Inspiring : Nouveau Bohemian {surface design}

With a “background that is ridiculously unrelated to what I do now”, Esther Fallon Lau produces gorgeously diverse patterns, full of whimsical creatures and fairytale people in soft textures and colours. Under the name Nouveau Bohemian, she spreads her designs throughout Spoonflower and Society6 in a profusion of animals, birds, Fridas and tattooed men. She’s a busy person – not content with simply designing, she also uses her Spoonflower products to recycle old furniture with reupholstery and decoupage to sell on Etsy.


nouveau bohemian - the enchanted universe

nouveau bohemian – the enchanted universe


nouveau bohemian - woodland winter toile

nouveau bohemian – woodland winter toile


Esther first gained a degree in Psychology, and went on to spend a life in Government writing policy and managing huge, national projects. “At the height of my ‘serious’ life I was a media advisor to a federal politician. While not entirely ‘designy’ it did require creativity and has given me a good grounding in how to pitch yourself and your products and the importance of powerful, consistent branding, which, when I have more time to launch myself will hold me in good stead.”

After having children, she felt the need to do something that was more grown-up and a channel for her creative energy, and what started out as a hobby has grown into something that is on the tipping point of turning into a real business. “Up until now, I feel like I have been doing an apprenticeship, driven purely by enjoyment. My husband works away for 3 weeks out of 4; and we have two small kids.”



“Needless to say I have very little time – but I needed a creative outlet, something that was just mine. So I wrote a novel (haven’t had time to try to get it published yet, ha). Then about 18 months ago I stumbled onto Spoonflower and started dabbling in surface design for fun.”


“I entered their contests and won a couple. I realised people liked what I do, and my success on that site is growing all the time. Spoonflower is a wonderful tool in so many ways, but mostly because it allows you to test your product out in the market for very little outlay.  Over time, my customers have shaped my style so that it is both still my own, but also more attractive to a wider market.


nouveau bohemian - fairytale terrariums

nouveau bohemian – fairytale terrariums


“Right now, my focus is on harnessing the creative explosion that is going off my brain, doing as much designing as possible and diversifying distribution using methods that are not time intensive. The next step will be to use my designs to produce and distribute my own products (eg decor items and baby products) and take on more of the distribution myself (which will be more time consuming but potentially more lucrative). I also need to set up a blog to tie all my selling platforms together. And I need to get some sleep!”


nouveau bohemian - nutcracker

nouveau bohemian – nutcracker


Running a business as a solo operator can be tiring, and there are plans to collaborate with friends in a collective. “So far I have taught myself everything – from Photoshop to reupholstery. I Youtube, Google, and Pinterest constantly as research. I also hassle my dad from time to time to fix up old crappy bits of furniture I find. I am just at the point where I need to 1) upskill on the tech stuff and start working in vectors, and 2) outsource. Here [Byron Bay] I am surrounded by brilliant, talented mothers of young kids who want to do SOMETHING but don’t have the time do everything required to run a small business. So we are currently looking at setting up a women’s collective where some of us produce inventory and others provide essential roles such as marketing and distribution.”


nouveau bohemian - the herb garden

nouveau bohemian – the herb garden


Creativity has been part of her life forever. “My childhood didn’t involve craft, it WAS craft. My parents were hippies; educated bohemians who believed in self sufficiency, DIY and ‘culture’ long before these ideas became trendy. We lived in the foothills behind Byron Bay and most of our neighbours were artists, musicians, dreamers, intellects and/or completely trippers. My father was a furniture maker. My days were filled with painting, building, creating, cubbies at the creek, gardening, cooking etc. We were pretty poor but my childhood was rich beyond all measure. That’s why when I had kids, I gave up my career and moved us back to our family farm which we share with my incredible mother.”


nouveau bohemian - pheasant season

nouveau bohemian – pheasant season


For any small creative business, Esther agrees that presentation is everything. “Even if your product is brilliant, customers won’t value it if it doesn’t tell a story. Styling and branding are vital; for instance when I photograph my furniture, I try to use props that allude to the kind of (cool, fabulous) person who might own it. Often my fabric collections are inspired by events, movements, groups of people, geography – for example I have a collection called the Silk Route which explores the intersection between Eastern and Western traditional design.”

