From the Ramsay Gourd Home Fabric Collection
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Process - Designing Printed Textiles

I’m often asked about the process of bringing my textile designs to fruition. So I thought I’d take a moment to shine a little light on the process.

Sometimes my inspiration comes from something that I’ve seen. Sometimes it is a reaction to a trend. And sometimes it’s ignited by a specific commission from a special client. No matter where it comes from, inspiration is the most important aspect of my designs. It is the life-source that establishes the DNA that will inform all decisions in the process.

While I have created over fifty patterns in nine lines, and am constantly thinking about new designs, as a case study, I will walk you through the process of the Farmyard fabric, the star of the Kedron Valley collection.

It all started with a couple of wonderful clients and the hunt for the perfect fabric to be the basis and inspiration for the library in their 19th century country home. They came to me with the notion that they wanted to create a jewel box of a room, done exclusively in a red toile de Jouy fabric. So off I went to the design center to see what I could find…

Concept Sketch for Farmyard Pattern

Concept Sketch for Farmyard Pattern

I returned with over 40 samples ranging from the mild to the wild, but all lacking that special pop and statement that they were looking for. Any one of them would have been fine. But none of them had a voice that captured the vibrancy of these two remarkable people. This is where I went out on a limb.

“We could certainly use one of these, and it would end up feeling a little twee, more like your grandmother’s Dorset bedroom. Or… I could design a fabric for you!” They enthusiastically embraced the idea of developing something specific to this project. After looking through some of my previous designs, we came up with a plan. We would use a process similar to the Safari Strie that I had done, but do it with an emphatically North American agricultural theme. This approach brings together the pastoral imagery of the toile with the more exotic feel of a warp-thread icat. We settled on the idea, and I was off to the races!

The first step was to develop some concept sketches. Rolling out sheets of tracing paper, I doodled and drew until I had a pretty clear idea of the form and layout of the pattern. In this case, there would be two bi-laterally symmetrical compositions that would fit together as interlocking pieces.

When I was happy with the proportions and shapes, I scanned them and used the scanned images as background references in a CAD drawing. Here I was able to manipulate the geometries and scale of the pattern. For upholstery and home décor fabrics, it is important to consider the size of the repeat in order to minimize waste. (Two chair backs can be covered from side-by-side cuttings of a 54” wide fabric.)

CAD Generated Layout Drawing for Farmyard Pattern

CAD Generated Layout Drawing for Farmyard Pattern

Original Watercolour Painting of Farmyard

Original Watercolour Painting of Farmyard

Happy with the layout, I print the drawing at full scale. This then gets transferred to illustration board by the old-school method of rubbing graphite on the back and re-tracing the drawing. Once I have a pencil drawing on board, I sit down with my paints and render it with color. I have to be mindful of how this pattern may translate to other color-ways, and what colors I may want to alter later. I then follow all of these steps for each companion pattern that I want to add to the line.

Four Colour-ways of Farmyard

Four Colour-ways of Farmyard

The Final Fabric

The Final Fabric

When I have a complete line worked out, I get the boards professionally scanned as high-resolution files. These files I bring into my computer, and through a graphic design software, manipulate the images to create the multiple color ways and to work out the seamless repeat. (Remember that each image is hand-painted, so getting one side of the image to blend with the other, both horizontally and vertically can be a challenge.)

Once I am satisfied with each color and repeat, the files get uploaded to my textile printer’s server and out of my hands! Now I sit back and wait for the samples to arrive. Assuming that I don’t have to re-work my files, I am ready to produce the yardage required to fill an order!

 
At Work in my Studio

At Work in my Studio