Hey there, makers!
How’s your summer going so far? Here at AGF we’ve had an amazing summer and it’s about to get better because we’re getting ready to reveal our Fall 2017 collections. This is always an exciting time filled with all kinds of surprises! Today, we’re ecstatic to introduce you to the new addition to the AGF family. Makers of the world, meet Jessica Swift, our new licensed designer for our Angles division!
We want you to get to know Jessica, so we’ve prepared a little interview with her. Get ready to learn all about her inspirations, her design process, and all the things she loves. So without further ado, here is Jessica Swift!
AGF: Hey, Jessica! We’re so excited to have you as part of the AGF family! Tell all the maker’s about yourself.
Jessica: Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be part of the AGF family. What a dream!
I’m a full-time artist and surface designer in beautiful Portland, Oregon. I live here with my husband, our almost-2-year old adorable baby boy, and our two sweet cats. I just recently moved into my brand new dream studio, located in a new building that was constructed right in our backyard. It’s the first studio I’ve ever worked in with good light and room for all of my various creative projects – digital pattern/textile design, painting, clay, and of course sewing!
My mom was a dollmaker while I was growing up in Boulder, Colorado, and she taught me to sew at a young age; I’ve never been a very advanced sewist, but I did recently take a class where I learned to sew a dress from a pattern, and that was really fun! I’m pretty psyched to have a wonderful excuse to start sewing more now. :)
In addition to designing and creating, I also teach a popular online course called Pattern Camp and run a membership group for creatives called Campfire. Basically, I have a lot of projects going on all the time! And on top of all that, I’m with my little main squeeze, Coen, almost all the time, so life is busy. So so good, but busy (and filled with messes, haha)!
AGF: When was the first time you fell in love with surface pattern design and how did you turn your artistic dream into a reality?
Jessica: I have loved surface pattern design since before I even know it was a thing. I remember my grandmother telling me once when I was probably 10 or 11 years old that I should be a fabric designer (I am not making this up!). She was a quilter and a collector of an insane amount of fabric. I love imagining her watching me drawing patterns at her kitchen table and dreaming of sewing with my fabrics one day. Sadly she’s not alive anymore, but I love this memory. So, in a sense I’ve been in love with surface design as early as I can remember, really. But in its current digital form, I fell in love with surface design back in 2006 or so. I discovered design blogs and Etsy and people making patterns and partnering with companies to turn them into products. I didn’t realize this was actually a career that people could have; one that could be available to me. I was a working artist at the time (a painter), and the minute I discovered digital pattern design it was just something in my gut that said THIS IS MY PATH. I just knew. It was like a remembering.
Once I realized I could actually be a pattern designer, it was full steam ahead. I was obsessed. I barely knew how to use a computer beyond emailing and searching the internet, so I had to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator, which was no easy task. It took about a year of me learning and playing and making mistakes and getting frustrated and forging ahead anyway before I successfully created my first repeat. From then on I was absolutely hooked.
I obsessively made patterns and got them out onto the internet however I could, and I was lucky to catch the attention of an art director at an ad agency who was working with T Mobile on a cell phone case design project. They wanted to use a few of my designs, so that was my first-ever licensing deal, just a few months after I created my first repeat. It was so unexpected! I took it as a sign that I was on the right path. I exhibited at my first trade show – Printsource, in New York City – in January 2009 and sold several designs. These early successes boosted my confidence and helped me keep pushing forward. Honestly, with the way my career unfolded in the early days, it feels like it was absolutely meant to be.
AGF: How would you describe your artistic style?
Jessica: My style is colorful, quirky, playful, and bold. I don’t shy away from strong and bright colors, and I like it when my work makes people smile. My style is happy, I think!
AGF: For Spring 2018 you’ll be releasing your first collection with AGF, Tallinn. Can you give us a little glimpse of what this collection will be about?
Jessica: Yes! I can’t wait for this collection to live in the world and to see how people use it. It’s inspired by my travels through Eastern Europe as a young 20-something; seeing swans swimming on the cold Baltic Sea, wandering for miles through Czech villages and farmland to visit a distant monastery, happening upon a giant circus while out walking in Hungary, onion domes and castles and the magic of finding yourself in a magical, foreign land. I hope everyone loves it!
