Design How-to : Direction


Welcome to the next instalment in my series on Design How-To. (You can find the rest of the series here.) I trust you’ve been enjoying it so far! And I really hope it’s been helpful. This post is on Direction.


Lines can lead your eye in a particular direction, as can shapes (for instance, an arrow). Lines and shapes often work within an image or design to create Direction. And Direction can be used to great effect to enhance the mood of a piece.


mylittlepixels – quiet contemplation – photograph


Simple horizontal lines always suggest a feelings of calmness and serenity, while vertical lines suggest active alertness. We can connect it to our perceptions of sleep (horizontal) and awake (standing).


theaterclouds – catch – {photography} diorama, paper & ink drawing


Soft, low waves also suggest calm, but are a little more active. This is a very gentle image, enhanced by the soft, luminous light and clear colours with hints of aqua and pale gold.


vesselsandwares – wave cupcake stand – ceramic


When you look around the rim of this sweet cupcake stand, do you notice your eyes pause at the peaks? It has an interrupted flow – although it is still gentle, it feels even more active than the waves in the previous image.


raceytay – venice, california – photography


These waves are not turbulent, but despite their relative order, we can still feel the enormous pull of that water as it sucks to the peak. Strong diagonals are responsible for this effect – the peak of the wave, as well as the stripy ripples of the water. Diagonals always convey a sense of strong activity (and if you want chaotic activity, use lots of diagonals at different angles).


designedbyjane – marrakesh – brooch, felt & embroidery


Lines that radiate out from a centre remind us of all the goodness that comes from similarly radiating things; especially the sun, and flowers. Its symmetry is also very pleasing. It tends to suggest centred-ness, happiness, and general well-being.


AnastasiaMak – flatiron building – acrylic on board


The Flatiron Building in Manhattan is already famously imposing, but the lines converging beyond the top of this painting enhance that idea, suggesting immense and magnificent height. The idea of strong verticals that are so tall they appear to converge is also utilised to great effect in grand cathedrals to ensure the patrons on the ground remain humble to the magnificence of God.


As always, there’s heaps more to say about this Principle, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to Direction in my series on Design Elements and Principles, and I hope it’s given you some inspiration!

If you’ve got a project that you’re proud of, that uses any of these Elements and Principles, I would LOVE to hear about it! If you’ve got a pic of it up online somewhere, please add a link in the comments below, so you can show it off!! 🙂
(and add a little comment about how you’ve used the Element/Principle/s?)

The NEXT Element in this series is the ever-fabulous COLOUR!! So stay tuned.


Craft : Heike Gerbig, textile artist (gerdiary)


Heike Gerbig came to textiles late, after a long career as a writer and editor in Berlin.


heike gerbig – hands of time (detail)


Now she weaves and stitches words into her works, using fragments of poems and random thoughts, as if presenting part of a story that has lost its beginning and has no end.


heike gerbig – thoughts for the road (detail)


heikie gerbig – mooncloud


heike gerbig – wild at heart (work in progress)


Fragmentary also are the pieces of salvaged cloth and paper that she uses, subtly coloured with natural dyes and painstakingly hand stitched. Vague figures, traced like the shadow of a lost image, add another layer of mystery with freehand machine embroidery and long, loose threads.


Side by side - mixed-media embroidery collage

heike gerbig – side by side – mixed media embroidery & collage


heike gerbig – red thread femmes III – mixed media embroidery & collage


You can find more of Heike’s work on her blog, Gerdiary, and in her shop on Etsy, HGhandmade.


With thanks to Heike for generously sharing her images.

