Quite literally on Cloud9

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It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so happy to finally announce my fabric line with Cloud9 Fabrics!! Do you know how hard it’s been to hold these cards close to my chest and keep it on the down low? VERY. But the collection debuted at Quilt Market this past weekend, and so I can make it official. Big yay!

I’ve been dreaming of having a fabric line, and have admired Cloud9 Fabrics for a long time. I had my heart set on working with them, they sat at the top of my list of ‘dream clients’ and so when we signed on to work together I was over the moon! Like my face hurt from smiling so much. Their fabrics feature artists like Lisa Congdon, Eloise Renouf, Heather Moore of Skinny Laminx, Rae Hoestra, the very talented Creative Director of Cloud9 herself, Michelle Engel Bencsko… and so many more! So I’m totally stoked to be included in such an incredible group of artists.

For now, here’s the little emblem for the collection which is called Grey Abbey, and is named after a small town in Ireland, close to where my mum grew up. Ireland holds a very special place in my heart, and many of my patterns are based on the antiques that my grandmother has in her beautiful home there. So I thought the title quite fitting. The collection features a really nice mix of tossed and structured florals with some vintage flare, in two colour ways, and I can’t wait to show you… soon! The collection will be hitting the market in early 2014 — stay tuned for more updates!

As always, thank you all for the support, it’s so very appreciated!

Southern Charmers :: A client visit in the Carolinas

Recently, I was invited to Rock Hill, South Carolina by a new client that I met at Surtex. I was really excited to go because when I met the folks from Springs Creative they were the warmest, loveliest people, so I knew I would be in good company. When they told me that I would be staying at the ‘Homestead’ I was really curious, and I felt like I was about to embark on a Southern adventure.

They also invited another artist who I had the great pleasure of getting to know — the fabulous, incredibly talented and charming Jennifer Paganelli of Sis Boom. Her eye for colour and pattern is awe-inspiring, she has truly built a name for herself and she was great company!

The Homestead was incredible, and when I saw my room, I felt like a princess. The former family home of the company founders, the Homestead is now a guest house, and I’ve never stayed anywhere like it. It was like staying in a museum, in fact, they actually have a curator on staff. In this case, I think pictures will speak louder than words (below).

Springs has a long history in the fabric industry, and they work in the former cotton factory which has been converted into offices, which are beautiful and so inspiring and house an incredible archive library that was better than any textile museum I’ve visited, with thousands upon thousands of textiles, well-preserved by their amazing designers Suree and Len. You could ask Len for any kind of obscure art or style, and he could take you to exactly where to find it in a matter of seconds. I was like a kid in a candy store. They have a huuuuge selection of fabrics from the 20th century but also some gems from as far back as 1246!! I could have spent days here. See just a small sampling of some of my favourites, below.

As for what the trip was all about, I can’t say much about it but can offer up a hint: it involves the world of quilting. We were meeting with buyers from a really amazing retail store in the US, and Springs put on a fabulous presentation of our art and made us feel so welcome. (I was so thrilled when I saw that they’d actually taken a cake pattern that I’d designed and had a baker bake a cake based on the design!) The whole thing was a success, and that’s all I can say for now… I swear, the hardest part of licensing is keeping quiet about things that I’m super excited about!!

On the way to the airport on the final day, we stopped the car over for a moment to look at a nice building, and not a second later a man pops up at the side of the car, with a head full of white hair and wearing a full seersucker suit and asks in a true southern drawl “excuse me, ma’am, do y’all need any help?”. Talk about a Southern gentleman. Coming from a bustling city where disrupting the flow of traffic for more than a few seconds would warrant a long honk or the hurling of insults, it was the perfect end to a wonderful trip. A big, gigantic thank you to the lovely, lovely Susan and all the staff at Springs Creative. It was an unforgettable trip. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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Work/Life 3!

I’m thrilled to be included in Uppercase magazine’s Work/Life 3 illustration annual, which is out now! I’m a big fan of Uppercase and if you’re an artist / designer / creative / maker type, then you’ll love it too. I saw last year’s issue and thought it was fabulous, so I applied for this edition and was so happy to be included. Artists are interviewed and are then given a brief based on that — for me, my brief was to use my love of baking to create a new series called ‘Home Sweet Home’. And the images below are what I came up with. I don’t get to bake as often as I’d like these days, but it’s a real passion of mine. And I love all the beautiful ingredients and tools and vessels you get to work with.

