Monday, May 21, 2012

Fabric Design - Trials & Tribulations


Butterfly Garden - fat quarter

Wowee Zowee! I can't believe it. I have wanted to design fabric or try my hand at other surface designs (wallpaper, giftwrap, etc.) but, I have been struggling with seamless repeats for patterns. My original art education did not include computers and that has been a learn-on-the-fly experience for me.
I have been aware of Spoonflower for about a year. They provide beautiful fabrics by fantastic independent designers and you can upload your own designs to be printed as well. The site includes designing tools and lots of friendly online and other assistance. Spoonflower sponsors weekly design contests and I thought that I would enter one about a year ago. (I have found that competitions are good for my productivity. The deadlines and parameters help me stay on track despite my natural ADD tendencies to fly off in a million directions.) Well, after numerous attempts to create a design and have it duplicate without looking like it was a creation from my tie-dye 60's I gave up in despair.
Still, I love beautiful fabrics and longed to create a design I liked. I periodically perused the fabulous designs and contests and voted for my favorites several times. Recently, I noticed a contest they were sponsoring in conjunction with Robert Kaufman fabrics. The contest, entitled Fabric8 had a theme of watercolor with pen and ink. My mind began to swirl with ideas.

Two years ago, I took my sister to Fredericksburg, TX so that we could see the abundant bluebonnet display that year. We drove along the reknown Willow City Loop outside of Fredericksburg to take in the wildflowers dotting the countryside and then went to the Wildseed Farm. At the Wildseed Farm, rows and rows of colorful poppies danced in the wind. We also went into the butterfly house where the beautiful butterflies perched everywhere - including on us. My sister was terminally ill with cancer and that was our last trip together.

I used reference photos that I had taken from that trip to create a loose watercolor painting of poppies and bluebonnets with a few other wildflowers and butterflies sprinkles about. I used a very fine pen to sketch in some of the flowers for added definition. Then, I scanned the painting into my computer and selected and rearranged parts for my final image. After that came the repeated online tutorials and experimenting and hours of attempts to arrive at one simple design. With a "no guts, no glory" attitude, I bravely stuck my little design in the contest.
A week or so later, I received an email telling me that my entry had made it to the top 100 out of the 750 or so entered in the contest. I was quite surprised and pleased. The next level was to narrow the entries to the Final 8. I was totally humbled and delighted to learn that my Butterfly Garden design had made it through! There were so many amazing designs and beautiful entries that had made me think, "I wish I could do THAT!" or "I LOVE that". I also know the despondency of having your entry rejected and wish I could give a hug to each of the entrants who were feeling that disappointment. My message to you, is "Don't Give Up!". Believe me, I've been there plenty of times.
For the next level of the contest, I must create 7 additional designs to coordinate with the original Butterfly Garden design. I am taking more tutorials and gettng a whole new on-the-fly education in this pattern and repeat stuff. It is taking hours and hours and the learning curve is steep, but I am determined. Even if my final results are less than spectacular, I will be learning techniques that I can apply to my future work. Besides, despite the hard work and cramped neck muscles, I have found I really love the combination of art and design.
For making it to the top 8, I have been rewarded with $150 in credit at Spoonflower. I received a test swatch of my fabric this weekend, and even though I designed it myself, I have to say- I Love it!
I will be posting a link for the final voting - which begins June 6 - and my coordinating designs in the near future. Wish me luck, please!
All the best, Linda

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