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!



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!

Astrid Diane


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!








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!





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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How it was made :: My Surtex promo video

I can’t believe it, but SURTEX is only 3 short months away. I’m in the heart of planning fun things like my booth and my promotional materials, including a promotional video.

As a first-time exhibitor at Surtex, it’s really important that I do anything and everything to get noticed before the show. So I decided to take advantage of Surtex’s youtube channel and create a video that will create a little bit of awareness for my business and hopefully generate some interest and get people to come to my booth. When I started thinking about the video, it was a bit of a daunting task. First issue — I don’t own a video camera. Second issue — I don’t know how to edit video and record sound. And third issue — I wanted it to shine. So I took a look at the skills I do have, and tried to find a workaround solution. I did some brainstorming and I arrived at the idea of doing a stop-motion video using my Canon digital SLR, my photoshop skills, iMovie, and my imagination.
I had a total blast creating this little video, and it was something completely new for me. I wish I could show you a behind-the-scenes look at how I created it, because it might be kind of comical to see. I took the pictures myself, using a wireless remote that I pressed down with my shoe. And lots, and I mean lots, of trial and error. In late December, the days are short and the sunshine is sparse, so I played the waiting game — waiting for a day when the sun would come out, and then when it did, waiting for the clouds to go away between shots. And everything else… photoshop!
And then there’s the icing on the cake — the music. Due to licensing restrictions (which I of all people should understand!) I couldn’t use music from my favourite artists or bands. And let me tell you… stock music is slim pickings. I wasn’t sure what the heck I was going to do… and then my lovely beau, Dave, swooped in to help. He is a super talented musician and how lucky am I to have someone to whip me up my very own theme song?
The result is something that I’m really proud of and I think speaks to what I do. It’s fun, whimsical and full of pattern. And I hope you like it!
**If the video player doesn’t work, the video can be seen here**

New chapter :: My notecards with TeNeues are here!

Today is my birthday! Woot woot! I’m officially moving into a new age bracket and with everything that’s been happening lately, it really feels like I’m entering into a new chapter of my life. About 6 months ago, I was doing what I normally do, sitting at my computer and working away. And then I got an email that was a game-changer. The email was from a lovely Editor at TeNeues publishing, asking if I would be interested in licensing some of my patterns for notecards. I read the email, read it again in disbelief, read it again, and then proceeded to jump up and run laps across my apartment trying not to scream for fear that my neighbours would get worried. After composing myself, I replied a whole-hearted yes, and it’s been the sweetest 6 months of anticipation. I thought the day would never come, but the day has arrived when I can finally show the world what we did together! Ladies and gentlemen (well, mostly ladies), here they are… my In Bloom series, published by TeNeues. The cards come in a beautiful box, with a little magnet closure, and feature 4 of my floral patterns (5 of each design). It was a delight to see that they matched the backs of the cards with the patterns, which are beautiful shades of yellow, pink and peach. And, for me, an incredible exciting tidbit — the box even has my bio on the back. I’ve shown some pictures here, but if you’re interested in picking some up for yourself, you can find them through TeNeues and if you’re in Canada, through Indigo books. And hopefully lots of other places around the globe!

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Now, that was the Coles Notes version of this blog post and if you care to stick with me and get a little more personal, I’m going to share a bit about how I got here. Last year was a game-changing year for me and sometimes I stop and think, how did I get here? How did I get so lucky? And I’m lucky to have people in my life that tell me I got here because I worked hard because otherwise, I’d feel like I just have a horseshoe in my pocket.

A few years ago, I was working as an art director for an ad agency, and didn’t really have a lot of creative outlets outside of that. I doodled and I made patterns for fun, but it wasn’t anything that I thought would ever take me anywhere. I wasn’t creatively fulfilled, and I felt a yearning in my belly to do something more but I didn’t even know what. It’s not like I could just make *patterns* for a living… right? Then one day I got the phone call that my dad, who’d been sick, had taken a turn for the worse and was in the hospital and that we needed to come say goodbye. He passed away few days later. It was a horrible time, but the message, to me, was loud and clear. Life is too short, do something that makes you happy.

Soon after that, my boyfriend Dave and I booked a ticket to Berlin, I quit my job, and a few months later we left for a 3-month sabbatical. And it changed my life. I wanted to see what would happen if I had some time to just explore, to do creative things, purely for fun, for myself. And soon I found myself getting up every single day and working on pattern after pattern after pattern. By the end of the 3 months, I had developed a big collection of work. And had no idea what to do with it.

It’s been two years and I can’t believe how much has changed. Things are finally starting to fall into place and I’m so thankful for it. Last week, I was in a bookstore here in Toronto, and I spotted my notecards and I literally broke down and cried. It’s been an emotional journey, fueled by a simple desire to find happiness and spend my life doing something that I truly love. This year is going to be a big one for me, especially with Surtex coming up in May, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store. I am full of hope and I’m dreaming big. A big huge thank you to all of you for having a part in that and for all of your support. It means the world to me!


New Partership with

It’s no secret that I adore wallpaper. Always have, always will. So as a pattern designer, it’s been an absolute dream to eventually have my patterns printed on wallpaper. So, when I started talking to this past fall about a partnership, I was absolutely over the moon and it’s been a true challenge trying to keep this on the down low. I’m thrilled to announce that it’s now official — is now offering a range of wallpapers with my patterns! Ahhhhhh! The collaboration includes a handful of wallpapers along with a few custom mural designs, as shown below. A million thank yous to Wallpapered, and a special shout out to Kat Truong, for making all of this happen! This is an absolute dream come true!



ElizabethOlwen_AfternoonGarden ElizabethOlwen_FolkGarden ElizabethOlwen_HerbGarden
ElizabethOlwen_MidnightGarden ElizabethOlwen_RootsAndPods ElizabethOlwen_Sherbert Dreams





Candy Shoppe

Happy Monday! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. The weather in Toronto this weekend was UNREAL and felt just like spring at 14 degrees celcius. Spring is still months away but it was a nice break from slush. I’ll take it!

A while back, I saw this great post DesignSponge about an adorable little candy shoppe in San Francisco named Miette (check it out, it’s irresistibly lovely). And ever since I’ve had candy shoppes on my mind, so naturally I thought I’d let this be a driving force behind a new pattern series inspired by old fashioned candy shoppes where you bought candy by the scoop, vintage packaging, lollipops and bon bons. A nice mix of novelty and geometric prints, I think these patterns would look adorable for fabrics for kids clothes.

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