Up close & personal

I’m a big fan of Marie Forleo. Don’t know Marie? She does this *amazing* web series to help people build lives and businesses that they love. Every Tuesday an email comes into my inbox with her weekly video, usually a short 5-minuter, and I eat my lunch and let Marie cast her wisdom down upon me. And then I usually tweet about because, people, she is GOOOD. And she’s funny and engaging and smart and I’ve really learned a lot of great lessons from her. If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, do yourself a favour and check her out.

Recently she did a video that really EXTRA resonated with me titled ‘The World’s Smartest Marketing Question’ and it was all about what we, as small business folks or artists, are selling. And how it’s not specifically about the *thing* we are selling necessarily, but the meaning behind it. I create patterns and products with pretty patterns on them. Realistically, most of us don’t neeeeed to have these things. It’s about the experience and what thing thing means in somebody’s life.
Allow me to wander off here for a second. This summer was a really interesting and challenging one for me. One of the biggest challenges was creating a Skillshare class all about pattern design. Doing this involved charting out my process from start to finish, writing segments on each step, and ultimately, being filmed. I was soooo nervous. I’d never done it before and the prospect made me queasy. It turned out that in planning the class, I realized just how passionate I am about patterns, and really tapped into why. And when the tape started rolling, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, because I’m so passionate about what I do.
Cut to last week… A Toronto-based online fabric shop Warp & Weft, run by the most lovely lady Esmari, held a Canadian launch party for my newest range of Cloud9 fabrics, Wildwood. And on the opening night, I was to do a Maker’s talk, and talk about what I do, my process, my inspiration, and how my new collection came to be. This would have terrified me 6 months ago. But on the night, I found myself walking to the front of the room… starting to talk… and finding that I really loved being up there. I talked about how my love affair with patterns began and why, and it came easily. In the past, I worked in advertising, and if people asked me what I did I would usually play it down and try and skim over it… I didn’t want to waste people’s time talking about how I developed a new ad campaign for a new brand of ginger ale. It just didn’t float my boat, nor did I think it would float anybody else’s. But I’ve discovered that it’s pretty easy to share your world with other people when you’re excited about what you’re doing.
So, back to Marie Forleo, and what I’m actually “selling” with my artwork. I guess after doing a few talks over the last little while, it feels very clear to me that I am not just selling my patterns… I feel like I am selling beauty, and a place to go and get lost.
In my bio that I share with the world, I say that my obsession with patterns began as a child when I would become mesmerized by the orange floral drapes in my mother’s kitchen, that patterns were something that I could lose myself in, that they were a window to faraway places. If I’m going to be totally honest, my childhood wasn’t always the happiest one. My parents divorced when I was really young, and my mum had to try and support two kids on next to nothing. My mum did her very best but it was a struggle and home life was not always a happy place. I was a creative kid, and I was always drawing and making things… and when things were really tough, I would find myself staring at the many different patterns throughout our apartment and I would get lost in them. I would sit and stare into them and try and find where the repeat started and where it ended, like a puzzle I could fixate on for a little while, the more complicated the better. It took me away from real life for a few minutes and allowed me to journey off to daydream land. It was kind of meditative, almost looking at a mandala. And I know this sounds really silly, but sometimes I wonder what I would have done without patterns. If I didn’t have that backsplash tile pattern to figure out when things were happening around me.
So when I try and define what I’m really selling, I guess it feels sort of natural for me. Yes, I’m most definitely trying to make the more beautiful place because let’s face it, in this crazy world we live in, we could all use a little bit of that in our lives. To look at something we own and just grab a little bit of joy from it. It thrills me to no end to see people making things with my fabrics, to know that they are letting my patterns into their lives, or maybe even making a quilt for someone that they love with them. That is so special to me. But also, I think patterns provide us with a little escape or respite from our every day lives. A place to wander off to and get lost for a few minutes. And it’s for that reason that I try to put a lot of love into my patterns. I try to focus on the details, add lots of visual treats in there that can be seen when you spend some time with them. I think patterns are small things that help remind us that even when things might feel a little nuts, that there are simple joys and beauty to be had in this crazy world.
And thank goodness for that! Now, go hug someone you love!