Surface Design : Teja Jamilla Williams


One of Teja Jamilla Williams’ first memories is of drawing peacocks with teeth. “I remember my parents laughing at me when I’d drawn them (as I just assumed they had teeth in their beaks). More often though, I spent my time as a child drawing cats and dinosaurs and making sequin dresses for troll dolls.”


tribal flowers

Cats, dinosaurs and troll dolls have developed into pirates, butterflies, and steampunk,  influenced heavily through Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and Japonism. And it comes as no surprise that among her favourite illustrators are Aubrey Beardsley and Takato Yamamoto. This makes for a vibrantly broad range of interests, but somehow they get skilfully woven together into fabulous surface designs and prints.

ink doodles

She has great drawing skills, as many of her designs demonstrate – everything from flowers, to cities, to narwhals and galleons.  “I love going to museums like the V & A and looking at old textiles and wallpapers but I usually get design ideas when I’m doing something like watching a film or listening to music. Once I’m set on an idea I sketch out the layout so I can get the scale right then I’ll usually draw it using a dip pen and ink. I always start off working in black and white and then digitally colour my artwork.” Her designs feature a particularly cool and smoky palette. The colours are muted and often dark, with a bent towards greens and blues, with plummy purples and browns.

blossoms and peaches


Teja first started selling handprinted socks featuring her designs at a fund-raising fair for her BA Surface Design degree show, but it wasn’t until a few years later in October 2010 that she decided to develop this idea into her own business.

She has had her share of technical difficulties; having no funds for proper equipment, she has had to rely on her ingenuity to  get a result. She told me about one time when she needed to expose screens big enough to print her tights. After many failed attempts, she eventually found a halogen porch alarm light that was strong enough, and got it to work by tying it to a clothes drying rack and balancing it between two chairs either side of the screen. Oh, such is the life! I will bet there is more than one maker out there who has had to summon all their crazy ideas together  in order to get something to work.


circuits blue

pirate tights

But technical challenges are not the only difficulties. She remembers, “for about a year before I started my business I worried about whether my products were a good idea and if people would like them enough to buy them. Stopping over-thinking everything and actually getting started was the biggest challenge for me.” But now, “it’s great seeing people’s reactions to my work online especially when it’s something which I had doubts about. I get so excited when people send me pictures of them wearing my work or what they’ve created themselves with my textile designs.”

You can find Teja’s surface designs in her Spoonflower shop and her handprinted tights in her Etsy shop.


With thanks to Teja for sharing her words and images.


And I am sure Teja would love to hear stories of technical ingenuity from all you inventive makers out there! When faced with a crisis, what did YOU do?


The crafted object : Elinart – crochet lichen & mould

Moldy fabric. Enough to send a shudder through my very being and leave me gasping with the tragedy of it all. But Elin Thomas, hailing from Bristol in the UK, utilises the forms of lichen and mold in her delicate crochet, using them to richly decorate  purses, wallets, and jewellery.


lichen necklace


plushie lichen brooches


Elin was always fascinated by the underwater world, and started by crocheting the hyperbolic forms of tropical coral. But she decided that it wasn’t true enough to who and what she was – a city-living, non-scuba-diving artist with Welsh and Scottish roots. Looking a bit closer to home,  she became intrigued by the beauty of common lichens and molds under the microscope – a quite natural progression, as her father works as an organic chemist. This idea has now been further honed by the inclusion of Harris Tweed as the base of many of her pieces – a luxurious handcrafted cloth from the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, which uses dyes made from lichens to create subtle and rich coloured tartans.

In many ways, it has been a long road for her to get to this place, first completing her BA (Hons) Fine Art in 1995, and her MA Visual Culture in 2003 at the Bath Spa University College, UK (an institution with a title which seems to cover all bases…)


elinart – crochet petri dish


elinart – moldy madness brooch 1


elinart – moldy madness brooch 3


Anyway, I spoke with Elin recently about her influences.

