Inspiring : Renato Crepaldi (part 2)

When I first discovered Renato Crepaldi’s marbled papers, I have to say I swooned a little. The colours and patterns are so deliciously seductive that I couldn’t resist featuring them on the blog in December last year.

The technique of marbling paper is such that no two prints are the same, so when Renato contacted me recently to let me know he had been working with digital versions and turning them into repeats in Photoshop, I was quite excited. He’s moved them beyond the one-off and made them into prints, which he’s making available on Society6 on a variety of products, including throw pillows, tote bags, stationery and mobile cases.


renato crepaldi - bw

renato crepaldi – bw


I jumped at the chance to talk to him and find out more about him, his process and this very niche product. I started by asking him how long he’d been working with the technique.

“It started in 2002. After living for 5 years in Japan, I got back to Brazil and started making marbled paper and dyeing calf skin to supply a bookbinding studio owned by an aunt in São Paulo. I was taught the very basics by my brother, who was doing the job back then.

“I quickly got obsessed with the process and started researching it, only to realize that I had no clue what I was doing, and that my papers were really crude. I bought some books on marbling and started reading everything I could about it. After lots of study, I made all new tools myself and then started from scratch. The results began to improve, and in June 2003, I launched my first catalogue.”


renato crepaldi - antique 2

renato crepaldi – antique 2


Besides using it in books (probably the most familiar application for marbled papers), Renato mentioned that his work was also used in interior decorations and furnishing. I was curious how this worked.

“I haven’t ever licensed a marbled design for interior decoration purposes; most licensing I’ve done is for the publishing industry; book covers, EBooks and apps. They usually already have the design they want for the project and just contact me to arrange the details of use. In interior decoration, original marbled paper sheets are always preferred, I have sold papers to be used as wallpapers, lamp shades, for matting artworks, to decorate small pieces of furniture and to be displayed as an art piece itself, like the limited edition print (text quotes, in hand pulled silkscreen on marbled paper) that I released in 2012.”


renato crepaldi - green shell

renato crepaldi – green shell


So, if the prints prove poular, what does Renato’s future hold for him? A full-time launch into surface design?

“I think that marbled paper patterns are very unique and exquisite, and it is a shame to keep it closed inside books. That is why I am always trying to find ways to bring it to light and make it available for contemporary spaces. The repeats are a wonderful way I’ve found to make that happen. It’s a very new approach to create marbled designs for me, and I think that it’s also a good way to keep me connected with the craft while I am not around the bath producing. I will surely devote more time to it, there are still so many patterns to try, and colour themes that were impractical in papers for bookbinding are now a valid choice.

I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface with it though; nothing beats real paint and the process of making marbled papers.”


renato crepaldi - revenge

renato crepaldi – revenge


You can find Renato’s originals in his shop at, and his prints in his Society6 shop,
And I really think he should branch out onto Spoonflower. How awesome would Green Shell be in a dress?

Surface design : Hey Tangerine {Caitlin Meara}

I love these large scale repeats by Perth-based designer, Caitlin Meara. There’s something about the possibilities of engineering a cut so that it adds meaning to the clothing that makes me just a bit giddy. Yes, I’d like to look like something out of Star Wars. Or possibly a secret midnight garden…


hey tangerine - bougainvillea

hey tangerine – bougainvillea


Currently working in a fabric shop, but with plans to set up a portfolio and do freelance graphic design work in the near future, she says she always loved drawing and designing from a young age. “I was always crafting as a child! My close family and friends are all creative, clever people who always encouraged me. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandma teaching me how to knit and how to use watercolours.”


hey tangerine - bubbles 2

hey tangerine – bubbles 2


It was towards the end of high school that she started experimenting with illustrating tiling patterns by hand – rolling the paper into a cylinder so that she could make the pattern meet up. “I discovered Spoonflower in 2009 and the thrill of my first sale got me hooked. Since then I’ve been producing designs on and off when I get the chance.”


hey tangerine - markers 2

hey tangerine – markers 2


hey tangerine - building blocks 9

hey tangerine – building blocks 9


She uses a variety of techniques to achieve her designs, although most of the designs on Spoonflower are photo manipulations. “I like taking photos of everyday objects and manipulating them in Photoshop into something unrecognisable. I have done quite a few moving an object (a branch, flower…) across the scanner bed as it is scanning, which gives an interesting and unexpected warped effect. I would love to do more illustrative designs but I find it hard to make time for it.”


hey tangerine - cave 2

hey tangerine – cave 2


A self-confessed daydreamer, Caitlin loves going for long walks. “Often something little will inspire me on my way – I just noticed how gorgeous snail trails are, glittering in the sun!” She also confesses to being an “internet-aholic” and finds trying pinpointing only a few artists that she admires incredibly difficult.


hey tangerine - fireworks 4

hey tangerine – fireworks 4


Having someone choose her fabric for their wedding décor was the absolute bees knees. “To think that someone thinks my work is good enough to feature in one of the biggest days of their life, it really spins me out! Just seeing photos of what people have made, no matter what it is, always makes my day.”


hey tangerine - glass 4

hey tangerine – glass 4


Her best piece of advice? It’s this, and comes from ZenHabits – “The Little But Really Useful Guide To Creativity“. Caitlin says she printed it out and stuck it on her wall.

