Did you ever get bored as a child? Jiah Harrison says she never was, but always had an endless amount of energy for drawing and painting. “My mother is really artistic and I always felt very nurtured and encouraged to pursue my creativity. I went to a screen printing workshop with her when I was about five and I loved it. I’ve never considered pursuing anything other than art or design since.”
Jiah’s prints are fresh and clean, with a palette of citrus and mint, put together with a light touch.
Jiah creates surface pattern designs using digital media but always starts with a hand-drawn image. She sketches and paints whenever she can. “I try not to be too precious about what I create initially because I’m not aiming for a finished piece of art but rather a series of ideas that I can use to layer and create my pattern designs.”
She is an avid design blog reader, and credits them as an important influence in her work. “I have a small list that I read daily. They’re all wonderful but a special mention would have to go to Holly Becker of Decor8 for her beautiful taste and open heart and also to Lucy Feagins of Australian blog The Design Files. She has introduced me to so many wonderful designers, artists and crafters and her interviews have been such an inspiration. I love reading real life success stories about people who are running creative businesses. Marimekko is a constant inspiration to me, not just for their colourful, graphic designs but also for their longevity and amazing re-invention in recent times.”
She continued building her portfolio of textile designs while working in the furniture and interior design industry since graduating from uni two years ago. Now she is due to have a baby in February, she has become more serious about the business, as she wants to be able to stay at home and still have a career.
Not always a surface designer, Jiah has learnt much through her previous occupations. “I feel like everything that I’ve done for the past seven or so years has lead me to this point. Firstly I had a children’s fashion label which taught me a lot about running a small business and product design. A lot of the lessons that I learnt were hard ones though and I realised I wasn’t quite ready so I went back to study. While I was studying I worked as an interior designer and in furniture sales and that has taught me a lot too.
“When I launched my first business years ago I went in blindly. The business started by accident. I was making clothes for my nieces and before I knew it I was selling these gorgeous little embellished singlets and dresses all over the place. I had jumped in without a business plan and with the false notion that just because you make something that people want to buy you will make money. I was so naive. I worked myself into the ground and became a slave to the business. I realised that I still had so much to learn so I gave it up and went back to study.
Based in Canberra, Jiah says she has grown to love her city. Originally picturing herself with a great design job in one of the bigger cities when she graduated, she stayed because of her husband’s business. Now, she feels quite passionate about the place; “It has grown so much in the last decade and I’m proud to call it home.”
For Jiah, the icing on the cake has been to see her prints on fabric. “I worked for a little furniture company with a great boss who was really encouraging and helped me to approach a number of furniture companies about featuring my fabric designs on their furniture. I had such an amazing response and seeing my fabrics come to life like that was amazing.”
Her best piece of advice? “If you wait for everything to be perfect then you’ll be waiting forever.”
Jiah has recently joined forces with Stella Zamora to create elephantandrose.com, offering a collection of beautiful homewares and gifts featuring both vintage textiles and Jiah’s prints. They also have a Facebook page and blog.
You can find more of Jiah’s prints in her Spoonflower shop.