What I've Been Up To

For the past two weeks I've been moonlighting with a little part-time, make a little cash, job. Sometimes those are necessary and they pay for things like groceries and soccer for the boy . . . and MATS A & B. I'm glad to do it but I haven't had much time for designing so I'm pretty excited to get back to work next week. In the meantime I've been trying to sneak in some design work when I can with quick little pattern projects. Some of these were halfway started already and just needed to be finished up. Plus, sometimes it's helpful for me to work quickly and not overthink things. I can get caught up in "this color or this color" for HOURS when left to my own devices. Not healthy. Anyway, here's a little show & tell with some new patterns. Paisley Pop




Animal Talk

MATS A: Investing in Myself

matslogoPeppers | Katherine LeniusIf you read my last post you know that I, like many people I'm sure, often experience doubts about what I'm doing and how to get there. My goal for the year is to do as much work as I can. To help me with that goal one of the things I'm doing is taking the Make Art That Sells course from the Lilla Rogers Studio. Lilla is an international superhero art agent and I pretty much love every artist she represents, like Suzy Ultman, Carolyn Gavin, Lisa Congdon, and Rachel Taylor. I first learned about Lilla back when she first created the MATS online course and when she came out with her book I Just Like to Make Things. I love her enthusiastic and positive approach that is backed up with years of industry experience and insight. I signed up for her Bootcamp course that started back in January and knew that I wanted to join in on MATS as well. I've wanted to do the course since she first offered it but two things got in my way: 1) I wanted to feel like I was really ready to get the most out of it and 2) it's a big investment. Sometimes it's hard to give yourself permission to invest in yourself, especially in my case because I'm still trying to get into this industry. Of course you have to balance that with the reality of your finances and having a family, etc. But thanks to the support of my awesome husband I registered for the course just one day before it started and I couldn't be happier! The first part of the course (Part A) will last for five weeks (I'll do Part B in October), so I'll pop in every week to give you an update on what I've been working on. Each week focuses on a different art market. We learn about the market while at the same time getting an assignment that would be appropriate for that market. Week 1 was all about bolt fabric. I love this market. Like a lot of people, fabric is what got me interested in surface pattern design in the first place. It was only later that I learned I could license and sell my art for other products and areas (that's a JOB?!). I fell in love with sewing about 15 years ago, kind of at the beginning of the big resurgence in home sewing, and the fabric market has undergone such a shift from then. The sheer amount of beautiful fabric design and fabric companies out there is just incredible.



The Assignment: we were tasked with coming up with a design for bolt fabric that was inspired by peppers and vintage Pyrex. Many designs expanded to other kitchen gadgets and food. I started, as I always do, with some research and a lot of sketching. I also did some painting to try out some other shapes and textures.


I knew I wanted to design my print in a more grid like pattern because I mostly tend to arrange patterns in a tossed layout with bits and pieces scattered in an "organized random" way. I was also influenced by the very linear way that some people who collect vintage Pyrex stack their collections.



I also added a couple of coordinating patterns to my main print so I have a nice piece to add to my portfolio called "A Pinch of Pepper." I always love getting these little briefs or assignments because it gives me a solid starting point and direction. Sometimes too many options or ideas is not a good thing. I'm very happy with my finished product and the gallery of my classmate's work is amazing. Tomorrow Lilla will give us some feedback on our assignments and I can't wait for Week 2!

A Pinch of Pepper | Katherine Lenius

MIID Summer School finale!

medallion-wallpaperI wrapped up the Make It In Design Summer School this week! I will freely admit I did not get to put in a lot of time on this final brief. Last week was our last "free" week before school started so the kids and I tried to squeeze every last drop of fun out of summer as we could. It was wonderful and we had a lot of fun, but I didn't get much work done. Nevertheless I still wanted to make an effort to finish off the course. For better or worse, this is what I came up with. nest nest-wallpaperFor the Intermediate brief: "Feathers" I took a departure from how I usually work and Ben and I did some painting. I used watercolors to work on some feathers and a little nest. I took them into Illustrator even though I knew it wouldn't turn out exactly how I wanted it to. Given some more time I would probably change my approach but it was still a worthy experiment!

My kitchen table studio.

flyThe Advanced Brief was "Intricate Chaos" - would that make a good band name, or what? Short on time I pulled out a medallion motif I've worked on before. I came up with some variations, added a couple new ones, and played with re-coloring them to get to this final design. I think both of these designs work against my normal style a little bit, mainly because of the color palette, but it was still a good learning experience.

medallionAll in all, MIID Summer School was a lot of fun and it "forced" me to get out of my comfort zone and get some designing done, even in the face of camps and picnics and trips to the park. Thanks Make It In Design! You'll be able to view all the galleries of student work on the Make It In Design Summer School website.