“How you present yourself as the artist is also important as this gives your product providence – customers will place more value on niche products made by artists with a background story, than the same product mass produced in China.  That’s why big global brands spend so much money creating the illusion of providence (e.g. by associating a brand with a movement such as bohemian, hip hop, Scandi etc). And when people buy your product as a gift, this story needs to come though in all your  packaging, wrapping, business cards.  When there is a ‘story’ customers feel like they are getting more bang for their buck.”


nouveau bohemian - vintage peacock

nouveau bohemian – vintage peacock


The best thing that has happened to Esther as a designer? “Funnily enough, having kids. I have always had a very intellectual, logical way of looking at things. My design work before kids was too literal, rigid. The sleep deprivation and other business that comes from having kids has damped down my cognitive skills, making me vague and dreamy. This is bad for getting the house work done but excellent for  unlocking my creative brain, allowing ideas to flow laterally, float around without analysis then morph unfettered into something more organic and original. So paradoxically because of kids I am a much better designer, but because of kids I no longer have the time to be one. Ha. Ha. And my work space is a total mess with kids toys and grubby handprints everywhere. It is not the tranquil, sacred studio space of my dreams.”


nouveau bohemian - real men bake

nouveau bohemian on Society6 – real men bake


Is there something quirky or curious about yourself that you’d like to share?
“No, but my three year old wants to marry a penguin.”


esther painting furniture

esther painting furniture


esther clowning with julia gillard

esther clowning with julia gillard


And the best piece of advice you’ve ever had? “Follow your bliss.”

You can find more of Esther’s patterns and illustrations in her Spoonflower shop Nouveau_Bohemian, and in her Society6 shop, and her renovated furniture in her Etsy store, Republic of Lush.

Inspiring : Sarah Bagshaw {surface design}

sarah bagshaw - turquoise pop

sarah bagshaw – turquoise pop


It was while studying at art college that UK designer Sarah Bagshaw had her first serious encounter with pattern love. It all started when her Mum gave her some patterned 1960s bath towels that she’d had as a child; and Sarah’s work abruptly altered direction.


sarah bagshaw - green and yellow print

sarah bagshaw – green and yellow print


“I have been making pattern paintings since my degree in Fine Art back in the early ’90s, but it was only in the past three or four years that I have been making specific surface pattern design work. I started to work on a smaller scale and selling work on Etsy which is where Lesley Merola, owner of Hunt+Gather studio in the US found my work and suggested it would translate well to textile design.”

Being discovered by Hunt+Gather was incredibly exciting for her, and has been the catalyst for many things. More recently, Sarah has become a freelance designer for Lush Handmade Cosmetics, which she loves. “Their briefs are always fun and allow me to be as wild and whacky as I can!” Other clients have included 3M and Patternbank.


sarah bagshaw - bunting

sarah bagshaw – bunting


sarah bagshaw - print and digital

sarah bagshaw – print and digital


sarah bagshaw - drawn and digital red and blue triangles

sarah bagshaw – drawn and digital red and blue triangles


Working with a vocabulary of simple abstract shapes and lines, Sarah first creates the basis of her patterns with a variety of basic techniques – linocut, collage, bits of photographs, and painting – before scanning them in and then working “quite playfully on Photoshop until the piece is ‘finished’.” Building her images up in shifting layers of colour results in patterns that sometimes appear translucent, sometimes solid, but always vibrant and bold.

Surprisingly for someone who is so prolific, she told me she doesn’t actually have any designated work space of her own. “I sometimes use the art studios of the university I work at, but more often than not it is done on my knee, the dining room table or lounge floor!”


sarah bagshaw - green blocks phtographucs and digital

sarah bagshaw – green blocks photographics and digital


Despite her success with Hunt+Gather, becoming a full-time surface designer is still a little way off. She has been working as a university lecturer in general Art and Design/Education for the past 15 years, and has young children to care for as well, so there’s hardly a quiet moment to plan out her business future. “I have a huge list of things I need to focus on and learn to do…teach myself Illustrator, do my own tax return for example, but working as a lecturer for four days a week and having three young children I am not good at working through my lists. I used an accountant local to me for my tax return and although I’ve signed up for a Skillshare course on Illustrator I still haven’t found time to do it!”


sarah bagshaw - i am the black gold of the sun

sarah bagshaw – i am the black gold of the sun


Perhaps it’s because she’s too busy cleaning 😉 . When I asked her if there was something quirky or curious about herself that she’d like to share, she said “Erm, I love vacuuming – but it has to be with a Dyson so I can see all the dirt.”


sarah bagshaw - 80s all over

sarah bagshaw – 80s all over


Sarah’s work has appeared in several recent trend reports, and she has been interviewed for a number of design blogs, including PatternBooth and Pattern Observer.

