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 101 - Tie-dye

This summer we have an intern from the Seattle Children's Theater staying with us. She and her fellow interns had a Tie-Dye party last weekend. I was so impressed. Come On Now Get Your Pattern Occurring! Woop Woop!

Tie-dye is a process of tying and dyeing a piece of fabric or cloth which is made from knit or woven fabric, usually cotton T- Shirts here in Seattle. It seems to be a trend that comes back time and again.  It is a modern version of traditional dyeing methods used in many cultures throughout the world such as shibori in Japan. Tie-dyeing is accomplished by folding the material into a pattern, and binding it with string or rubber bands. Dye is then applied to only parts of the material. The ties prevent the entire material from being dyed. Designs are formed by applying different colors of dyes to different sections of the wet fabric. Once complete, the material is rinsed, and the dye is set. Then you are ready for any folk festival on the West Coast! TA DA! Here is a cute video to show you the process.  Now go play with pattern.

Pattern Occurring View - Boy's Sleepwear

It has been "scorchio" here in Seattle the past week,  hence I have one 'sleepless in Seattle' 4 year old.  Any excuse right! So one line of attack was to pop to my local Target store to find some summer pj's to replace the blanket sleeper onesies.  

I may just be having a hard time with my first born growing up, but I was almost brought to tears by the selection offered.  The first stumbling block is that, (for a good reason most houses are made of wood!) here in the USA children's sleepwear can't be cotton unless it is very form fitting. So most pj's are flame resistant polyester. Yuck!  I however get this and am totally willing to compromise on fabrication. However when it comes to good print design... that's where i'm not prepared to compromise! I truly believe good design and good taste needs to be nurtured from a young age.  Most children do (and probably should) get to pick there own clothes, but when the choices are so limited and overly 'gender' specific this makes my heart sink.   

I don't want to litter my blog with images of the poor options out there, so I am going to describe and you can link to Targets web sight if you really can't resist. Examples include the obvious licensed characters of Angry Birds, Marvel Super Heros, or the cliché conversational prints of skulls and ball games.  

So sad!  So as a print and pattern designer and consultant, here is what I am suggesting companies such as Target should be open to. More unique colours (not just blue and red) and fun conversational prints.  I know such companies do value design as they frequently partner with designers (such as Orla Kiely), but we have too start while they're young, if we want the next generation to value design and colour!  

Below are some of the better designs I have found out there, that at least are more playful and creative with those licensed characters and cliché's... but it's still a far cry from what it could be!


Pattern Occurring Picks - Beach Towels

With the crazy (for Seattle) weather coming this weekend, 90F! i'll be making my way down to my local beach by the lake. So what better time then to share with you all my 'Pattern Occurring Picks' for beach towels.  It's not really surprising that the Aussies have the lion's share, with my personal favorite, the innovative Zebra hide towel.  Here are my favs that cover every trend.