MIID Summer School Take 2: South Africa

safari-lowresThis week's brief for the Make It In Design Summer School was another doozy: Animal Print and Tribal Collage. Whoo. If there's anything I don't see myself doing it's an animal print. Why won't this trend go away? I love animals. I just don't typically want to wear, sleep on, walk on, or carry over my shoulder their prints. In fact it brings to mind this little leopard print scarf I had in high school or college that I used to tie around my neck "french style" and it makes me shudder just a little bit. And yet that's what this summer school is for: stretching me and challenging me to do something new, maybe even something a tidge uncomfortable. On the other hand the whole "tribal" theme does invoke some heavy interpretation, doesn't it? What do we see as "tribal"? Why do we see it as tribal and what does that mean? What's the difference between tribal and cultural, etc. And I just kind of had to let that go for the sake of designing. I was immediately more drawn to the tribal collage theme because it had this bright rainbow color palette and the aim was to create a variety of smaller prints you could then collage, piecing together something that could maybe be used in a children's print. Below is a mood board I put together for both projects.

Bead photo from Africa Image Library | Masks photo by Tharindu | Jewelry market stand photo by Erin Corr | All other photos by me.

I thought about a trip I took to Cape Town, South Africa back in 2000 with my Dad and sister. We visited Green Market Square and I looked back at some pictures of all the bright jewelry, textiles, and bead work hanging in the stalls. That's a picture up there of me (in the black) and my sister shopping at the market. I also remembered a safari trip I took with my Dad and came across a photo of some cliff paintings we stopped to look at. I love the simple smooth shapes of the animals, so I tried to draw my own loose animal shapes. I also worked up some sketches (below) of a variety of small motifs I could use in smaller patterns. Once I got them into Illustrator I played with color and arranging.

Sketches and work in progress in Illustrator.


Unfortunately for me we had a little power outage while I was in the middle of the project and I lost most of my work. Ack! Fortunately I had already saved a picture of my final design and my mockup, but if I ever want to return to this design I'll have some work to redo! You'll see that mockups are not a particular strength of mine yet. I was going to finesse it a little, but  - power outage. Hmph.



For the animal print I used some of the same patterns I was working on for the tribal collage. My family visited a zoo last weekend and I used the opportunity to source my own inspiration (thanks Bonnie Christine!) by taking pictures of animal prints I might use (seen in the moodboard above). In the end I decided to marry the animal prints with a strong geometric so the animal print itself would be a little less obvious. I still didn't really like the design until I started randomly re-coloring it and that's when I decided to make it mostly monochromatic. Again, it brought a cohesiveness and simplicity I liked. I also wanted to make this pattern a strong contrast to the collaged pattern. Still not my favorite print, but a worthy exercise none the less.


So that's Brief #2! One final assignment coming on Monday!

MIID Summer School begins!

MIID_SUMMERSCHOOLAfter I completed Module 1 of the Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design course earlier this year they announced they would be doing a free "summer school" in August. They're sending out three creative brief assignments at three different levels. I of course signed up immediately because I like working from creative briefs. I'm a give me some direction and a deadline, please, kind of person. Plus my two big goals for myself this summer were to open my etsy shop and to work on building my portfolio. I'm doing so so on both fronts. It is summer, after all. I always forget how easily time gets gobbled up in the summer. Well the MIID Summer School began last week so I thought I'd share a little of my work here. I will say this: it was really difficult to get started again. I had a really hard time grasping the themes, which focused around a retro/tropical geometric and a water rays inspired pattern. They both felt a little out of my comfort zone and for whatever reason I was not falling all over ideas. And I got a little stressed out over trying to "make them my own." BUT that's exactly why I need practice like this. I eventually just had to ignore my distracted, overly critical brain and hammer something out.


Some sketches, doodles, scratches, swirls and dabs of paint. I found with the geometric pattern I liked working on the computer more directly because I could move pieces around like a puzzle. It seems like I fall upon geometric patterns rather accidentally, so I'm rolling with that.

Retrogeocollage Waterrayscollage

I really enjoy making up moodboards when I'm having trouble coming up with a starting point and these are examples of some quick and dirty moodboards I created using an app on my iPad called PicCollage. Apologies that I don't have photo credits for the images above. Now here are my final submissions. First: the Retro Geometric, then mocked up as a swimsuit and, because I didn't completely like it as a suit, a beach tote. This theme was giving me a hard time, so I'm not totally in love with the end result, but hey, that happens.

retrogeo retrogeobeach

Now the second submission for the Water Rays theme. In the end I think I like how this one turned out. I love the look of watercolor splotches and the indigo trend that's making the rounds. I was also inspired by that pic above with all the intricate hand stitching and I reinterpreted it as water swirls.



Now it's on to week 2 of Summer School on Monday! Even with all my troubles getting started and frustration I'm still having a great time and connecting with some great people.