Take my Skillshare Class (and win some of my products!)

Hey guys! So happy to share that I’m now a teacher on Skillshare! Earlier in the summer, they contacted me to see if I’d be interested in teaching a class on pattern design and I’ll admit that at first, that sounded a little bit daunting. But I’ve tried to adopt the philosophy ‘if it scares you, you should do it’ and with that in mind, I got on board. And man, am I glad that I did! It’s so invigorating to push yourself to new places and for me, one of those places was video. The idea of being filmed was kind of nerve-wracking. But with lots of planning and practice, and the luxury of being able to work with a videographer, Carlos from Kinetic Form, that I knew personally, it was actually a totally rewarding experience. And he was able to edit out all the awkward :)

When I started creating repeat patterns of my own, I didn’t know where to start, and I fumbled my way through the process, teaching myself. I eventually picked up some books that were helpful to me and the more patterns I did, the more that I refined my method. In my Skillshare class, I walk through my process from start to finish, from gathering inspiration, creating mood boards, drawing and digitizing, and then bringing it into illustrator and assembling each piece of the pattern with love. We also touch on collections and creating production-ready artwork. If you’re interested in patterns and want to try it out, or are a designer looking to see another designer’s process, check it out. The class is built to go at your own pace and the lessons themselves are under an hour in total so it’s not daunting.

PLUS: We’re doing a giveaway! Enroll and submit a final pattern and the person who submits my favourite pattern will win an Elizabeth Olwen Prize Pack, with products from Madison Park as well as a bundle of fabrics from Wildwood, my next Cloud9 fabrics collection!

Check out my promo video and sign up HERE to take the class!

An Online Skillshare Class by Elizabeth Olwen

Wildwood + Warp & Weft Weekend!

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Last week I wrote a post about the local Toronto love for Nuvango, and I’ve got more local love to write about, in form of an event coming up in a few weeks here in my city! I am so very, very pleased to announce the Canadian Launch event of Wildwood, my next collection with Cloud9 Fabrics on September 26-28! Wildwood is my second fabric collection with them and I’m so super thrilled about it. I got my advanced yardage of it and it turned out absolutely beautifully!!

Elizabeth-Olwen-Wildwood-Fat-Quarters-1024x1024The event is being presented by Warp & Weft (a local online retailer of beautiful fabrics – Canadian fabric lovers rejoice!) as part of their Warp & Weft Weekends series. Hosted by Re:style Studio, a beautiful space in the city for upholstery workshops! With an Afternoon Tea Workshop to create this beautiful Forest Glen Satchel with the super-talented Thread Riding Hood!

The weekend is built around Wildwood’s theme, and will have fun little british twists. Friday night will begin with a Maker’s Talk and social event (RSVP here) — I’ll be talking about my inspiration behind the collection and sipping on cocktails with all of you lovely folks that can attend. The Afternoon Tea workshop (register here) will be on the Saturday. And Sunday will be open house. You are all welcome to come at any point during the weekend as we’ll be doing a pop-up shop with lots of my products, fabrics from Warp & Weft and Re:style’s collection as well.

I’ve shown some images below but if you’re interested in hearing more about the event, check out this incredible post Sherri from Thread Riding Hood put together about the event.

Visit the Warp & Weft Weekend website to RSVP/register by September 17th! I’m so hoping to see a bunch of you there :)

 

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Well Nested Bedding with the Land of Nod!

Hello out there! It’s been a bit since I posted anything but I’ve been busy working away on great new projects in my studio, one of which I’m super excited to FINALLY share. About a year ago I was lucky enough to connect with the lovely folks at Land of Nod, and I cannot tell you how excited I was when I started working on a bedding collection with them! I think a lot of young surface designers make a list of dream clients and hope one day to see the dreams become reality. For me, Land of Nod was one of those at the very top of the list. So the whole thing kinda blew my mind. And after I sat, wide-eyed and trying to process what was happening, I did a happy dance. And for the past year, I’ve felt like I was going to burst because I wanted to tell everyone how excited I was about it.

