Exposure: Final Reflective Statement

Three years have completely flown by. ‘Exposure’ was my final module, to showcase myself as a professional designer and my work as cohesive pattern collections suitable for the market I’ve chosen. Research was a huge part of my work, not just at the start, but all the way through when needed. I used a number of sources for research, including first hand interviews, product research online, and techniques research to further my own making, even trying my own bird seed ‘tags’ to support my customers gardens. I think research is a strength of mine, I enjoy it and know how to use it to further my work and myself, I spent a lot of time on Skillshare and Careercake teaching myself how to do things and improve my employability too.

I am happy with the final collection, I made some key decisions along the way that I think improved it. Firstly I developed my style of drawing on Procreate, by practicing my drawing style and colour palettes by completing pattern contests each week with Spoonflower. My first decision was to stick to my green, pink, yellow scheme, or add in a blue that means each mini-collection would have its unique combination of three of the green, pink, yellow and blue colour scheme. I decided to implement this to set each mini-collection apart from each other a little but as a whole then you can see the colours throughout, this was a good decision but I found it harder to work with the colour combinations that I personally did not like as much as the others, meaning there were slightly less patterns because I did not feel as inspired.

I know my patterns are busy, I have tried layering before which gives it even more of a busy look, so I decided to avoid this and just fill my spaces with motifs of plenty of different sizes. As my designs are for quite small scale products, filling up those little fabric pieces is important and makes it stand out, this is what I wanted to go for. I justify this decision by looking at the final results, this is what I wanted to create and I think they suit the product market well. I also love tossed designs personally, and a lot of my patterns come from this, but I did branch out into linear designs, and stripes, half dropped designs, more variety than just the tossed designs. My heroes are tossed, but I do have the animals facing up the one way, I did not want the animals to be thrown in upside down so the heroes do have a right way to them, which suits something like a notebook, or a fabric bag, as it shows more of the animals in this style and I think shows off their detail.

I wish I had the resources to learn more about Illustrator, I watched a lot of Skillshare videos about creating patterns on there but it would run very slowly on my laptop, so my patterns were completed in Photoshop, which has now become second nature to me. A goal for the future will be to use Illustrator more, I made use of it in University and before I had Procreate to draw digitally, I would Live Trace my physical drawings into digital. I do recognize my achievement in pattern making throughout this year, I wish I had managed to get a grasp on it sooner but I think from Consultancy to now I have developed a lot, and the Spoonflower weekly contests help me a lot, I found myself critically looking at those patterns and exploring colour palettes and colour balance in patterns more, even creating coordinating designs to go along with the design I would create, which has expanded my online portfolio.

I think I handle re-doing things and improving things better now, I looked at my pattern boards critically and changed them, sometimes a small colour tweak, sometimes a whole new pattern, and learning to edit my collection down was important, because I created a large number of patterns and I knew it was important to pick the best ones that show my versatility and skills.

I started creating placement designs for each animal, they were simple middle placements that worked well, and I was going to put one of these on each pattern board, but I went back to this and also created top and bottom corner and header designs, so put one of each type of design on my pattern boards, and in my lookbook treated the other three animals as variations, so instead of four placements looking similar, one in each mini collection, I instead have sixteen placements, four different placement styles, showing one of each animal.

I hit a problem when it came to creating my lookbook, illustrator struggled and Acrobat, for editing PDFs, crashes when I try to open. I view PDFs using the internet, but I cannot edit them, so whenever I need to add or remove a page, I have to create it all over again using the Automate function on Photoshop. So I thought I could create the lookbook on Photoshop, but I did want the pages to show as a double page spread, I used A4 pages portrait for front and back covers, and A3 landscape for the double spreads, which I think was a good solution as I know how to use Photoshop and I think the end result is to a professional standard.

A lot of things I have discovered can be trial and error, patterns can be created with a number of colours, scales and motifs, it does not have to be perfect the first time. I think overall I have developed into a productive designer, I cannot wait to learn more about patterns and graphic design on my own in the future, but through experience I am refining my style independently, which I think is the ultimate goal for myself.