Always a good exercise to work to a brief. Up until a few months ago, my work was all self-directed. But more and more, I’m getting brief-based work and it really forces you to shake things up and push yourself past your comfort zone! I’m happy with how these turned out, and you’ll see one of them on greeting cards for Madison Park Greetings one day soon!

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Resurfacing (a personal note about getting stuck in a creative rut)

This summer was an incredible time for me for new opportunities —  I could see my business growing and it was amazing and thrilling and fulfilling. I had been so busy working on brief-based assignments that I hadn’t had a lot of time for self-directed work. And to be clear, I am 100% aware of what an amazing problem to have. It’s kind of insane.

So I hadn’t been finding a whole lot of time to just play around and doodle and assemble patterns purely for fun, for myself, self-directed. After finishing up a few projects, I was super excited to dive in and just let the ideas pour out of me. For the past year, I’ve had my head down developing new work morning, noon and night in preparation for Surtex — I’ve been in such a groove. So I sat down and put pen to paper and… nothing. I tried to employ a few of my tricks to kickstart things. (Walk away and come back with fresh eyes. Get away from the computer. Look at other work that inspires me. Go buy some flowers. Change my scenery.) But nothing was working, and I was getting increasingly frustrated with myself.

After having some successes (small to some, huge to me), I now realize that I had really started to psych myself out. I started to think maybe that was all just a fluke. Maybe I was just channeling some limited-time-only creative kick and now my window is over. Maybe I’m a one-trick pony. It was really getting in my head. Ultimately what happened was that I had to try and turn my inner business lady off and realize why I’m doing what I’m doing. It may seem silly to some, but I absolutely love patterns. I am passionate about them and have been my whole life and when I discovered that I loved creating them myself, it was like a light was turned on inside me. After throwing myself into the business side of things, I was getting distracted from the thing that mattered the most — I needed to stop thinking about the future, about success, about what my next moves are, and remember that this is just what I love to do.

The other important lesson that I learned is that creativity is a fire that must be stoked. If you keep it up, keep the coals hot, you can hop back in and start one up so easily. But if you neglect it and let it go out, it’s a whole lot more work to get back to where you were. So keep those fires stoked! And I hope you enjoy my newest collection (more coming soon!). Thanks for reading!

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To share or not to share

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve done a post… I haven’t been sharing a whole lot lately, for a few reasons. First, I’m happy to report that I have been swamped with amazing projects (if you had told me that I would be paying my rent with patterns a year ago, or even a few months ago, I never would have believed it, so I’m thrilled). Most of this work has been commission-based, and the type of work that I have to hold close until it’s in the market, so no sharing allowed. And secondly, I’ve been trying to figure out my stance on sharing since Surtex.

When I was at Surtex, a dream client came to my booth and was interested in one of my patterns, for the kind of product that made me want to jump up and down, and they even followed-up after the show with a contract. I was ecstatic. But after reading through the contract, I noticed a clause stating that the artwork could never have entered the public forum. My stomach dropped when I realized that I’d used the image for self-promotion for Surtex, and in the end, we couldn’t move ahead with that pattern, which was a huge bummer. The good news is that the door stayed open, and I worked on a commission for them in the end (more on that when the time comes)!

But this brought up an issue I had only considered in passing: whether to share, or not to share, new work. It’s a tricky one. As someone that’s relatively new to this industry, my whole goal for the past year has been to get exposure, to get my work out into the world, to get my name out there. I wanted people to know what I would be showing at Surtex, so I had to promote my work. I’ve had a few emails from other designers asking my opinion on this too… whether a manufacturer is less likely to license artwork if it’s been ‘seen’ before. And after much consideration, all I can really say is that there is no firm answer. Of course, you should never show work that is being commissioned, but for new work that’s available for licensing, how is the world going to know it’s there if you can’t show it? How is the world going to know about you if you can’t put yourself out there?

So, after all of this, I’ve decided that for the time being, I’m going to continue to promote and share my work, but perhaps just a little less than before. For that one lost opportunity, I’ve gained many more by having my work online. What are your thoughts on sharing work?

