Found Patterns: Rain

Rainy days might seem dreary, but to look at them through the lense of pattern design is one way I’ve come to appreciate less than ideal weather. From droplets on a car window to the tiny ripples in a puddle, rain creates an abundance of natural textures that can serve as inspiration for a pattern. The next time it rains, grab your camera or your sketchbook and see what interesting shapes and patterns can be found in the drizzle!


Images via: (clockwise from top left)   “Raindrops, Mammoth Hot Springs” by Yellowstone National Park “Rain” by Jim Champion (cropped from original),  “Rain makes circles” by tanakawho “rain” by Vikramdeep Sidhu (cropped from original),  “rain on doorstep” by andres musta “Rain” by Matthias Ripp “raining” by nathan esguerra “Eső előtt, eső után” by Roland Molnár 

Welcoming Lise Gulassa and MaryJane Mitchell to the Textile Design Lab Team

We are thrilled to announce that designers Lise Gulassa and MaryJane Mitchell have joined our Textile Design Lab team of industry experts! Each of these remarkable ladies checks our private TDL forum twice a week and responds to industry questions, giving feedback on artwork and supporting our members as they continue to grow and master the textile design industry.

Textile Design Lab welcomes Lise Gulassa

Lise Gulassa is one half of the creative duo behind Sisters Gulassa, an international design house that produces art, patterns, products, and trend forecasting. Throughout her career she has been head designer for a number of clothing designers, including Levi Strauss & Co., and instructor for the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

Lise has been the guest expert for our Women’s Activewear workshops and has worked with countless activewear brands including Athleta, The North Face, Timberland UK and Title Nine.

You can read more about Lise in this inspiring Pattern Observer interview.


Textile Design Lab welcomes Mary Jane Mitchell

MaryJane Mitchell has been designing textiles for the babies and children’s markets for over 25 years. She has a wealth of experience designing for home decor products for kids, apparel, the quilt market and sleepwear.

MaryJane was the guest expert in June 2016 in the Textile Design Lab, where she provided an in-depth training on designing nursery and children’s textile collections for the quilting industry. This training is available exclusively to Lab members and can be accessed by joining the Lab here.

You can learn more about MaryJane in this informative Pattern Observer interview.

We are so honored to have Lise and MaryJane on our team and hope you will join us in giving them a warm welcome into our Pattern Observer community!


Featured Designer: Isabel Serna


Isabel Serna for Black Lamb Studio

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 Serna for Black Lamb Studio

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.


Isabel Serna for Black Lamb Studio

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.


Black Lamb Studio

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.

You can see more of Isabel’s beautiful work at her website:



A New Activewear Challenge in the Textile Design Lab

Softened Travels_RF

Each month in the Textile Design Lab we post a Chelsea’s Challenge with the goal of helping our members build their pattern portfolios. We provide a trend 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. From work created in these challenges our members have gone on to land agents, freelance clients, and licensing deals, but what’s more is the feeling of community and camaraderie created as students work through the challenges together, providing feedback on each others’ work, bouncing ideas off one another, and cheering each other along through the process. Call me biased, but it really is a sight to see!

Most often with this design challenge we invite participants to develop a pattern collection geared toward any market of their choosing, but every so often we like to switch things up and focus on a particular market. This month we are so excited to delve into the activewear market for the Spring/Summer ’19 season with our new “Activate” challenge! In the Lab we offer three trend boards which include recommended Pantone colors and inspiring imagery to help get the creative juices flowing. This month’s boards explore

  • the juxtaposition between natural and urban environments
  • a twist on classic “sporty” patterns
  • and a soft nature-inspired theme that is well suited to yoga wear and athleisure brands

Sound interesting? Head over to the Textile Design Lab and join us to participate and build your portfolio…the deadline to complete the Activate challenge is Monday, August 7th!


Featured Designer: Cyrille Thonon


Examples of Cyrille’s Thonon’s work

Today we have the pleasure of featuring the work of Cyrille Thonon, a talented designer who creates original prints and patterns for clients, as well as her own brand. This is what Cyrille says about her evolving passions for design: “My designs are mostly inspired by the simple shapes in nature, graphic design (especially from old school comics) and geometric repeats in architecture. But lately I’m getting more and more interested in old crafts and techniques which also inspire me a lot.”

Cyrille got her start in the industry by studying fashion design in Utrecht, the Netherlands. During this time she discovered her love for textile and pattern design. To pursue this further she decided to pack her bags and move to Melbourne, Australia, for a year and a half to do a textile course at RMIT University. After graduating she returned to Holland and started working as a graphic designer and content manager for a fashion webshop, and later as a print designer for a fashion company. While this was wonderful work, her urge to travel and explore wasn’t gone so Cyrille decided to take the leap, quit her job, and start ODDstyles while traveling in Central America.


Cyrille’s studio and the home of her Oddstyles brand

Cyrille was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her client work and making the leap into a freelance career:

Can you tell us more about your client work?

Usually, the work I do for clients is more applicable and less extreme than what is featured on my website. On my website, I offer my own collection of exclusive allover pattern designs which are usually the results of the creativity I couldn’t put to use in my work for clients. When I work for clients, I work very structural and more commercial, with a clear goal in mind and in a tight timeframe. On the other hand, when I’m creating a design for my own collection, time and the level of applicability is of less concern, which makes it easier in one way. Yet, it also becomes harder because there are no frames. I love the combination of more commercial versus more creative work and it inspires me very much. This way of working helps me to develop my skills at a higher level and it gives me the time to try out new techniques which I can put to practice immediately—if they work ;).

What does a typical day look like for you? Do you spend most of your time designing patterns to sell or working with clients?

My typical workday differs a lot. It really depends on the work I’m doing. I try to design at least three days a week at my studio, either for a client or for my collection. One day is my “extra day” for last minute assignments, administration, visiting clients, business fairs, attending workshops, meeting inspirational people for coffee, and many other things.

The 5th day is now reserved for a new textile design project called ODDtextiles. With this project I want to showcase the beauty of old textile crafts in modern handmade products. This project is just in the very early stages but damn, I’m already so excited!


How did you land your first freelance client? Do you have any advice for designers who are just getting started?

My first freelance client was actually an old employer of mine. I wasn’t even up and running but he knew I was capable of doing the job and so I helped out during the busy collection period. It was a great start for my insecure – yet exciting – freelance career at a place I already knew very well. Not long after I got a job offer through LinkedIn, which I kindly refused but it did result in my second freelance job.

Through this process I learned that it is important to showcase your knowledge and work on a website such as LinkedIn. Writing tutorials and letting people know what you’re working on in a casual and personal way; just stay true to yourself and don’t try to “market” yourself too much. Just have fun! Oh, and don’t forget to reach out to that old employer/colleague/creative friend to let them know you’re now out there doing amazing print designs as a freelancer.

How are you currently marketing your work and finding new clients?

Currently, I still give people a sneak peek of what I’m working on through LinkedIn. And I still write tutorials to showcase and share my knowledge through LinkedIn Pulse and my own website. Of course I have an Instagram and Facebook account, although to be very honest, I’m probably not the best at social media. I like a more personal approach. So whenever I come across a brand which I love (which is actually very often), I just call them or send them a message to tell them that I would love to help them out whenever they need a print design. I approach them in a very casual and enthusiastic way and let my work speak for itself. No marketing tricks or special sales tactics—just a personal message to the right person. As for textile design fairs, I haven’t showcased my work at one yet, but I’m considering it for 2018. But for now, I like to keep things personal ☺!

You can learn more about Cyrille at her website,


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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.