“When I was really young,  I was obsessed by anything miniature (like lots of people). I often used to challenge myself to do series of things getting smaller and smaller. I still have a tiny 3cm high dress I created which went into a tiny wardrobe made from a matchbox. If you love teeny tiny things, check out this guy – He’s a truly amazing man.”


coral brooch no.4


Sadly, at the end of last year, Elin was suffering badly from RSI through too much crocheting. She took a tough three months off, doing absolutely no crocheting at all to get rid of it. “I’d had it all year in a mild way and I foolishly carried on thinking it would go away of its own accord but it didn’t. Now I do one day on and one day off, I take regular breaks and do Pilates hand exercises. I’ve also taught myself to use the computer mouse with my left hand.”

She says her single biggest obstacle in her work is “Undoubtedly myself! I have a real problem finishing things as my head is always in the next design or cooking up a new project to get excited about. I struggle to slow myself down and complete everything. What shall we say? For me there is an excellent opportunity for growth in this area of my life.”


elinart – harris tweed tartan purse with lichen


elintm sketchbook


As for what specifically influences her work these days, she has confessed to a totally magpie nature, and counts among her inspirations everything from Bjork to Picasso to Art Nouveau, and especially loves the glass and furniture of Émile Gallé.

Her creative space she describes as messy and productive, but says she would feel pretty embarrassed having to show the world a glimpse of it! Despite the reality, there is still room for fantasy. “I love those pictures of predominantly white, minimalist studio spaces with everything neat and in order. I can only dream…”


cactus patch in studio


And her best piece of advice?

“Tidy up at the end of the day, prepare your space and write a list for tomorrow before you pack up for the day.” (hmmm, perhaps I should try this one day myself…. ;D -JG)

You can find more images and information about Elin on her website, and purchase some of her amazingly gorgeous work at


With sincere thanks to Elin for sharing her words and images.


Surface Design + Product : Kelly Massey – Pretty Penny Designs


What do you do when you have a burning desire to draw and paint, but you also have the uncontrollable urge to make things? Well of course, you do both.

Kelly Massey of Pretty Penny Designs not only designs her own fabrics, she then turns the printed fabric into fabulous bags, scarves and other things that she has also designed herself, creating truly distinctive pieces.


Rattlebox Moth


I love these surface designs for their hand drawn aesthetic, simple shapes and clarity. She says she draws her inspiration from many sources, and loves the work of of Vera Neuman, Orla Kiely, Paul Klee and Maija Islola. But what particularly ends up in her work often comes from the direct observation of nature – flowers and insects appear frequently.


leafy woodland


I asked Kelly about her creative childhood.

“I’ve always found great joy in making things.  My grandmother taught me to knit, crochet and sew when I was a kid.  I spent most of my time making paper dolls, sewing myself little toys and covertly writing on walls. As I got older, I found that I loved drawing and painting. One time, my mother brought me to see Georgia OKeefe’s exhibit at the National Gallery.  I was spellbound.  Her use of color and light has been a big influence on me ever since.

I grew up in Washington DC, and then attended art school in Atlanta where I sharpened my drawing and painting skills. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that what I really loved was making art for people, not walls.  I wanted the things that I made to be used, to be worn and to carry the groceries home. Becoming a surface designer was the logical culmination of all of the things that I loved, and now I get to paint, sew, sketch, design and dream to my heart’s content.”


sunflowers - coral pink


And what has been the best thing about what she does?

“I’ve had to fight to find the confidence to put my art out into the world.  Learning to move forward, despite the little voices in my head has been quite a path for me. And so knowing that the things that I make are used by real people is the icing on the cake … when I think that more than one thousand of my pieces are floating about in the world I feel very very grateful.  It’s amazing to me that things that I’ve made with my own two hands exist on every continent and are enriching the lives of people that I’ve never met.”

little zip pouches in various prints


sarape print scarf in melon


mexican tile print - tote bag


You can watch a short video on Kelly as she works – it shows some of her design processes,  her workspace, and how a bag is born. Here – Kelly Massey talks about her work for Pretty Penny Designs

You can see some more of her fabric designs, as well as finished accessories at


I would like to thank Kelly for sharing her images and words here.