With this, I will leave you with a few new pieces that I’ve been working on lately that I’m at liberty to share, and know that I will have more exciting things to share in the months ahead! Thanks for reading!
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Beautiful design for beautiful babes

Beautiful news — I have once again collaborated with Dioton, a stationery company in France focusing on personalized invitations and birth announcements, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. They have such a beautiful way of pairing type and image. Check out the new designs, available on their website!

And if you didn’t catch our first collaboration, check out the post here!

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Surtex 2013 :: Again, please!

I’m both incredibly happy and incredibly sad to say that my first Surtex has drawn to a close. I’m happy because so much good came from it… and sad because I wish I could go back and do it all again! During the planning for the show, I experienced a strange brew of emotions… joyful nervousness; confidence with a side of doubt; and an anticipated blend of hope and fear. But after all is said and done, if I had to choose one word to describe the experience, it would be a big. fat. YAY!

Go big or go home
When I decided to do Surtex, I tried to gather as much information as I possibly could. I read blogs, bought e-books (thank you, Tara Reed!), listened in on Surtex’s amazing webinars (again, thank you Tara Reed), spent way too many hours on Linkedin, and then put all of that information through a filter and started to design my whole presentation. My career has been in graphic design up to this point, which helped… I’ve spent years designing brands and presentations for other businesses, so it was such a rewarding experience to put that kind of effort into my own. I did things I’d never done before… I designed a trade booth, a press kit, a promo video. I got fabrics printed, I made a look book, I put ads in publications. I decided that if I was going to do it, I had to dive in head first. When we were all set up, it was thrilling to see the final package.

So maybe it’s okay to obsess?
I can’t tell you how many nights I lay awake in bed worrying that I was going to forget something. I had been building an epic checklist for months and felt like a total weirdo. But during set-up, I felt like a magician pulling rabbits out of my hat. Do you have any safety pins? (Of course!). How about scissors? (Two sets). Tape? (Do you want duct, scotch or double-sided?) I fully nerded out. I also kinda put myself through the ringer… I was pretty hard on myself, and never let myself believe that I was working enough — but I didn’t want to get to Surtex and feel like I could have done more. So even though I drove myself crazy some days, I can say that I gave it my all, and I’m really glad that I did. It was worth it.

Linkedin Lover
So as it turns out… I kinda love LinkedIn. I went for the networking opportunities with new companies, but I stayed for the group forums. The Art of Licensing group is amazing, and the Surtex first-time exhibitors group was so helpful. Those groups saved me in so many ways, it’s invaluable to have a forum to ask questions and actually have people respond to you, and nice to have people to share in the little adventure.

It’s so nice to have friends to share it with
I was so lucky to have two of my best friends come with me to New York and to have such strong support units by my side — for practical things like helping me set everything up, impeccably wrap gift boxes, create beautiful flower arrangements, give me a break so I could eat lunch and save me when things got hairy. But more importantly, to be my wing-ladies and share the experience with. It was so much richer being surrounded by people who wanted me to succeed and would share what felt like mini-triumphs with me. And to have some NYC fun with after the days were done. X’s and O’s to Moira and Sam!

And nice to meet new friends too
I met so many warm, lovely, giving people and left with a full heart. I met tons of friendly fellow exhibitors, and some of my design crushes that are as lovely as they are talented, like Helen Dardik, Lilla Rogers, Tracy Walker, Alanna Cavanagh, and the other nice people from i2i art, Dinara Mirtalipova, Paper & ClothRebecca Bischoff, Hannah Rampley, Rachel Gresham and too many others to name. And I met a ton of new companies that were so down-to-earth and receptive to my work — I was ready to crack out some armour to protect my feelings, but was so happy that I didn’t need it.

Overall, it was a thrilling experience and I’m so glad I took the leap, and would love to do it again. And fingers crossed for some exciting things ahead! A special shout-out to those of you who stopped by my booth to say hello!! It was so nice to meet you guys.
Photos by Samantha Coulombe, who in addition to taking these beautiful photos is an incredibly talented Interior Designer. Click to see them larger!

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How many sleeps till Surtex?

