Stephanie Ryan creates art that touches the heart and inspires the creative spirit. Her soothing, soulful, intuitive paintings are inspired by nature and the feelings that bind her to it, creating an introspective mood that connects the viewer with her art.
We were so excited to bring Stephanie’s wealth of experience to the Textile Design Lab guest expert role in July of 2019. In her presentation Stephanie shared how to “take the elements that make you unique and turn them into your own one-of-a-kind brand that is authentically true to you.” We invite you to learn more about Stephanie in today’s interview!
Tell us a bit about your design background and career path. How did you become interested in surface pattern design and licensing your work?
My story began way back when I first attended college. I was 19 and it was 1989. Lol… don’t do the math. This was before Photoshop! I remember that there were only a couple of computers at school and no one was really using them. I took classes for a year and a half and had to drop out because I couldn’t afford it. I found a job at a doll manufacturing company as a doll maker and had no idea how much this job was going to influence my creative work. I worked there for 11 years and was promoted several times and had many responsibilities. I was a dollmaker, production manager, buyer, inventory manager and a designer. The two things I loved the most were designer and buyer. I learned how to manufacture products, source goods domestically and internationally, and attended trade shows like the New York Gift Show which is now NYNOW. I was also introduced to licensing there. Through this training I found a passion for product design. In 2001, the building and business caught on fire and was destroyed. I was faced with the fact that I needed to start over and had no idea what to do, so at 31 I went back to college. I attended Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia and was a graphic design major. I loved graphic design, but felt like something was missing. I changed my major several times from graphic design to Illustration to textile design and back to graphic design. I felt like they were all lacking in something and couldn’t figure out what to do.
I was presented with the opportunity to intern at Lenox, a leading tabletop company and things started to align for me. I was very persistent as an intern and convinced the VP of Concept and Development at the time to give me a chance at designing a dinnerware collection. She eventually gave me a chance and my first design made it onto product and I became obsessed with surface design. My internship turned into a part time position as a production artist and at the same time I was still in school in my senior year as a graphic design major. It was time for my senior show and as all of the graphic design majors were working on their logo’s and branding projects while I was creating my own brand of products for the show. This was before I started painting and I worked in Illustrator and created graphic icons and patterns for surface design. I also created pillows and had a few different dinnerware patterns that I designed for Lenox and Dansk there as well. Looking back on it, I was practicing for creating my Surtex booth! At that moment, I could see my path as a surface and product designer. I eventually was offered a position at Lenox as a senior concept designer. My story twists and turns a bit from there. I started a stationery business that never really launched, but it brought me to Surtex a few years before I started licensing my work. I also worked as a brand designer for Kathy Davis Studios and learned more about licensing and the greeting card industry there.
I left Kathy Davis to start my own business. I took on freelance work to pay the bills and started licensing my work. Everything changed after that. I will get into this more during the presentation.
What are you jazzed about right now? What’s inspiring your process?
I have some fun things going on at the moment. I am in the middle of moving my studio to a cute little historic town. I’m really excited about getting involved with the art community and teaching workshops there. I recently started teaching intuitive painting workshops and am loving it. The workshops are combining my process for intuitive painting and my love for energy healing work, crystals and sound healing. I like to tell my students that it’s not just a painting workshop, it’s an experience. My work is evolving to include more subjects beyond florals. I am creating intuitive symbols for an oracle deck, altar art, moon phases and prayer flags. I am feeling very aligned with this work and love that I am pushing myself to a new level with my art. This last year has been a huge year of growth for my art and brand.
I have been so intrigued by the use of crystals in your work. Can you tell us more about this process and their importance to your work?
I have always loved crystals and have used them in my healing work for years. Crystals can be used to maintain a healthy energetic space within your body as well as your creative work space. Crystals can connect with your body’s subtle energies and help align your energy and balance your chakras for an optimal level to heal and create from. They can also absorb negative energy, relieve tension, focus your attention and protect your energy field. It is important to surround myself with them because I know how they positively affect my energy and the energy of the room. One of the things I love to do is put obsidian in my painting water to remove any negative energy and positively charge the water.
What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you?
I think the thing that I have always strived for is to have a strong and unique brand presence. This was something I have heard repeatedly from teachers, mentors, clients and my agents.
Can you give us a quick preview into the presentation you shared with the Textile Design Lab community? What can people expect to learn?
My presentation is about using your life experiences and story to develop a style and brand that is authentically you. I will be sharing my story and the process I used to grow and evolve my brand into something that resonates so deeply with who I am. I can’t begin to express how important this journey has been for me and how aligned I feel with my art now. I know this is something a lot of artists struggle with. I will be sharing the transformation of my style for you to see how this process worked for me.
You can learn more about Stephanie on her website. TDL members, you can find this presentation in our tutorial archives.