We designed a baby bedding collection that was themed around the idea of the nest, which I think is an adorable theme for wee humans and is aptly named the Well Nested collection. The designs feature acorns, branches, berries, feathers and all sorts of other cute motifs from nature. They also rolled it out to toddler bedding and kids bedding AND get this — the kids designs are available in double and queen size! And while I know the bedding was intended for kids, I don’t think I’ll be able to keep myself from getting some (of my own sheets) of my own.

It’s been so amazing working with Land of Nod, and I’m soooo stoked that we actually have more products coming out together for fall (like this super cute pavilion) and for the holiday season too. You know I’ll be sharing them when the time comes. As always, thanks for following along! xoxo

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Surtex first-timer tips!

So Surtex is just about 2 weeks away. I have butterflies just writing this — so exciting, so scary! I think back to last year when I was exhibiting for the first time and have to say that I’m a million times more chilled out about everything this year… once you have the experience, you know what to expect and it’s a lot less scary. So, I thought I would share a few last minute tips for new exhibitors! Things that would have comforted me last year had I known, things that could come in handy, and a little reassurance. For the record, I am by no means a pro at this, like the fabulous Surtex guru Tara Reed, who is responsible for holding my hand last year via her super-informative Surtex e-books — but I think the first time is the hardest time, and seeing that it still feels quite fresh, I thought this might help someone out there.

Print your forms!
Okay, this is important — make sure you bring documentation of everything related to the show (or if you have access to it on a mobile device, that’s fine too). Everything is probably going to go smoothly, but you just never know when something pops in and tries to mess with your flow, and you just want to make sure you’re prepared. The show is run by GLM/Surtex, but the facilities are outsourced to the Javits — so there is a little room for error. Example: last year, I ordered a tall table (vs. the shorter table) for my booth, but when I arrived there was a short table at my booth. I thought, no problem — I’ll just go find someone to replace it. But the Javits staff, while friendly, said their instructions showed I should have a short table. They said that they would swap it out for me, but that if I didn’t have a record showing I’d booked the tall table, I would be charged a labour fee which was something crazy, like $300 or something. A bunch of people ran into this situation and LUCKILY, I had printed the confirmation and hopefully everyone else had too. Basically what I’m saying is, it never hurts to cover your arse. If you ordered shelves or special furniture — bring the confirmation, and the placement form for where you’d asked for things to be installed. Your registration badge confirmation — bring it. Basically any confirmations you received — bring it with you!

3M is your friend
So many Surtex exhibitors *swear* by 3M command strips, and I am one of them. They are incredible. I used 5 small command strips per banner and they weren’t going anywhere. Plus, they’re easy to pull off at the end and leave no markings — something to keep in mind, because you are responsible for leaving the booth walls in the same condition as when you started.

Bring cleaning supplies!
You’ve probably already thought about this, but it’s a must! Last year I ordered shelves for my booth and they were in fine condition, but they were *filthy*. But they cleaned up just fine with some of those cleaning wipe thingies.

Shhh…
Last year I read that you couldn’t stand on the chairs to hang banners, as a safety concern. And a legit one at that. But coming from Canada on a plane, I was wondering how the heck I was going to manage bringing a stool or ladder with me — I am short, so a small foot stool wasn’t going to cut it for me. In the end, I left it at home and it all worked out just fine. Those chairs are sturdy… but please don’t quote me on this.

Streamlined snacks!
This was another great tip from Tara Reed. If you’re at your booth and starving, you don’t want to be pulling out a big dish of spaghetti from under your booth to sneak a bite when nobody is looking. I had a few friends helping me last year, letting me go for lunch breaks and things, which was extremely helpful so I didn’t really have to eat food at my booth. But sometimes after 5 hours of standing there, you’re going to need to shove something in your mouth. I had some easy-to-eat snacks under my table, like nuts, dried fruit, crackers, grapes, small easy-to-eat things. It’s like on Top Chef when they have to cater a gala and are told to prepare an amuse-bouche. If you must eat at your booth, you don’t want to be caught eating awkward food.

