Sandra Darling is a surface designer who comes with a background as a photographer and painter. Her large format designs are digitally manipulated through colour enhancement and overlay to produce intriguing images that can be and have been used for everything from fashion clothing to wallpaper. Her images are dreamy, surreal and feminine, with soft, fluid shapes and often jewel-like colours. She loves clouds, flowers and water; memory and imagination.
Her designs for fabric and wallpaper are very large scale repeats. They look fantastic large, but they can be tricky to use – cutting designs for clothing would require especially close attention. However, thoughtful placement can produce the most rewarding aspects of a finished dress.
So how did Sandra arrive at this point? I spoke with her recently.
A lot of my design work is born through an art practice exploration, and therefore has a back story to each design. I see my work as my creative DNA.
After graduating from University with my Bachelor of Fine Art, majoring in Painting, I deferred teachers college and went to work for the Federal Government (talk about chalk and cheese – it was nice to have an income after University!). I continued an art practice to a much lesser degree, and spend a lot of my time renovating my Queenslander, and experiencing life, and the world through travel.
My business emerged fairly naturally in late 2009. After a period of what I like to call a creative hiatus, my thoughts, ideas, inspiration and creativity had had a good deal of time to percolate. It came about fairly organically from a need and a desire to re-engage with my creativity.
In a fairly short time, I was back into a more consistent art practice, learning and applying new skills and techniques to my work. I found that I was able to tackle and approach my work with a renewed energy and confidence, brought about, I suspect, by just plain old “life experience”.
I still have so much I want to achieve; I feel this is just the beginning for me. My business and practice is evolving every day, I am passionate about not only the design of my textiles (and other surface textures, I recently introduced a boutique range of wall papers) but my art practice as well.
I engaged in art/craft were from a very early age. I absolutely loved paint time in kindergarten. I also have a really sweet memory of my very first boyfriend who had gone off on a family trip to Sydney (we lived in North Queensland at the time) and he sent me a letter, of drawings, from when he visited the zoo. He sent the letter to me via the kindy, and it contained drawings of all the wonderful animals he had seen. It’s funny the things you remember.
Another vivid memory of art and craft was a workshop that our local arts centre was holding. We did everything from clay work, through to drawing, painting and of course collage. I was hooked after this, and it has remained a big part of my life in one form or another.
I have really precious memories of my mother always at the sewing machine, making or remaking clothing for us. My sister and I have some really groovy items in our wardrobes! My mother taught herself to sew from unpicking things to work out patterns and stitching and then remaking it. I think in many ways she was also a big influence for me, indirectly through her combination of practically but ingenious curiosity and ability. She is also very crafty of wit! My father has always been a tinkerer as well, and could pretty much do anything he put this mind to.
My worst experience? I think I have learnt over the years that there is no such thing as smooth sailing. Regardless of the forum there are always going to be challenges and you have to work hard and be passionate about what you do. This alone isn’t even enough, you also have to be business savvy and know how to communicate well, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. From every experience there are lessons to learn and they inform us how you can do something better or different the next time around. When I am confronted with a problem, I often remind myself, is this going to be important in an hour, a day, a week, a year? You have to pick your battles and realise that sometimes, in the grand scale of things, you just have to chalk certain things up to experience.
I always struggle with time and money. A lot of people do not understand that being an artist/designer does not mean you work for free, or your work is any less valuable than other work that people would pay for. Being an image maker of sorts, there are a lot of associated costs that people do not see. Cameras, editing programs and other resources (paper, inks, printing, and textiles) are not free. Being in the information age we are often bombarded with images and so many people do not stop and think, someone has made that, and time, research and energy has gone into making it. It is not always a natural progression. Having said that, I sincerely do what I do for the love and passion of it. I only wish I had two or three of me so I was able to do everything I would like to do. There is so much more I would like to do and achieve, but this in many ways is what drives me.
One of the best things about what I do is that people give back in ways they do not even realise. Nothing is as rewarding as when someone appreciates something you have made, and better still can relate to it, or it touches them in a way that changes their life. This a note from a client who bought a print of mine called “ You are the Love of my Lungs”
My dear friend’s six month old baby died last night of lung disease. Throughout her six month hospital stay, Jen would see rainbows at the most distressing moments. I just searched “rainbows” hoping to find something. This print is so perfect. I think it captures the whole raw love perfectly. Just thought you might like to know how your art is impacting the people who see it.
Now that is the stuff that matters.
With sincere thanks to Sandra for sharing her story, and her images. You can find more of her textiles and wallpaper on her website and her Facebook page, and some of her photography in her Etsy shop.