AGF: When creating designs, how do you gather inspiration?
Jessica: I gather a lot of inspiration from being out in nature and from traveling, I think probably like many designers do. I get my best ideas while out walking, so often I’ll think/dream while out in the neighborhood and then come back to gather images from my own travels as well as online, in magazines and books, etc. I snap photos of interesting color combinations that I see out in the world and I sometimes use pinterest boards as well to gather my thoughts about color and imagery. The internet allows for so much easy inspiration gathering these days. But really, I try to begin sourcing everything straight from my own memories, imagination, and surroundings/explorations – I find that’s always an inspiring place to begin.
AGF: Explain your creative process when designing fabrics from start to finish.
Jessica: It begins in my imagination, sitting, thinking, waiting for an image or a concept to come into my mind. From there, I typically look through previous patterns and collections that I’ve created to see if it sparks any starting points (looking through my own work always helps me tune everything else out and get into creation mode). I often gather images from books and the internet at this stage and gather them up in a pinterest board or folder on my computer that I can easily access.
I tend to play with colors at the start of a collection. I’ll set an initial color palette to work with, even though I know this will likely change throughout the design process. Playing with Pantone books and putting colors together is so much fun! I find it helps me to have some parameters to work within in this way.
Next I start drawing motifs, these days mostly on my iPad Pro. I don’t really have a plan at this point – I just draw a bunch of stuff and then bring it onto my computer when I’ve got a good collection of images. That’s when the real fun begins and I can start placing them in different groupings and designs, start coloring, and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together, if you will. Sometimes the main design will come first, sometimes not. Sometimes I’ll work on a few prints at the same time, sometimes not. Sometimes I bounce back and forth between designs, letting one where I’m stuck sit for a while, working on another in the meantime, and then coming back to it later.
I tend to design all my main, busier prints first, because those come more naturally to me, and then fill the collection in with some blender fabrics later. You’d think those would be easier to create, but for me they’re more challenging!
I tend to design more prints than I need, knowing that some won’t make it to the final collection. The process of combining them and envisioning them together and what they could potentially be used for is ongoing throughout the design of the collection. I often re-work a print a few times, too, depending on what else has I’ve designed for the collection along the way. It’s a very fluid and malleable process, and it’s one that looks different every time I design, really! A print that I love and am attached to just may not work in the collection the way I originally designed it, so I have to stay open to designs changing to fit in with the whole rather than just being something I love on its own.
There’s a lot of back and forth conversation with Pat, too, throughout the design process, and her expert insight and advice is invaluable!
AGF: When you’re not designing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Jessica: I spend a lot of time hanging out with my toddler, which I love so much. We go on a lot of walks, go to the library, paint and draw together, read books, make forts, build things with blocks and legos…. he’s the greatest. I also spend time running with friends (we almost always have a half-marathon or something on the calendar) and I exercise regularly throughout the week. This helps keep me sane and happy. I like to do things with my family like go camping and on hikes and bike ride around the neighborhood and to the farmers market. I like to lay on the couch and talk to my husband in the evening when our schedules align, and I also love to crawl into bed early and watch a show on the laptop before bed (guilty pleasure! Lately it’s reruns of Sex and the City, haha). Gardening, cooking, and reading books are all things I enjoy as well but that I don’t seem to have/make enough time for these days.
AGF: What do you look forward to the most as a fabric designer for an amazing community filled with quilters and sewists?
Jessica: Oh boy, I just can’t wait to see what amazing creations this amazing community makes with my fabric! It’s going to be so fun to see which fabrics people like the most and the creative ways they combine them, and maybe most importantly, I’m really looking forward to LEARNING from everyone here. I’m excited to start making more clothing and to learn to quilt, and I don’t think there is a better or more inspiring community to learn from!
We hope you've enjoyed getting to know Jessica! Stay tuned for some more surprises coming in the next few days.
'Til next time,