Professional Practice: Reflective Statement

I was looking forward to Professional Practice to learn more about being independent as a designer and professional, I remember thinking the idea of applying for a job would be completely unrealistic at the start of the year, I did not feel confident in my abilities or employability.

At the end of my course now, I am still not exactly sure what I want to do, which I think is okay, there has been a pandemic and due to illness, I was supposed to be finishing my degree next year, so I had not had the time to think about a solid plan. I saw myself with three options, a Masters degree, a job, or working on my own business, but really what I think I want to do is continue to explore these. I have been applying for remote working jobs and freelance work, I was recently accepted as an collaborating artist for Wuzci, an online card subscription company for which I will get commissions, and I plan to explore my own business by refining some products and digitally printing my fabrics to create them. I think I do have a lot of options, and if I get accepted for a full-time job, then my own business would be more part-time, and if I do not, then my business could be developed as more of a full-time thing.

In terms of a Masters, I do not want to rush back into this, just to make sure my health is okay, so I have researched into these close to home, Swansea seems to have a good course which could be an option in the future.

The press pack was developed with my pink and green colour scheme, which also follows through to my website, showing my professional web presence. My website acts as a portfolio of my patterns and work, even showing some of my sketchbook pages and development, and also has my CV and contact information. I have also made my Instagram and Pinterest into business accounts, which helps me to see insights and the reach on my posts. Pinterest has been particularly eye-opening, some of my individual patterns have over 15k views of them, right now an audience of 250k can see my patterns and be directed to my website, and hopefully in the future to a shop with those patterns on products.

I have been looking out for pattern contests to take part in, Spoonflower weekly contests was great for me as it helped me to refine my style and patterns, and with a system of voting with likes, I saw which patterns were more successful than others, which was very useful for my graduate collection as I had a number of weeks working on patterns before this anyway. I also took part in some Ohh Deer contests, a bottle design contest, some art contests, and I was looking into doing New Designers Awards, unfortunately the University was not registered, but I can still take my ideas that I had started to develop for that onto my own collections now.

My immediate future plans will be to start creating some small scale giftware products to make and sell myself, so really get re-acquainted with construction and my sewing machine. I also will continue to look for remote work, even a few hours a week that would help support my immediate life plans of moving in with my boyfriend.

I will continue to take part in any contests that I see, the Spoonflower ones that give a theme are great as they inspire me with things that I have not really thought of before.

Playing with Fabric Samples

I ordered some fabrics from Fashion Formula with a few of my patterns on, I ordered three in little samples and the hedgehog print and a squirrel secondary in fat quarters.

As per a little aim on my brief, I wanted to add some stitch to a couple of them to see how this would look.

I loved how vibrant the hedgehog print came out, and I thought I would love to make that into a proper cushion cover to see how that would look.

On the leaf print I outlined the green leaves with a single line of stitch, which I think is pretty and makes it stand out a little more. Then on the mushroom print I tried completely blocking out a yellow and green mushroom to see how this would look. Overall I think the outline worked better but I do think they work nicely as purely printed designs, which could be added to a little depending on product if it was suitable. The small scale of the print and the actual sample meant the blocked out ones did not look as neat as they could of. I think to improve the outlining I could have tried quilting to raise the shapes off of it a little.

The cushion also worked out well and I think the scale looks pretty perfect for the size of it, I would love to do some more of these to put onto Etsy or something too. Overall I think getting them printed onto fabric was a good idea because it helps to show the colours even better than the paper printouts did, and how the colours behave on the various fabrics. This was just a poly panama as I wanted something quite light and airy, which I think was effective here.

Embossing Experiments

I knew vaguely what embossing was when I started this year, but actually I have found a lot of fun in creating samples of it. This looked a lot like foiling on flat images and I ordered some bright gold powder to use for this to add these extra bits to my designs. Like the foiling, it was something I wanted to experiment with on my designs once they were complete and I put this into my self-set brief.

I printed out some of my designs onto paper to try out the embossing, the first sample was created on a lined piece of paper just to see the powder, although this did not turn out as bold as I wanted, so after that I used the harder end of the embossing pen and went for a few layers of it. I also found that once I had initially tapped the powder off, covering it again in another layer could sometimes work to add more bulk to the line of the design.

