We recently caught up with the lovely self taught print designer Lotti Brown to find out about how she started in surface pattern design, and set up her own successful print licensing business:
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I create colourful, lively and intricate artworks and surface pattern designs. They are inspired by, and try to connect with, the beauty and energy of the natural world.
I’ve always loved to draw, but didn’t go to art school. In my early twenties, I was lucky enough to get a wonderful job drawing and colouring maps and plans, which I did for a decade. Illness forced a career change, and I spent several years as a home colour consultant and design writer, before following my true creative calling.
I started learning about the world of surface pattern design, and completed the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design modules in 2014-15. I now sell prints and cards from my online store, and license and sell my patterns and designs.
Your designs predominantly look at the natural world. How do you source your imagery?
I love to draw directly from nature whenever I can, so I will bring flowers in from the garden, or draw them in situ, and buy flowers and plants to draw from life. I like to pick up feathers, pine cones, or shells to add to my nature stock-pile too. I also take absolutely loads of photos of flowers, plants and interesting things, that I can come back to as inspiration at a later date. If all else fails, I have a great collection of artist reference books which offer good, copyright-free material that I can adapt and draw from.
Which are your favourite fabrics to work with?
A nice crisp cotton is very adaptable, and shows off colour and detail well – but something tactile like silk, which drapes beautifully, or a soft suedette or velvet, are real favourites for the feel.
Which artists or designers inspire you?
There are so many talented artists and designers about, it’s hard to choose. And I see more awesome new talent each day. I’ve always been inspired by Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs fabrics – such gorgeous detail, and vibrant colours, all crammed in together. And I’m a big fan of the artistry in Raymond Honeyman’s Ehrman wonderful needlepoint kits.
I fell in love with artist Julie Dumbarton’s paintings on a holiday to Scotland – her vision, colour-work and textures are simply stunning. I also really admire the gorgeous, colourful pieces of artist Michelle Campbell and painter-printmaker Claire West.
“Share your work, and connect with other designers, and you can soon find you feel part of the surface pattern design community.”
As someone who didn’t follow a traditional university route into design, do you have any for people who want to get into surface pattern design?
I know first-hand how intimidating it can seem, as you feel like you’re the only one without an art or design degree. And it can be quite off-putting to see how many opportunities are geared towards students and recent graduates, and so little specifically for people who have found their way towards surface pattern design through alternative routes.
But… the good news is, there are actually plenty of designers who haven’t gone to art school, and are self-taught – many successful names, too.
I think to myself that my life’s pathway has provided me with unique experiences and skills, which could never be replicated at art school. I’m also free to approach things with my own fresh viewpoint, not having been trained to think, see, or draw things in a certain way.
So, not having studied art and design at university, but what you, personally, have done with your life instead, can be a big bonus for you – and help to set you apart, to find or create your own niche.
With regard to learning the ropes, there are now very many tutorials and classes online which can show you all you need to know, without the cost of a degree. After all, art and design is certainly one area where your work speaks for itself.
I did the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design courses, which I found perfect for absolute beginners, like me. I also learned lots from Bonnie Christine’s ‘Design Surface Patterns from Scratch’ course on Creative Live. I’m now a part of the Pattern Observer Textile Design Lab, which is packed full of courses, learning and creative prompts to enhance your knowledge.
Just being yourself, and making the most of what comes naturally to you (without thinking you have to perfect every technique, style or subject matter) is a wonderful, and very enjoyable, way to find your own path in surface pattern design.
Be brave – look for opportunities (as the internet really opens up the world to us all). Share your work, and connect with other designers, and you can soon find you feel part of the surface pattern design community.
Your personal story is very inspiring. What are you most proud of?
Thank you very much for saying so. I think one of the things I’m most proud of, is starting my own online business, while I was ill with ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) – and building it up into a successful enterprise.
Such experiences have made me feel more confident about riding the inevitable peaks and troughs in the roller-coaster that is life, and given me courage to try the things I really wanted to, like becoming an artist and surface pattern designer.
Can you tell us about anything exciting you are working on at the moment?
I’ve got lots of exciting things in the pipeline at the moment. One of the projects I’m most excited about is my series of local nature pieces, including lots of flowers and native birds, which I’m working on, and hoping to unveil in the summer. I’m also preparing to start working with a design agency to represent some of my prints to the market.
Lotti has lots more designs on her website, and you can follow her on social media:
We are very excited to announce that Lotti will be launching an exclusive designer fabric with Print & Press, London later this month! We can’t wait to share it with you all, and look forward to seeing the lovely things you make with it.
all images and designs ©Lotti Brown Designs