Whenever you’re feeling stuck, I urge you to read it too – it’s fab.


You can find more of Caitlin’s work in her Spoonflower shop, HeyTangerine.


Repeating Patterns in Illustrator Made Easy: The Pattern Making Tool (CS6 & Newer)

Repeating Patterns : tutorial by Sew Heidi

Repeating patterns in Illustrator used to be a very manual process and more than a little bit frustrating. With the introduction of the Pattern Making Tool in CS6 (if you’re in CS5 or earlier, you won’t have access to this feature), patterns became simple to make and included amazing features such as live preview and half drops.

To make a pattern, start with an assortment of motifs that you want to use. Select those motifs with the Selection Tool and choose Object > Pattern > Make.


01_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Upon choosing Object > Pattern > Make, 3 things will happen:

A dialog box will appear (unless you have done this before and previously checked “Don’t Show Again”). This dialog essentially says that you have created a new pattern swatch, and that any changes you make to the artwork will be applied to the swatch until you exit Pattern Editing Mode (see #2). Click OK.
You will enter into Pattern Editing Mode (if you are familiar with Isolation Mode, this is similar to that). This means that you are working inside a pattern, making edits to it. You will know you are in this mode because of the info along the top of the document (and all other artwork besides the objects in your pattern will not be visible or editable).
The Pattern Options panel will open (#3). There are some basic features in here we’ll cover shortly.


02_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Your pattern will now be shown in repeat, giving you a preview of what it will look like. Depending on settings, you may have fewer or more tiles and they may look dimmed or not. We’ll go over those settings shortly, but for now you should see some sort of repeat.


03_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Now let’s review some of the tools and settings in the Pattern Options panel.

Pattern Tile Tool: Click this to manually change the pattern tile size (the single tile of artwork that repeats to create the pattern). You will notice the box around the pattern tile (blue) will change to look like a bounding box which you can manually drag to resize (occasionally the Pattern Tile Tool is buggy and gets stuck, not allowing for resizing – if this happens, you can input measurements in the Width/Height fields in the Pattern Options panel). Once you are done editing the tile size, click the Pattern Tile Tool again or switch to any other tool on the main Illustrator Tool Bar.

04_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Tile Type: By default this will be set to Grid (also known as a straight repeat) where the tiles repeat in a grid. Click through these to see how different tile types change your pattern. The most common besides Grid is Brick by Column (also known as a half drop). NOTE: If you choose a Brick by Column or Row, you can choose what the offset is. Default is 1/2, meaning each repeating tile is offset by half.


05_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Copies: This controls how many copies of the pattern you will preview. If your repeat is really large, you may want to set this to a smaller number, and if your repeat is really small, a larger number may work best.

Dim Copies to: This is a setting I frequently turn on and off. Dimming copies can be very helpful when manipulating artwork so you can see which motifs are copies and which are the actual editable motifs, but previewing the repeat may be best done with this turned off so you can see the artwork in full opacity.


06_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Now that we’ve gone through all the basic settings, play around with your pattern. I’ve added some more motifs (you can use tools and edit artwork inside Pattern Editing Mode just like you would work normally in AI) and adjusted the tile size to create a nice repeat.
NOTE: You cannot use a pattern within a pattern. If you try to create a pattern with an object that has a pattern, you will get a dialog box advising this cannot be done. To get around this, you can add an object with a pattern while inside Pattern Editing Mode, but understand that the pattern will be expanded within the artwork. Complex visual attributes such as pattern brushes and effects will also be expanded if used inside of a pattern. A dialog box warning you about this will appear upon exiting Pattern Editing Mode.


07_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Once your pattern looks good (don’t worry you can always go back and edit it), you can exit Pattern Editing Mode one of 4 ways.
Click “Done” in the top left corner of the document
Click the arrow in the top left corner of the document
Double click anywhere except directly on an object (careful not to do this accidentally while you’re editing, or else you’ll have to re-enter Pattern Editing Mode)
Hit Esc on your keyboard

07-1_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


Upon exiting, you’ll be taken back to your Artboard where your original motifs will look the same as they did before making your pattern, and you’ll notice your swatch has been added to the Swatches panel.