The answer is 13. THIRTEEN SLEEPS! It’s been a while since I’ve written a post — forgive me — but I’ve been completely absorbed in my Surtex preparations and all of the many facets of it, and I’m so excited for the show. What an adventure! One thing that I’ve noticed about myself as I grow older, is that I’m way more organized than my mind would lead me to believe. Since I registered for the show, my mind has been a constant flurry of new pattern ideas, obsessive worries about not doing enough or working hard enough, daydreams, budget planning concerns, logistics coordination and the seemingly endless list of to-dos that must be done for the show. At points my nerves were just frazzled, and there were points when my mind had trouble entering a state of calm. It really required a lot of juggling, but looking back, with the show within reach, I can’t believe how many to-dos I’ve crossed off my list and I guess I surprised myself. While I often felt like I was in a state of chaos, I was moving forward every day and I think I’ve realized that I just might be good at this business thing after all. I can’t help but feel like planning a wedding would be a piece of cake after this boot camp. With less than two weeks to go till the show, I’m certainly filled with all sorts of emotions but if I had to select a single phrase that would capture how I’m feeling right now it would be this: BRING IT.

I’ve had some amazing support along the way, the help of my amazing friends and tons of you lovely folks cheering me along from the internet sidelines. And I’m thrilled that two of my very best friends are coming to New York with me, so I know I’ll have a good support network when I inevitably have doubts creep into my mind when I see all of the beautiful artwork unveiled by other super talented exhibitors. But everyone has something different to offer, and I’ve been so pleased to find that this community is so supportive, friendly and encouraging.

I shouldn’t have waiting so long to write a post — I feel like I could write a novel — but for now I’ll leave you with some of the patterns I’ve been working on for Surtex. And any help in getting the word out is so very, very welcome and appreciated. Thanks everyone. Cross your fingers for me!

 

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Great Surtexpectations

HELLO! I hope that spring is springing wherever you are and that you’re starting to feel yourself coming back to life after a long grey winter. I’ve been busy busy prepping for Surtex, which is only — gasp — 65 days away!! It’s going to be here in no time. Preparing for Surtex has really been one of the most fun projects I’ve ever been able to work on. I’ve been putting in a lot of hours but it just doesn’t feel like work because I love love love what I’m doing and I have big hopes and currently, an abundant amount of optimism, and that’s all very motivating. I feel like I’ve made it to the final of Project Runway and I’m putting together my collection… except that I will be competing for business with hundreds of other folks, but let’s focus on the positive, shall we?

After weeks of obsessing about my booth, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on the design and I’m super happy with it. I toyed with a ton of concepts, designs, themes… but in the end, I settled on something that puts my patterns first and I feel will immediately tell people what I do. And hopefully lure them in to see the rest of my work.

Getting ready for Surtex is a multi-faceted task and there will never ever be enough time to do everything I want to do, but I’m making progress. It’s a balancing act between developing new work (patterns!), planning the presentation (booth design! samples! product mockups! postcard giveaways!) and getting people interested (press kits! researching buyers! marketing! tweets! spending way too much time on linkedin! sending emails! following up! putting yourself out there!) which I think is the hardest part. But what’s the point of planning beautifully if nobody knows about it? Luckily I’ve had some really amazing folks in my corner helping me work through things. If you’re reading this, you know who you are and I’m soooo thankful!

I’ve got some new collections in the works and thought I’d share one of my faces here. I like to post quick pics of some of them on my instagram (elizabetholwenxo) and my new obsession, Vine (elizabeth olwen) — so if we’re not connected yet, add me!

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend and thanks for reading!

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Plant Life / new collection

Hello lovelies! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, I’ve been busy preparing for Surtex, and working on fun new things that I’ve never had to do before. So everything is fresh and exciting, and truthfully at times, overwhelming… but in a good way. I feel like I’m climbing a small mountain but when I get to the top I’m going to do a little victory dance — okay, maybe it will be a big over-the-top victory dance. My top priority right now is making connections with buyers who might be attending the show, and while I feel like it requires a certain level of telepathy in trying to figure out who might be going, I’m feeling great about it and I’m making new connections all the time. I’ve also been so very lucky to connect with a few seasoned Surtex veterans who’ve given me some amazing advice. As a result, I’ve had some great interest in my work from some really great companies. Life is good!

And when all the administrative work is done, I do what I love to do, which is the point of this whole thing. I’ve been making more patterns. Thought I would share a few new ones that I’ve been working on, and there so many more in the works!

Hope you’ve all made it through February unscathed… spring is just around the corner, I can feel it!

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