Peeping Pipers with That’s Sew Kari

This past month I had the pleasure of collaborating with Kari of That’s Sew Kari. I let her and her daughter choose their favorite print from my Spoonflower fabric collection, and she sewed and photographed the outfit.

I was so pleased when she chose Peeping Pipers… it was one of my first surface pattern designs, and it placed in one of Spoonflower’s weekly design contest.

You can view Kari’s entire post and see more of her beautiful photos here.

Are you a sewer that is interested in collaborating? A fabric company interested in licensing my work? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Setting Up Shop

It has taken me a year to learn that in order for me to create successful textile designs, I have to put my designs to use. My designs have to become tangible. I have to imagine and put them on products, deciding what they would be best used for and who would buy them. Mock ups help, but real life products are better.

To be honest sometimes I forget why I make patterns and greeting cards. I get lost in the creation of my art. It’s therapeutic and fun! I lose sight of the end product. Which is perfectly fine if your intent isn’t to sell. Because those designs typically don’t do as well in the marketplace.

Recently I won 3rd place in a Spoonflower contest, and I think a huge reason why is because the design I created was for something specific – shorts for my son. (Which he loves, by the way, thankfully!)

I need a constant reminder that what I’m making is going to be printed on something (fabric usually), so I came up with an idea… re-open my Etsy Shop. And every time I design something new that isn’t client work or for my agent, figure out what product I’m going to use the design on, and who might buy it.

The trick is that eventually I’m going to have to narrow my niche… who my shop caters to, kids or women, but I’m going to wait to see what sells the most. To be clear, I’m not looking to become a millionaire on Etsy. I don’t want to sew all day, everyday. But my most favorite thing is to see my art out in the world. Gives me an incredible high.

Right now I’ve got some bags for sale, most that don’t utilize my own designs, but that will change. I adore sewing and I love the fabrics already in my stash. A girl has to start somewhere!

The awesome news is that I already have a commission on a set of baby bibs with my winning Spoonflower print and the collection I created around it! (You’ve got to love friends who believe in you and like your art!)

If you have any ideas for products that you’d like to see in my shop, please drop me a line. And if you have a shop of your own, feel free to link to it in the comments. I’d love to see what you all are creating!

How to Be a Successful Illustrator

This week I announced that I landed my first art agent. It’s an exciting and exhilarating time! In one month I will attending Blueprint in NYC to showcase my surface design and illustration portfolio to potential clients. I couldn’t be more thrilled! I was going to describe my journey in detail first, and then tell you why I think I am successful, but then I realized you might not want to hear it all. If you don’t, here’s the sort answer:

I went back to school.

Not art school. That’s expensive and unfeasible for me. I don’t have the time or money to sit in a desk for two + years. But I did start learning again. Online. I’ve spent countless hours learning.

Do you want to be successful at illustration? Get your butt in class.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a sample of what I’ve taken:

Skillshare – Where I started. Super inexpensive for what you get! You can find alll sorts of technical and business related courses here. My favorite teachers are Shannon McNab, Dylan M., Brooke Glaser, Ohn Mar Win, Juliet Meeks, Mel Armstrong, and Mary Kate McDevitt, just to name a few!

Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells – A deep dive into making money with your art. Lilla is extremely encouraging and kind, and I’ve noticed a ton of very successful names on her class roster.

Victoria Johnson’s Create Explore Classes – she has a very distinctive style and really seems like she wants to help you get ahead in your career. Her classes are very affordable for the beginning illustrator.

Rise Shine and Design’s Folio Focus – Another affordable option that helps you focus on building your ever-important portfolio. One of my favorite perks of this class is the Facebook group you join to connect with other artists.

The Society of Visual Storytelling – This “society” has a children’s book illustration focus, but the technical drawing, painting, and composing tips are gold. They also have an art licensing class! Totally worth the monthly fee.

A beachy holiday house I made in Victoria’s Create Christmas class.

I also listen to lots of podcasts while I practice my art. Can you tell I’m a learning junkie?

I think a lot of us older learners fall into the mentality that we’ve learned enough, we don’t need to learn anymore. But when you stop learning, you stop growing. It inhibits your success.

What’s funny is that up until one year ago, I never thought I could become a professional illustrator. A hobbyist, sure. But professional? I reserved that title for members of my incredibly artistic family. I was scared to draw. And paint. It looked too hard.

But as a stay at home mom whose kids were getting older and attending school more frequently and consistently, I needed a creative outlet. Makers Gotta Make, am I right?! And the entrepreneur inside of me was itching to be successful at something. Because of my husband’s career we are financially comfortable, but that doesn’t ease the ache of me wanted to achieve something for myself, separate from family. And financial comfort can be fleeting. I wanted a back up plan.

It all started with Peggy Dean and handlettering. I got hooked on the hobby, painting pretty letters whenever my kids napped. Then I saw she taught classes on Skillshare. I watched them and explored others (I got two months free, why not?!). While watching I discovered that most of the teachers make money with their art. I wanted to do that to! I wanted to make pretty things and sell them. So I invested in an iPad, and instantly fell in love with Procreate.

Not long after that I discovered the world of surface pattern design and started submitting work to Spoonflower’s weekly pattern challenges. And I bombed them! I needed help. I circled back to learning.

Ever since taking the classes I mentioned above, my work has improved. I’ve landed in the top 30 out of 700+ entries on Spoonflower. I recently landed an agent. It obviously hasn’t been an overnight process. I’m not making tons of money yet. Let’s be realistic, that’s going to take some time.

But the best thing I’ve gained since beginning? Not the agent. It’s my confidence as an artist. I’m not afraid to draw. Now, in fact, I think I can draw anything.

And I am an artist. A successful one.

You can be one too.

Evolving Artistic Style

Do you as an artist worry that your style is recognizable? I always have.

When I decided to make illustration and surface pattern design my career, my artistic style was all over the place. I was so confused.

I knew I had traits that will help me succeed in this incredibly competitive field: I absolutely adore making art and my background is in marketing, design, and photography.

But I was still very unsure if I’d ever find my “signature style”.

It’s been nearly a year since I began, and just recently have I started to see stylistic trends in my work. It feels like my style is finally blooming; I’ve been receiving warm receptions for my newest work from my peers in the field, I feel much more confident in what I create, and my head is brimming with ideas.

My most recent pattern on Spoonflower.

So have faith. Keep working and try not to overthink what your style should be… it will come out when it’s ready. (And in the meantime, take Dylan M.’s class on Skillshare on this very topic!)