The design process behind my fabric

People often ask me where I get my inspiration for fabric design. I am inspired by nature, architecture, antique fabric and wallpaper, and so much more. But a lot of my design inspiration comes from other art. There are design archive companies which cater to fabric and wallpaper designers. They have thousands of pieces of art that they, themselves, have collected to show to designers.

At the Starbucks in Kyoto

At the Starbucks in Kyoto

I have just recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Japan where I met with the artists who work with me on my fabric collections. I also went to the printing facility that prints my fabrics. I try to go periodically to personally touch base with the people who work with me and to also look through their design archives.

On my most recent trip, I looked at more than 10,000 pieces of art in two days. I was getting bleary eyed! When looking at each, it is important to look beyond what is actually there. I look for interesting textures, motifs, backgrounds. Sometimes, something with really high contrast or bold electric colors catches my eye even though I would never use it as is. I look for parts of the design that I can manipulate to turn into something else.

Jinny with art2For instance, Chelsea, my most recent fabric collection, was inspired by designs that I selected on a previous trip to Japan. Let me show you an example of how this design worked for me.

Original floral design

Background design only

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful flowers on this more than 60-year-old piece of art. The second was the design in the background. Notice that there is too much separation between the flowers and the background making it a bit difficult to use in quilting. I also didn’t like the white dots on parts of the design.

Studying the design, I decided to make two fabrics from the one piece of art with  one being a separate fabric of just the background.  For the other, I eliminated the white dots and brought the value of the colors closer together.

I do most of this work in Photoshop and then send what I have done to the design studio. They make any corrections that I cannot do on my computer and send it back to me. Once I have the designs complete, I do the colors on my computer and send it back to Japan so they can prepare the art for printing.  Here are photos of three of the final fabrics in the collection

fabrics and backgroundsMost exciting for me is to finally have the designs the way I like them. I then work with the digital images to create a quilt using that collection. I will talk more about designing fabric in upcoming blogs.

Chelsea both colorways

Chelsea quilt in blue and pink granite