Spoonflower is an easy digital printing service that turns your fabric (and wallpaper, and wrapping paper!) dreams into reality. I'm excited to be partnering with them for a fabric design contest (scroll down for details). In issue 21's Surface Pattern Design Guide, I chatted with Spoonflower co-founder Stephen Fraser. Here's an excerpt:
How many yards of fabric are typically produced by Spoonflower in a day?
We produce over 2,000 yards of fabric per day.
The weekly design challenges yield some impressive results, both in quality of design and the sheer number of participants. How are contest themes determined?
Picking contest themes is a lot of fun, and between the suggestions people send us and our own creative team we never seem to run out of ideas. I’m proud to say that we’ve held close to 300 weekly design challenges at this point and have yet to repeat a theme. The biggest challenge is not in coming up with new ideas but coming up with ideas that balance accessibility with our desire to inspire original work. “Vintage” is a fun idea, for example, but at this point we know that if we did a contest with that theme, the likely result would be a lot of people submitting vintage artwork they found on the Internet. It would be hard to separate the work of skilled artists trying to make their own work look vintage from actual vintage art being submitted by people who are just good scavengers of old artwork. So instead of “vintage,” we might try “vintage gadgets.” Having said that, most contest themes we choose have strengths and drawbacks. In the interest of encouraging people to think of our contests as accessible and fun, rather than cutthroat competitive, we moderate the entries very lightly. This is invariably frustrating to the more competitive artists who participate, but I think it’s a good balance of interests most of the time.
What makes a successful design?
I think what makes fabric designs successful is texture, which is ironic given that we sell fabric over the Internet, where its impossible to feel the texture. But in digital design—just as in the brick-and-mortar world, where the texture of fabric is a primary factor—texture is one of the things that makes a surface design stand out. You can see this in the work of Holli Zollinger, one of Spoonflower’s most successful designers. Her artwork is not flashy and her colours, from a digital standpoint, are quite simple and restrained, but she really incorporates texture successfully into colour and pattern in a way that is beautiful and pleasing. The other sorts of designs that are successful, at least in commercial terms, are niche subjects. These are narrow and specific subjects, which means that while they may not have huge audiences, they are easily located by people searching on Google. Because the competition for this sort of fabric is limited, they can often sell successfully in the marketplace.
Do you have advice for aspiring surface pattern designers?
Don’t be afraid to experiment! Fabric is like pizza—even a 'bad' design printed on pretty cotton is still kind of nice!
Create a monochromatic pattern using varying shades of black, white or grey with calligraphy as a theme. The winner will be profiled in an upcoming issue of UPPERCASE. The deadline for entry is Tuesday, November 11, 2014. Visit the Spoonflower website for details on how to enter!