For the Love of Pattern

Interview with Sarah Watson

Meet the ArtistAbby Leigh Ecker1 Comment

Sarah Watson is an American illustrator living in Brazil, trained in textile design and repeat pattern. She studied Fibers at SCAD and is currently designing for Cloud 9 Fabrics, an all organic company. In the past she's worked with Art Gallery Fabrics and she's even illustrated two books. Pretty cool stuff! She just exhibited at Surtex for the first time this year, which I think is a pretty amazing accomplishment. 

Sarah Watson Illustration

Today I'd like to share a little more about Sarah, her design inspirations and a short interview that she kindly made time for in her busy schedule.

What is your earliest influence that you can recall, which inspired you to go into a creative field?

SW: The story that I'm usually told is that my grandmother (my Mom's mother that is), who passed away before I got to know her very well, noticed some sort of creative talent in me and pushed my parents to enroll me in art lessons. It all sort of started from there and I've been having fun in the field ever since.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs? Do you find you have a common theme you return to or is it different for every collection?

SW: My inspiration really comes from pen and paper. Everything I do starts with a drawing and that style even varies quite a bit depending on whether I'm using pen and ink, watercolor or pencil. Mostly the themes stick to nature, but there's a lot of imagination involved.

What type of pattern do you enjoy the most?

SW: Because I was trained in textile design, I really love intricate, complex patterns. The actual repeat layout of the pattern is just as important to me as the illustration style, color or subject matter. There are a lot of things that go into making a pattern, lots of decisions, and they all have to work well together.

Do you have anything that helps motivate you while working?

SW: Well, because my work isn't always just being creative and there's a lot of business work too, I tend to have a broad variety of external distractions. Because I live overseas, I try to listen to international or stateside news once a week or so, to keep in touch. If I'm doing something tedious, I love to get a good pile of work, sit down with a cup of coffee and watch TV while I work. We live in an apartment with a pool, though, too, so if I can gather enough work to sit quietly for a large span of time, I love to sit at the pool and work. And of course, no music or anything then, because there are waves crashing in the background. It's all the music I need.

Who do you look up to, someone you most admire or are influenced by?

SW: Historically speaking, there are a few people I'm drawn to, William Morris is great. He was such a jack of all trades. As far as modern designers go, right now I'm really loving everything that Carolyn Friedlander is doing. She's slowing things down quite a bit, and with the pace that design happens these days, with products hitting shelves, and then moving to the sale rack within a month, I think that's really important. I think we could all use a little more handmade.

What do you think makes a strong textile design?

SW: Well, this kind of goes back to my answer of what pattern I enjoy most. To me, a strong textile design has a few important elements: color, subject, repeat layout and style.  Those design elements get moved around, depending on what the desired outcome is. For retail, I think color drives nearly everything. 

Besides textile design, are you working on anything else?

SW: I am! But I can't tell you about it yet! How's that for suspense? 

What's your favorite thing to make when not designing?

SW: I do like to cook. Living overseas, I get homesick for certain things every now and then, so I'm getting better and better at cooking. As far as hobbies, I love gardening, anything outdoors and exercise. 

Explain your vision behind Sarah Watson Illustration, what things are most important you you as a designer?

SW: When I quit my day job, I was leaving it because I felt like all my time was spent at work. I love to work, but there are other important things out there, life, family, giving back. I needed to figure out how I could make my schedule work so that all of those things could be incorporated into my day-to-day. A big part of my business plan is giving back. Because I've been very lucky to have supportive parents, and was born into a loving family, I feel like everyone should have the same opportunities. I allot 12 days a year to volunteering, and 5% of my profits go to social or environmental organizations. Design is very important to me, but when I sit back and look at the grand spectrum, what I'd really love to be known for is being a good person.

Do you have any advice for new designers out there?

SW: Hmm, I still consider myself a pretty new designer! But I think the best advice I have would to be work hard. It takes quite a while to make a profitable business, in any realm, and there is a lot of work involved. Don't take shortcuts or the easy way out, you're going to have to work very, very hard in the beginning. But if you really love what you're doing, it'll start to click, and it'll get easier and easier. 

Is there anything new and exciting that you would like to share?

SW: Well, with the way this industry works, I don't have too much fun to share right now, it's all top secret. I have a new fabric line coming out this month, which is very exciting. And I'm also pregnant, so I guess that's pretty important too!  

Finish this sentence - When you're not in your studio we can find you...

SW: Trying to convince my husband to take the day off work, and go to the beach! 

Make sure you check out Sarah's latest collection, Arcadia! My personal favorites from this collection are Herb Garden & Sun Spot and Bee. I love the line quality in these designs and the tiny little details. I can't wait to see what's next from Sarah and to find out all of the top secret projects that she is working on. I think it's safe to say that we will be seeing a lot of exciting things from Sarah in the near future. 

All photos were provided by Sarah Watson.

Enjoy your week and happy Monday! As always I welcome comments and feedback.