Be prepared with your terms
Try to go into the show with your terms figured out — do you sell artwork or only license? Are you willing to do flat-rate licensing agreements or are you strictly about royalties? What are you willing to budge on for the right client? Last year, I had a ton of people ask if I sold my artwork outright and I was so new to the game that I wanted to make everyone happy and just didn’t want to say ‘no’ to anyone. I still don’t, and I will always try and make it work if it’s someone that I want to work with — but if it’s not a good fit, it’s not a good fit. If you aren’t particularly interested in the product category or don’t see that working with a company will bring value to your business, don’t back down and sell artwork. You’ve gotta look out for yourself. Don’t compromise if you’re not going to be happy with the deal. Try and go in with a clear vision of what you’d like to do and do you best to stick to it. It’s good to think about this before the show so you’re not caught off guard!

Be right back
This might be obvious, but just in case you didn’t think of it (there are a million other things to think about). If you have to leave your booth to run to the washroom, and you don’t have anyone there helping you, at least leave a sign saying you’ll be back in 5 minutes. You don’t want to lose out on that dream client who stopped by at an inopportune time. I swear, last year, every time I left my booth some awesome client would stop by and I’d curse the timing of it all… so it can happen.

Happy hour!
I haven’t heard much about this but I think they do it every year — last year they had a happy hour thing after the show on Monday. Free drinks and the chance to chat with some other exhibitors. Also, there are usually some social events for Surtex exhibitors so keep your ears open in case there are. Last year I missed it but Monica Lee had hosted an event and lots of exhibitors went. A nice way to actually be able to chat with people — not so easy during show hours.

You made it! You really made it!  
It was such a surreal experience walking into the Javits centre with all my booth supplies last year, trying to find the booth that I would call home for 3 days and had the opportunity to be a game-changer. Be proud of yourself for taking on the challenge, for getting there, for all of your super hard work. And enjoy it, savour every second. Greet every person that walks by with a welcoming smile. And remember to keep your chin up — there will be some slow periods, and your work won’t be the best fit for every client that walks by, but keep your eye on the prize and focus on the good connections you’ve made. And the new friends you’ve made. And the fact that you made it to NYC and competed in an international marketplace for something that you’re passionate about!

And then breathe…
I relied on adrenaline to keep me going through the show and keeping my energy levels up. Last year, I felt very much alive and excited about everything until 5pm on the last day, when the show officially closed, and I literally just dropped behind my booth and burst into tears. This might sound crazy, but it was just the whole experience coming to a close — a mix of joy and exhaustion. I was so happy, but I also felt my body breaking down and giving in. Give yourself a nice relaxing evening, a low key and healthy dinner, a good dose of vitamin C, and a good night’s rest. And hopefully you have some time to enjoy the city before you ship out.

Best of luck at the show everyone! Looking forward to meeting you all, so soon!!
(I’m at booth 741!)

*****I got a few emails with other questions today so I thought I’d add them to the mix! *****

Electrical
I didn’t get electrical for my booth. I used an iPad to present my portfolio, and as long as I charged up the batteries before I left for the show in the morning, mine lasted all day long with no issue. Tara Reed mentioned that if you run out, you can use the exhibitor centre upstairs to grab some power if needed. But again, I didn’t need it! But on the same topic… Last year I needed to iron some things, and had posted on the Surtex Linkedin group to see if there would be outlets. I was assured there would be some for us to use, but when I got there, the power source mentioned wasn’t there. I went on a wild goose chase trying to find power and was told by the Javits staff that we weren’t supposed to use it. We ended up sneaking around to make it happen, but this year, just to be safe, I’m just going to iron everything at the hotel!

Flame proofing
Ahhhh, the eternal issue of flameproofing! I don’t think anyone is clear on this! But this is what I was told last year when I asked, and it’s the same explanation this year. Basically, if you have fabric in your booth and it has your artwork on it — then you’re all set. No need to flameproof. BUT if you have linens in your booth that don’t have artwork on them, those should be flameproofed. Honestly, the rationale doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me — fire doesn’t exactly discriminate — but I suppose it would be tricky for people to only show products that were flameproofed so they’ve made concessions. If in doubt, there are apparently special flame-proofing ‘dips’ you can use to dip your fabrics in and it flameproofs them but I didn’t have luck tracking them down. But if the fabric has your artwork on it, you’re good to go.

The Surtex countdown is on!