I thought creatively about my designs and how the embossing could best be used on them. Starting simple with adding it to some dots in the red squirrel hero and some squiggles in the dormouse hero, then trying out some outlines on the hare placement and adding to the dormouse placement with more leaves. I think my favourite one has to be the red squirrel placement, firstly using it to add the notes word at the bottom is nice because it helps me to visualise the design on a notebook, and then by using the gold to highlight parts of the squirrel I think worked well to achieve quite an interesting effect. I think this would also be lovely in some flower designs or something like that, as it would add a perfect bit of detail to it beyond what I can do with a pencil or a paintbrush.

I think my lettering does need work, the pressure of getting it right in one go is hard but I think I could work smart with this by using a lightbox to trace some more fancy lettering which I think could make it look better and more modern too in keeping with trendy fonts, I would love to try this out actually tomorrow and do an updated post.

Here I tried out a red squirrel with the embossing placement design on a mockup of a notebook, I think the idea works but I think the lettering that I just freehanded quickly just does not have the effect that I wanted. I need a font thats more modern and loopy in line with trends.

I was going to wait until tomorrow to try out the embossing lettering since its quite late now, but I still have a full cup of tea and time to do it, so I just went ahead and found a font I liked on Pinterest, then using it as my reference, sketched out a design in fineliner on a piece of paper, then embossing over this so I got the embossing pen fairly close to the design.

The notes one turned out good but I could still see some of the pen, so on the to-do one I really tried to cover more of it and I think they have both turned out much better than my freehand lettering I tried, I wanted to now try this out on mockups to see what this looked like, as I did not have any more print outs of my work so I thought a way around this was to do it digitally.

It is quite difficult to photograph embossing, I have been using little video clips on my Instagram to show the effects properly, but I think this was quite a successful attempt and showing it with the rest of the notebooks and coordinating patterns shows that the design would work, and I think it would be flexible on other designs as well. I really enjoyed embossing and I look forward to using it more in the future as well whether its on my products or for fun.

Foiling Experiments

Something on my self-set brief I still wanted to do now I had some finished designs, was foiling. In uni, we use screens to pull glue through to the shape that we want, which can then be used to create foiling samples, and also flocking which produces a lovely velvety finish. I thought foiling would look good on my work in a gold because of the yellow throughout most of the mini-collections. I thought about the use of the foiling for the front of the notebook, to add some interest to it and make it look like a more high end product.

I researched foiling and how to do it yourself, like what an independent designer would do with their own designs. A lot of people said they used a laminator, which heats up a high temperature to heat up and melt the plastic around the paper, which would bond the foil to the glued part of the design and act as though it had just been under the heat press. I did not have a laminator unfortunately, so I continued looking for other methods and whether it could be done simply using heat from an iron to bond it together.

I decided to just go for it, using a PVA glue, and a more industrial glue too for the tests. If I had more time I would have liked to have got in contact with someone in the print room and see whether I could order the type of glue for a further experiment, although I had hopes with the glues I had.

I painted some very simple designs, lines, stipples, something that would be simple to replicate and do again for further experiments if I needed to.

I used thin paper thinking it might work better so the foiling did not have to really bond to something more complex than fabrics. I ironed them both for around 20 minutes each and no difference at all was made unfortunately. This is something I am missing with Covid-19, the resources in Uni were really useful, I also really miss the photographic darkroom, I love cyanotypes and photograms, and I really wanted to play with these combined with digital work. Like using the cyanotypes to create motifs, then digitialising them into a pattern, or creating a digital pattern, then printing it onto acetate and making it into a cyanotype or photogram which can be repeated and continued.

I then thought about some sample packs I ordered from some websites to look into presspacks and paper qualities, I ordered a foiling sample pack when I was looking at my designs for consultancy.

This was a foiling sample by printed.com, which I think comes out a lot brighter and more professional than homemade anyway, I think this could be an option for when I actually make the products, and see how these look with some sampling. I was thinking of the words ‘notes’ or ‘to-do’ across the cover of a notebook for example, and I think overall the experimentation was fun and taught me about what is and isnt possible to do at home too.