You can find more of Sarah’s work on her own site,


Inspiring : JulesAndInk {Julia Pellizzari}

Julia {aka JulesAndInk} Pellizzari’s favourite piece of advice was given to her when she was first venturing out into surface pattern design for herself. “I was reminded that no matter what, always keep moving forward with your passion and what it is you want, each and every day.. even if it’s a small step, it’s something…and you’ve then succeeded for that day because you didn’t let fear or any other negative force stop you.”


julesandink 1

watercolour 1



watercolour 2


That is why on her blog she features a category called “Small Steps of Success” – to remind herself of this and to document it in a tangible way.


“Celebrate those small or big milestones of growth.. because in the end, it’s all about those daily steps that will ultimately get you to where you want to be!”


Her surface designs exude happiness, yet gently so – like having a conversation with a friend you’ve just met. It’s a world of softness and daydreams – bright, fresh pastels and delicately textured watercolours fill the space in and around her drawn and painted forms.  “I’m definitely an introvert and love my coffee shop daydreaming…If I could paint all day to experiment with painterly pattern type of designs on infinite white canvases, I would be completely content in my own little world! :)”








A real ‘popstar’ moment came for Julia when Rachael Taylor chose her Popsicle design as the winner in a Twitter contest in June last year, and she posted about it on her blogs. “It was a very fun experience as I’ve always been a big fan of hers.”






“The key with drawing is patience”


On the technical side of things, she draws, paints and scans her work principally into Adobe CS6 Illustrator and Photoshop. However, she doesn’t limit herself to one specific method of working, but switches things around freely. “I do love experimenting! I like to create interesting textures and colors with watercolor and paint to eventually scan..there are really no rules. A good idea to try is layering colors to get different looks or make stamps to create a block print style. You will eventually find that sometimes the simplest  design can look really amazing once repeated. I also like to incorporate pen illustrations into my work, but the key with drawing is patience. I sometimes like to retrace my illustrations numerous times until I’m satisfied with a final, clean look to scan..but really take your time with it…fill up your whole page even with doodles and just let your mind wander without judgement.”

Once her main print design is tied down, she then moves onto creating other supplementary designs for a collection, keeping the core idea of that design firmly in her head.


vintage petals - julesandink

vintage petals – julesandink


Working from her home studio in Chicago, Julia says she is all about making the creative space your own and using the space in the way that works best for you. “I would describe my space as colorful and fairly organized…I also have a bulletin board I like to pin colors and ideas to (aside from my obsession with my other boards aka Pinterest…which you can find here 😉 ).”

Not only does the physical space have to be organised and workable, Julia says it’s important to her to have her head in the right place too. “I have a tradition of lighting a candle at my desk every time I start really diving deep into working, to symbolize my devotion that day to doing what I love and really just honoring that time to myself.”



southern lemonade – julesandink


You can find more of Julia’s work on her website,, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.


Music + pictures 4 : alt-J ~ Hunger of the Pine

Music + pictures {or even more simply, “music pictures”} is a collection of beautiful from around the interwebs while I’m on holidays for January – at the beach, camping, with my family.

Have a fab New Year, and I’ll be back on the 1st February.
{p.s. I’ve just joined Instagram, so if you’d like to find out a bit more about me and where I live (and holiday!), I’d love for you to come and join me. I’m at tractorgirlmakes.}



Driven to the edge, full of fear and hope and yearning for what you can’t have.

alt-J ~ Hunger of the Pine.





blossom via

blossom via

{via here}


original butterfly by jonathon mccabe

original butterfly by jonathan mccabe

{via here}


little houses by freekhand via society6

little houses by freekhand via society6

{via here}


waves via

waves via

{via here}


{unknown artist via tumblr}

{unknown artist via tumblr}


The best of 2014

Oh. My. Goodness. There goes another year….. in all its chaotic, mind-bending glory. Disappointments, epiphanies, and serious amounts of hard slog.

I’m older and wiser. And clearer on what I need to do. And that’s awesomeness right there, even though I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do. 

Make sure you take stock of what you have learned as well as what you have achieved this year.  If you don’t, you probably will have missed something very valuable indeed. Take time to savour the journey.

I’ve loved my journey this year. Here’s a snippet of the most popular, the most beautiful, and the most interesting posts on 
tractorgirl for 2014. {And some useful stuff too.}


mariaqueenmaria - black tunic with multiple ribbons

mariaqueenmaria – black tunic with multiple ribbons

Maria Queen Maria is a deconstructivist clothing label from Bulgaria, run by two women with backgrounds in the film industry and costume design. You can find more of their work here.