Oh my goodness, things really start to feel real and you understand just how close Surtex is when it’s less than a month away. In less than 4 weeks, one of my very best friends and incredible sidekick Sam and I will be getting on a plane for NYC! So excited, but can’t help but wish I could press the ‘rewind’ button so I could whip up the millions of patterns I have ideas for, but there will never be enough time so at some point, you have to make the call and get on that plane and put up your work for everyone to see. I’m super excited!!

I’ve moved booths this year but will be in the same aisle — booth 741. If you’re going, please stop by and say hello! Here’s a little sampling of what I’ll be showing (plus a link to my promo video if you haven’t seen it)! Hope you all have a great week.

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Try, try again

I recently came across a letter I’d received from a fabric company about a year ago. I’d been reaching out to some companies that I thought my work might be a good fit for. And while I had my top picks for dream companies, I was also aware that dreams don’t happen overnight, so I was hoping to just get fabrics *somewhere* and that maybe it would get my foot in the door. One of the options was a company that required I send a package in the mail, and a few months later received, if I might say, I rather snarky rejection letter. Essentially the letter said (and I’m paraphrasing, but not by much) that my work brought nothing new to the table, and that I’d essentially wasted their time. While I appreciated the personal reply, part of me almost wished that I’d never received it… it was so negative and unfriendly, and for some, could have been a dream killer. It wasn’t my dream company, so I decided I better not let it crush my dreams. So the other day when I came across this letter, while working on my second collection for Cloud9 Fabrics (which, by the way, *was* at the top of my dream list), a whole bunch of emotions came up for me. It made me realize how much has happened in the past year. And how happy I am about it all. And how glad I am that I didn’t listen to that letter or let it alter my path.

I just wanted to write this post because sometimes it’s hard to keep your chin up when things don’t seem to be going anywhere. You submit, submit, submit… and feel lucky if you even get a reply. Sometimes it all just seems pointless, when you’re investing soooo much of your time and your heart into something, and hoping your dreams come true, and nothing is happening. You start to think your work isn’t good enough. I just wanted to share this story as a reminder to always try and keep your chin up. To persevere and keep at it and use that rejection as fuel to do better. And if at first you fail, then try, try again. And then when you reach one of your goals, you can feel a little extra proud of how far you’ve come.

 

Here we geo

Hello all! Just wanted to share a few geometrics I’ve been working on. I’ve been looking through some old sketches and found some doodles that needed to be worked into proper patterns. And I thought it was a good opportunity to start playing around with Pantone’s 2013 colour — Emerald Green!

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My new friends at Dioton!

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you’ve all enjoyed some time off to relax, hang out with your favourite folks and eat way more than you can normally justify! I’ve been having a really lovely holiday so far and I’m keeping this party going until the New Year, heading to Montreal for a few days.

So I have some really exciting news! I’ve been trying to keep it under wraps but am happy that I can openly share it now. A few months ago, the lovely Thomas and Estelle at Dioton, a stationery company in France, got in touch to see about licensing some of my patterns for their beautiful (and I mean, BEAUTIFUL) line of customizable stationery products, including birth announcements, thank you cards, wedding invitations and more. And I was absolutely flattered and thrilled, and I couldn’t be happier to share with you what they’ve done with my patterns. They’ve captured the essence of the illustrations with their type and graphic treatments, and absolutely taken them to the next level. I couldn’t have dreamed that they would be more beautiful!

These two birth announcements will be available beginning January 1st, with three more to come in the early part of 2013. Currently the designs are available only in french, but they’re looking to expand their offerings in the future. Check out their blog post too!

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I’m very grateful for all of the amazing things that have happened in 2012 and I can’t wait to see what happens next! I wish you all the best that life can bring for 2013 and hope you’re all ringing in the new year in whatever way suits you best!

 

Festive Forest for the holidays

I’ve been so thankful to have the time to focus on some patterns this week. Signing up for Surtex has already been an adventure with a ton of planning ahead, so it’s nice to just sit and take a break from logistics and planning and focus on what this whole thing is all about for me — pretty patterns! And since it’s the holidays, I thought I’d whip up some festive spirit by doing some holiday-inspired patterns. I’m also introducing a little thing I’m calling ‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’ — with concept mockups showing how the patterns might be used… in hopes that a buyer will see them and agree. Take a wee peek!

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