08_illustratorstuff  com_pattern_making_tool


You can now use the swatch like any other swatch within your artwork.


09_illustratorstuff com_pattern_making_tool


If you want to edit the pattern, double click on the swatch thumbnail from the Swatches panel. This will put you back into Pattern Editing Mode where you can make any changes. NOTE: Changes made to this pattern swatch will affect all instances of the swatch in your artwork. If you want to make a new swatch, duplicate it and edit the copy.

Much easier than doing it manually, the Pattern Making Tool released in Adobe Illustrator CS6 will allow you to focus more on making awesome designs and less on fussing over repeats. Enjoy!

Repeating pattern artwork & romper illustration compliments of Illustrator Stuff.



Sew Heidi is a fashion tech evangelista focused on using Illustrator for fashion.  She also is co-founder of Illustrator Stuff, an online marketplace for vector fashion flats, repeating patterns and more.

Surface design : Nicky Ovitt (part 2)

Nicky Ovitt :

I having been contemplating some “re-visits” for a while – I love the idea of following someone’s career development in real life – to see how their work is progressing, what new ideas they have, to see how they’ve grown in their business, and to see where they’re headed next.

So I am absolutely thrilled to be able to re-introduce Nicky Ovitt to you! A bit over a year ago, I featured Nicky’s sweet surface designs here, where she talked about her process of combining hand-drawn inks with digital, about her aim to keep a sense of freshness and naivety in her designs, and her desire to develop fabrics for the home-sewing market.

Look at how stunning her new work is!! Layers upon layers, gorgeous rich colours, and homey textures. It’s her new collection available through the Seattle-based Clothworks, called Homestead.


Nicky Ovitt - Homestead collection
Nicky Ovitt – Homestead collection


She originally conceived the collection for  The Printed Bolt’s international fabric design competition, Repeat(ed). She describes her concept as “paying tribute to the adventurous women who were early American homesteaders, gold rush hopefuls, diligent farmers of the Dust Bowl and survivors of the Great Depression. Ingenuity and hard work were the hallmarks of these great women and it was said that ‘virtue was their guide.’ ”

The designs feature many of the tools used in a frontier woman’s workday – handmade basketry, laundry tubs, and darning mix with snippets of kitchen wallpaper and iron trivets. She skilfully reinterprets these through a contemporary aesthetic, but still manages to maintain a retro feel through the use of colour and texture (you can read more about Nicky’s process here).


Nicky Ovitt - Homestead Collection
Nicky Ovitt – Homestead Collection


Nicky is justifiably proud of the new collection and contacted me to show it off. I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions, and find out what it means to get a big licencing agreement.


Your new work is so much more confident – what do you think has been the gamechanger for you?

Is there a specific thing that has pushed you or made you feel more comfortable with your work,  or do you think it is just a natural progression that comes with sticking to what you love because it’s your passion?

“Thank you! Honestly, I think just more time was what I needed. I had not been illustrating regularly in a style I wanted to develop for a number of years. I think focusing on subject matter that I really liked and drawing out or lettering stuff in my head that was not necessarily for a paying gig was helpful. I had to work it through and it got out of my nagging head. Recently, I’ve been very fortunate too in finding more local clients that get and appreciate what I’ve been doing.”


Nicky Ovitt - Homestead Collection
Nicky Ovitt – Homestead Collection


Having a licencing agreement with a substantial company like Clothworks is a great thing. For people who are new to surface design, how did you get the licencing arrangement, and how does the licencing arrangement work?

“I’ve kept a running list of my favorite US fabric manufacturers since beginning my surface design adventure. I was not sure I was ready but I’m finding out I might never think I’m fully ready. So, I researched each company’s submission guidelines, studied their current designers and range of styles, and put my best introduction letter together, with a few jpgs of collections I thought were my strongest. I was doing all this exactly one year ago this month and at that point I already felt like I was 6 months to a year behind what I had wanted to do. But I’m glad I waited. My website was revamped by then, I had a stronger idea of what I wanted to say and my work looked more cohesive.

“Clothworks was one of the companies I thought seemed really good since they are on the West coast and someday it might be easy to visit, they are very established in the quilt fabric arena and they are a family owned company. I wrote back and forth with owner, Candice Hoffman for a bit and then she offered a contract! Because it’s my first licensing deal I hired a lawyer to help me with the negotiation and understanding of what I was doing but my research shows there is a basic standard to most contracts with designers like me. I signed an agreement with Clothworks stating that they are granted license to my chosen designs on textiles for the described life of that collection. I get a set royalty fee for every yard sold.”