+ Designing a knock-out business card, Parts 1 and 2. Your business card is much more than just a carrier of your contact details; your card sends out a message about your business. Do you want to be perceived as boring or cheap? Probably not. Get onto these tips to make your business card memorable. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.



stoflab - crispijn - green

stoflab – crispijn – green

Stoflab: Despite his bold and uncompromising geometrics, Stoflab himself prefers to remain mysterious and anonymous. Based in the Netherlands, his influences run through Dick Bruna, Bauhaus and computer technology. You can find more of his striking work here


+ Repeating patterns in Illustrator CS6 with the Pattern Making Tool. Written by Illustrator expert Sew Heidi, this excellent post goes through step-by-step to help you create simple patterns with the new Pattern Making Tool in CS6. The tool includes features such as live previews and half-drops, so is a total boon to designers who have been struggling with earlier versions of Illustrator. You can find the post here.



sim luttin - these things

sim luttin – these things

Sim Luttin: Australian jeweller Sim Luttin grew up wanting be an inventor. She watched things being created by her grandfather tinkering in his shed and her scientist father; “I was encouraged to do things in a more labour intensive, meticulous way, which was often a longer and highly detailed process. Now, many years later, I approach my creative work this way.”  You can find more of Sim’s beautiful work here.



leschiwelt - owl

leschiwelt – owl

Nora Leschinski grew up in a remote mountain village in the green forested heart of Germany. It was the perfect place for the future woodcarver to play and fuel her imagination. You can find more of Nora’s beautiful illustrated woodcarvings here.


 + Photographing your work for your online shop. Got an Etsy shop or similar? This one’s for you. Your pictures ARE your product, in the sense that the online world is an overwhelmingly visual one, and you’ve got mere seconds to grab your customer’s attention before they click away somewhere else. Read it here.



mark obrien - church st records - created for the skyliner show

mark obrien – church st records – created for the skyliner show

Mark O’Brien has made enormous chickens {and many other things} from cardboard. See more of his work here.



clemens wirth in the studio

clemens wirth in the studio

Clemens Wirth claims he’s not a wizard, despite his red hair. I beg to differ.  See him build amazing dioramas and turn them into film here


Getting Started in Surface Design, Parts 1, 2 and 3. Part 1 goes through image sizing and resolution, and how to create a simple repeat. You can find Part 1 here. Part 2 explains the difference between CMYK and RGB colour, which one you should be using and why, and has a list of online printing venues so you can print your own fabric. Part 2 is here. Part 3 shows you how big to make your image, helps you figure out what image-editing program to use, and shows you the easy peasy way of creating variety within your print, and mostly importantly, explains what to do next if you want to get serious about surface design. Part 3 is here.



Beata Czyzowska Young - make it possible

Beata Czyzowska Young – make it possible

Beata Czyzowska Young: After moving from Poland several years ago, Beata now makes her home on the Australian Central Coast. 

She is absolutely adamant: “Expensive camera and expensive equipment is not gonna make you an artist.” For her, it’s all about looking beyond the obvious, and not being afraid to break the rules. Anything is possible.

You can find more of her gobsmackingly beautiful photography here.



I wish you all the very best over this festive season – peace, love and happiness.

Julie X

Inspiring : Frances Boyd {surface design}

It was at the suggestion of a friend that Frances Boyd fell into surface design.”She suggested that as I was good at drawing and useless at sewing to delve into the world of surface pattern.”


frances boyd 5

frances boyd 5


After graduating with a degree in Textile Design, Frances had a brief spell working in a fashion studio in New York. Then jam-packed full of energy and ideas to start her own studio, life had its own plans and she spent the next several years raising her three sons.

But now she’s ready again. She’s already had a few big wins; when exhibiting in Indigo Paris she was asked to do a commission for Christian Lacroix spring summer collection, and early this year her work was chosen by Quincy Lampshades to feature in their new Keppler lampshade collection.


Frances boyd

frances boyd


frances boyd 2

frances boyd 2


With a subdued palette and a style that is part hand drawn, part vector, she loves layering forms and using line to create texture. The landscape surrounding her home on the Isle of Man is a constant inspiration with its numerous beaches and its plentiful wildlife. But there’s also the local antique shop, and she loves “having a good rummage in a charity shop for some vintage fabric.” Camera and sketchbook are never too far away.

Frances’s best friend Susan from The Print Tree is her business mentor and inspiration. “She has been instrumental in me following my dream to design; giving me a little kick up the bum every now and then when I think I can’t do something!”


frances boyd - floral bird

frances boyd – floral bird


frances boyd - Gigantic Floral sketch

frances boyd – Gigantic Floral sketch


Her favourite piece of advice is an oldie but a goodie, and came via one of her university professors who wrote on one of her life drawing sketches.


“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”


“I have the drawing pinned up on my studio wall so I can see it every day when I sit down to work.”


You can find more of Frances’s work on her own website,