Nicky Ovitt was lucky enough to grow up in a household full of ideas and imagery. “My mom was a curator at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM– where Alexander Girard’s magical collection of treasures from around the world had a strong influence on my aesthetic. I have a fondness for embellishment, outsider art, hex signs, symbology, and costume.”
She works from her studio, a wonderful sounding space in the small town of Petaluma, California. “My studio space is a bright haven with huge windows, old brick walls, and the afternoon whistle of a freight train only 50 yards from my desk. All that said, it’s peaceful and filled with some of my favorite things: my dad’s brown calico ware mug, my daughter’s incredible drawings, and the most wonderful books that remind me of my mom— the book lover and giver of all time.”
Nicky combines hand-drawn pen and ink work with digital composition and colouring. She aims to instil a sense of freshness and naivety in her designs, and plans to focus on producing textiles for the home sewing market.
For around ten years, she worked as an in-house designer/manager at a well-known apparel and accessories manufacturer. When she left there, she undertook the online course, The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design, which helped her to rediscover her love for drawing and introduced her to the world of art licensing. “Today I enjoy a thriving freelance career providing illustration and graphic patterns and prints in a wide range of styles to private label and retail clients.”
It’s not always smooth sailing of course, and there have been times that have really hurt. “Professionally, things have really heated up in the past 6 months and I want to say yes to so much. In January of this year, I didn’t manage to make a deadline with a very important client, and I was horrified. In my 25 years as a designer I’ve never had to spring that on a client with no warning. I had a call scheduled with her that day for something else so I told her and she was INCREDIBLY gracious and understanding. She broke up the project to the items she needed immediately and I worked hard to give her completed mood boards, when she was expecting only images. She was very happy about that surprise and said it made her prep job much easier and was very thankful. I feel like I did redeem myself, but at the time I was very disappointed in myself.”
In fact, she told me that the hardest obstacle to her design is herself. “In school one of my favorite teachers said I had great ideas but needed to work on completion and follow through. For whatever reason I think that stuck with me in a negative way. I was very young when he told me this so instead of taking the suggestion, the part that I stuck with was: “Well, that’s who you are.” I have had times in my past freelance career when something more could have happened but I didn’t bother with the next level. The internet was made for me… you kids are so lucky now!”
Undertaking the ABSPD course has been an enormous boost, and not just for the design skills it teaches. “Through my class with ABSPD I have ‘met’ the most amazing (mostly) women in design. I did not expect to be connected with these talented, supportive people from all over the world who share their hearts through this common path. I’d love to meet some of them in person someday. I have also had some heartfelt chats with other people looking to make big changes or who have been where I am now— we all inspire each other.”
She loves reading the interviews on Smart Creative Women. One of her most memorable inspirations was an interview with Amy Butler, who said, “The more honest we were, the more empowered we were.” Nicky goes on to explain, “This is from a wonderful 2 part interview with great wisdom from both Amy and Monica Lee… they discuss really looking within to balance personal priorities with professional ambition. There are a few ways to interpret that one, but today, and for me, I’m thinking that it’s to be very honest with myself about what I really want and then to show up and present my true self, cuz that’s all I’ve got— AND what I know best! This may sound obvious, but sometimes in this world of comparison and visual input overload it’s tempting to think we should be more like such and so or that we need to hold something back to fit in.” [You can find that full interview here.]
You can find more of Nicky’s work on her site NickyOvitt.com. Nicky is also a finalist in this year’s ThePrintedBolt international fabric design competition, and has had her work featured on PrintandPattern.