Nicky Ovitt - Homestead Collection - Tools
Nicky Ovitt – Homestead Collection – Tools


Do you have any specific goals on the horizon at the moment (long OR short-term)? If so, what are they and why are they important to you?
“Yes! I still have a long list of dream clients— some are ad agencies or private label brands I’m looking to approach but I’m going to take it slow and send out enquiries when I’m fully prepared for each. I definitely want my first contact to be impressionable. Long term, I would like to license art for stationery, wallpaper, home decor, and clothing. I may have to whittle that list down but

“I’ve decided that although I have a dream list, I don’t attach certain companies to the outcome. It might surprise me what comes along or what company takes interest.


“Also long term I have the goal of being there for my family. Especially my Mom, as this time last year she was in the midst of cancer treatment and she lives in another state. Today, she is feeling good and thankfully in remission. We have plans for a mother/daughter trip to Mexico and I’m really looking forward to that. Doing fun work fulfills me in one way, but there is nothing like quality time spent with my mom and family. They fill my heart.”


Nicky Ovitt - Homestead Collection - Trivets
Nicky Ovitt – Homestead Collection – Trivets


You can find out more about Nicky on her own website,

Hot or not : cactus

OK OK OK. Well I reckon that if I’ve got a Pinterest board called “Love a good succulent“, than you can safely assume that hey, I don’t mind the odd cactus. The shapes and colours are pretty incredible – I love their chunkiness, their strange shapes and their spectacular flowers. (Go on, check out my Pinterest board and you’ll see why!)

But how does all of that translate into craft and surface design? Like most trends, there’s some total fabulosity, and there’s some goddamn-awfulness. But you know, I reckon that cactuses (or cacti if you prefer) are one of a select group of motifs that seem to hold their own in other mediums – it wasn’t hard at all to find great stuff on Etsy and Pinterest.

Yeah, I probs don’t need a cactus cushion for my couch, or a cactus nightlight for my bedroom either – but they sure look fun. What do you think?


{click on the pics for the links to original sources}

cactus mobile -

cactus mobile –


cactus cushion -

cactus cushion –


cactus crochet pattern -

crochet pattern –


nightlight -

cactus nightlight –


winter cactus - frameless on society6

winter cactus – frameless on society6


illustration -

illustration –


cactus - yoga top -

cactus – yoga top –


Oh, and I could wear this cactus top when I’m feeling particularly spiky. Watch out kids!! ;D

Julie x


Surface design : Anna London

Anna London is a serial creative, and for a long time had been filling her life with various classes in print making, graphic design and fashion design. It wasn’t until she took a course in hand-printed textiles while studying Art Studio and Design in university that she thought about turning surface design into a career.

Swinging between florals, tribal influences and abstract geometrics,  Anna’s work is distinctive for its soft, bright palette and its hand drawn feel. Despite this, it still manages to still retain a particular boldness and graphic edge through the use of vectored shapes and flat colour.


Anna London - bouquet on green

Anna London – bouquet on green


Often starting with a doodle in her sketchbook, she brings in the many things that she loves and have influenced her – natural forms, mid-century style, the work of painters Wayne Thiebaud and Henri Matisse, and designers such as Marimekko, Leah Duncan, Julia Rothman and Elizabeth Olwen. (In fact, Anna was thrilled about actually getting to meet Elizabeth and help her out at Surtex this year. “She’s such a nice person, and it was really exciting to meet one of my favorite contemporary designers!”)


Anna London - pink sunsets

Anna London – pink sunsets


anna london - quirky ovals

anna london – quirky ovals


Anna loves that something that is so creative still has a functional end. “I love art, but I also have a really practical side which I think I get from my scientist dad. I love creating patterns because I get to make art, but I know that it can be placed on fabric or products that people will use in their daily life.”

She grew up surrounded by art and always knew she wanted to do something creative; her mother was a painter, and was always encouraging. “I loved to create things, from paper boxes and handmade notebooks to miniature furniture for a dollhouse… One of my strongest memories is of sitting in our living room with a huge stack of colored paper spread out on the floor in front of me. I was so happy to see all the colors together, and I spent a whole afternoon just looking and arranging the colors.”    {mmmm colour…. 😀  -JG}


Anna London - chevrons

Anna London – chevrons


After graduating from university, she continued making patterns on her own and slowly taught herself about the pattern design industry, including taking a few classes from Pattern Observer.

She moved to Berlin with her boyfriend (who moved there for work) recently, and while she says it was hard leaving a job, family and friends, she loves the adventure of it all, and is very happy with the extra time it has given her to be able to focus on her designs. She is struggling through German classes, but is now proud of the fact that she can walk into a restaurant and order a meal!


Anna London - abstract diamonds

Anna London – abstract diamonds


Anna London - abstract triangles

Anna London – abstract triangles


Her best piece of advice comes from Ira Glass, and I must say, it is one of my most favourite quotes ever as well.


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”



Anna London - floral

Anna London – floral


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