In early June I started Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells course. I knew I wanted to take part as soon as the course was announced to really broaden my knowledge of different markets and push myself creatively.
We are currently in the early stage of week three and I thought now was a good time to take a look back at what we’ve been doing and what I’ve learned about myself and my work. The course itself is deceptively simple with each week focused on a different market – from bolt fabric to children’s books – and each assignment is built up from smaller tasks set during the week. It’s a fab way of working and has really taught me to slow down. I tend to go rushing headlong into things and miss out on really pushing my sketchbook work, which is after all where most of the magic happens!
The first week was a bolt fabric assignment based around mushrooms and pyrex casserole dishes. This was familiar territory for me, especially after having done Rachael Taylor’s fantastic course so it was a nice way to ease myself in. I submitted my final piece to the group flickr page nice and early and I felt good about it and confident in my final piece.
However, once Lilla began her review of all the students work I began to see there were some things missing from my design. There was a lot I was pleased with but I could have used more icons, developed a bigger, more detailed world and added more variety to the design. The standard of the work from the other students was amazing and I was a bit humbled by it all to be honest!
The second week focused on the Home Decor market, something that I love and would love to do more of so I was really looking forward to the assignment. The week’s challenge was to design a plate featuring seeds, pods, succulents – alternative florals I guess. I don’t know if it was the slight downer I had on the experience of the previous week or the floral subject matter but I really struggled to connect with the project, I couldn’t find the magic and things just were not clicking! Now I’ve been a designer long enough to know that it’s all part of the process, some days just don’t go your way, but this felt different. I don’t know if it’s the difference between working in a busy design studio where you can lean on your colleagues at times like that or whether I was feeling a bit competitive with the other students on the course, all of whom seemed to be turning out amazing designs. Whatever it was I just couldn’t get the picture in my head of what I wanted to create to match up to what was happening on my screen. It felt frustrating, I
might did have had a tantrum.
In the past I might have given up on the idea, said “you know what, floral aren’t for me – let’s go back to drawing those geometric shapes you love so much” and if I’d done that then no doubt would have had something I was pleased with done and sorted in moments. But that wasn’t the brief. Plus it felt a whole lot like giving up. So I pushed on. Left my computer screen and went back to my sketchbooks, but this time I picked up a bunch of them, old ones that I’d filled with scribbles and sketches over the years. And there, on one of the pages, was the answer. It hit me like a flash. It was a tiny, very rough doodle I had done weeks previously but it was exactly the mechanism I needed to hold my ‘alternative floral’ sketches in my geometric shapes. Unfortunately I found that drawing about 10 minutes before I was due out of the door for drinks with the girls so I couldn’t do anything about it! I had to sit on it all night while I drank wine and gossiped and giggled – a massive hardship I’m sure you’ll agree
The next day, after a large coffee, I sat down sketched it all out and then hit Illustrator in a big way. It came together really quickly and I LOVED it. Not just the end result (which is pretty good, if I say so myself) but the process. It was full of happy accidents, little things that made me giggle and loads of ‘ahh ha’ moments. I couldn’t stop at just plates, I went on to create a whole tablewear collection using motifs and icons from the main design (icons are such a big learning point for me in this course – look how useful they are!). And I had fun. Lots and lots and lots of fun. I woke up in the morning thinking about it and gladly worked nearly all day Saturday on it. Joy.
I called the collection Evolution, partly because the floral motifs I used feel quite primordial to me, ancient almost, but mostly because I felt like I had a bit of an evolution during the process of designing it. I found a new language for my design work and learnt not to give up on things, that even subject matter that you don’t immediately connect with has something in it for you, it’s just a case of finding it and – in the case of the little sketchbook drawing that unlocked it all – sometimes the answers were there all along. I’m looking forward to more evolutions as the course progresses.