabel is originally from Colombia, although she moved to Orlando, FL when she was 15 years old. She later studied industrial design at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and also studied French Literature and Art in La Sorbonne in Paris.
Isabel started her professional career as a luggage/travel accessory designer, where her favorite thing to do was design the patterns for the interior linings of products. Isabel shared: “I needed to feed my creativity more so I created my company ‘Black Lamb Studio’ and started working as a freelancer in graphic/industrial design until I left that career and decided to dedicate my time 100% to pattern design and illustration.”
“Everything I design starts with pen/pencil/ink/paint and paper. I usually have a color palette in mind that I want to use and that is inspiring me at the moment. The way I work, my scanner is my best friend! Most of my designs are inspired by my travels or something I see on my daily life. The ‘vintage tile’ design I created for Greetabl was inspired by a trip to Peru and the beautiful tile work I saw there. Some of the other designs were inspired by a recent trip to Stockholm.”
Isabel was kind enough to answer a few questions about the launch of her studio and how she is currently marketing her work and finding new clients.
Can you please tell us more about your decision to leave your full time job? How did you prepare for that transition?
My decision for leaving my full time job was difficult. Obviously finances were important to consider but I thankfully had my husband’s full support. Upon graduation from college I had started full-time employment within 2 weeks and it was not an easy transition for me. The truth is I was really unhappy. Even though the job itself was great, I felt very frustrated creatively. Even in a design position, working for a big company has LOTS of limitations, budgets, opinions, etc, and after 3 1/2 years I was bored and creatively dry.
During this time I had created my company so I could do freelance projects on the side. The problem was that as days and months passed by – and after sitting in front of a computer for 9 hours a day – it was unrealistic to go home and freelance. So I talked to my husband and a week later I was putting in my resignation letter.
I honestly wish I had more of a plan, but I didn’t. I just knew that I wanted to do something else and carve my own way with a little more creative freedom. I started doing branding for local businesses—logos, business cards, product consulting, etc. It was a bit better, but I was still not 100% inspired by what I was doing either. One day I just grabbed a brush and ink and started doodling, just to be free and creative and started making patterns. I could not stop and in that moment I knew…I felt it. I had finally found something that I could stick to, that I loved, and which was very fulfilling creatively.
Is there anything that you would have done differently? Do you have any recommendations for other designers who are considering leaving their full time jobs?
I would highly recommend someone considering doing this to start their Instagram page and get something rolling BEFORE you leave your full time job. I didn’t even have an Instagram account until 2 years later, because I didn’t realize how important one would be for the business. There is no way to determine the high value you have from sharing and creating a community of people interested in what you do.
My advice is to start posting your work, even if it’s not great and even if you don’t have amazing pictures. Post often and re-post the people who inspire you. Build a little network on Instagram—it’s a good strategy. I have to say that I’ve never found a more amazing, supporting, friendly, and inspiring community than the one on Instagram.
Are there particular markets or products that you have in mind when you create your patterns?
When I create my patterns, I feel like I’m always thinking about how the pattern would translate to stationery/paper goods and fabric.
How are you currently marketing your work and finding new clients?
As soon as you build a bit of a portfolio, do not hesitate to write emails and reach out to companies that you think would be interested in your patterns. Some companies never reply, others say that they are not interested at the moment, but every so often, a company will look at your work and like it! Actually, 100% of my clients have come from Instagram and me sending emails like this in the dark. After doing this exclusively some time (and I still do it), I also recently reached out to an art agent to help me find more clients and market my work.