Pattern Occurring Features - Natalie Ralls, Commercial Textile Designer

Working in corporate design I met some really lovely people and one of those was Natalie Ralls.  Natalie is a real work horse with a super sweet personality.  When felling vexed with difficult designs Natalie was the go too girl for a little calm.  Natalie has recently started her own studio so I wanted to get the low down.

Natalie Ralls and baby Lula

Natalie Ralls and baby Lula

Anne Marie - What is your favourite medium/tools for creating textile designs?

Natalie - Love working with pen and ink. I like to start with simple black and white motifs and textures. This way I can keep colors separated from the start when working on textile design repeats with 12 colors or less. I then scan my drawings and work on the repeat and color with CAD software such as Adobe Photoshop and NedGraphics.


Anne Marie - What are the pros of being a textile designer for a huge corporate company?

Natalie -There are many pros really. For one thing, the work is fast paced and never boring. I enjoy working a year or so ahead of season and researching trend and color for the following year. The prints are never the same. Even if there are best sellers, I like to update the prints and provide newness and a fresh look for the customer. When I design for a corporate company, the work is produced for store deliveries. It is fun to see my designs in the stores. I also enjoy working with other designers. It is nice to see the bigger picture of what all goes into a product. I love working and collaborating with a design team. Working with a team just fuels creativity and provides more inspiration.


Anne Marie -  What was the most challenging thing about starting your own studio?

Natalie - The most challenging thing about starting my own studio is no doubt just taking that first step! Leaving a full time position in house at a fortune 500 retailer and taking the leap to step out on a limb to start my own studio and client base was a difficult but great decision.


Anne Marie -  What style of prints are you loving right now?

Natalie - I am loving anything full of texture and tonal colors. Very natural and true to colors in nature.


Anne Marie -  What makes a print commercial? Which prints always seem to have appeal?

Natalie - I believe simplicity always makes a print commercial. Don’t overdo a print! Those prints with simple tonal colors with a touch of pop colors to coordinate back with a full ensemble seem to do the best. Today’s customer wants a functional piece that can be worn in many different ways. So color is so important. I feel it is important to have neutral colors and pop accent colors within the print in order to pull it together with other items you may already have in your closet.


Anne Marie - Do you work with an agent and how did you find them? 

Natalie - I have worked with a couple of agents. One agent is a past co-worker of mine that I have always been fond of her design work. Another agent found my work on coroflot and felt we would be a good fit to work together. Yes – I felt my design “hand” fit her customer base better. So I decided to work with the agent. However, after one season of endlessly developing prints and not knowing where they would end up or what they would be printed on….I decided to start my own studio and rep myself. I prefer to work for specific design needs with a design team to develop a great product together. I feel more inspired and creative when I know what the finished product will be.


Anne Marie - What do you do to help you with time management?

Natalie - I am a very detail oriented designer. This helps with my time management. With working with corporate design teams, there is usually a set amount of prints needed per season. Therefore, I am able to request this number per design label in advance and request the due dates for the vendors. I then estimate how long each print will take and I work on the priority prints with the closet due dates first. I mark my calendar out ahead of time to manage the time to design each print accordingly.


Anne Marie - What is next for you?

Natalie - I hope to be able to inspire other designers to take the leap to start their own design firm. I would like to continue to work with corporate retailers and to expand my studio with a larger design team. I have also started to work on home design projects for a major retailer. I would like to continue to take on new design projects that challenge me to think and create outside the box and develop artwork for several different surfaces. Most of all – I LOVE being a full time mommy and wife to my sweet baby girl and loving husband. Family time was the biggest motivation and support for starting my own print studio!! Happy day.

As you can see Natalie has a hugely divere range of styles, skills and expertise in designing for a corporate market.  Thanks for Sharing Natalie! 

Pattern Occurring View - kaleidoscopic

To this day there are not many things i love more than gazing into a kaleidoscope, watching the patterns occurring and shift.  Every turn makes a new and brilliant pattern. Such patterns are not designed they just happen due to the structure and movement.

As far as I'm concerned Alexander McQueen's Atlantis collection from Spring 2010 was avant-garde and pioneering in this field. The day I saw the runway shot from was magical for me.  My eyes got wide in the same way as they did when I was a child gazing through the Kaleidoscope.  Now be sure of this, I am not saying these prints were not designed they truly were.  The symmetry of the human body is emphasized with the garments and their mirrored prints.  Since 2010 these Reflective photographic digital prints have been rehashed for every product group.  This is one of those trends that I feel the ship has finally sailed on.  Yes we all loved it and it was novel and radical, but now is over done, tired and burned out. I have even coined it as the 'poor-man's repeat'. As any tom, dick or harry can create a kaleidoscope print in minutes with photographic images.  To show how easy it is, I created a few using a simple App on my phone, when I was walking the dog today.  I guess... I just want to encourage talented textile and surface designers to look beyond the simple and get back to the craft of beautifully flowing print repeats and motif design.  You're better than that!


Pattern Occurring Featured - Rob Ryan

Hands down Rob Ryan has been one of the champions of surface design this century. His medium of choice is paper cutting and screen printing, and he was really the first artist to pioneer the resurgence of the paper cutting craft.  Rob has collaborated with the likes of Paul Smith and created various album and book covers. I have always loved Rob's work due to it's conversational quality. Each piece of art is steeped with rich narrative. Rob's work features several reoccurring elements and themes such as love, marriage, birth and life in the city. His work never fails in taking you to a place of simplicity and warmth filled with real human experience.

If you would like to see more of Rob's studio life be sure to look at designs sponge's post on his studio.

rob ryan.jpg
I also have a question regarding the origins of the art on the Starbucks Red Cup.  Is this a Rob Ryan creation?  Anyone know???

I also have a question regarding the origins of the art on the Starbucks Red Cup.  Is this a Rob Ryan creation?  Anyone know???

Fanny Shorter- Designer Profile

I found someone who I would rank as one of the best contemporary designers. Fanny Shorter.

Fanny Shorter is a designer and printmaker. Her distinctive, detailed work is largely inspired by her very English upbringing.

The daughter of a physics teacher and a music teacher, she grew up in a school in Winchester, surrounded by idyllic countryside and historic buildings in an aesthetically crowded house crammed with prints and patterns on books, plates, cushions, rugs and wallpaper. English holidays, frequents visits to the V&A, the Natural History Museum and National Trust properties as well as an entire childhood in a school are an evident and enduring influence.

She trained as an illustrator and her clients have included Twinings, the Cutty Sark and the Wellcome Collection. She divides her time between her freelance illustration work and expanding her screen-printed product range at her studio in Bloomsbury, London.

Her work is the perfect blend of sophistication, concept and great design. Oh my and can that girl draw! A real pearl! I hope to see more of her work in the future. 

 Fanny Shorter Cushions. Designs based on human anatomy.

Fanny Shorter Cushions. Designs based on human anatomy.

 Fanny Shorter - Stunning mugs commissioned by Twinings 

Fanny Shorter - Stunning mugs commissioned by Twinings