The Upcycle Collaboration Project

Ideas can be born out of anywhere. Where a few simple exchanges thrashing out ideas via text or over coffee with fellow creatives turn in to the “Why don’t we make this happen?”

Local Abstract Artist Rachel Williams is the force behind Art in My Garden, an annual, collaborative, one-day art exhibition in the gardens of historic Oakville, Ontario. Founded in 2021 this will be the 3rd year that a growing number of Oakville artists will come together to share their work. This year I will be taking part and showing my own work but Rachel and I also felt it would be fun to create something together, something a little different and out of the ordinary.

Rachel’s work is very abstract and full of texture so let’s combine that with my sense of order and love of pattern. Despite my usual pull to geometrics and graphical designs I could see the potential in developing some of her art into something fabulous and 3-dimensional. Rachel has the knack of collecting interesting furniture from the side of the road, things well loved but that have maybe seen better days. Chatting about one of her recent finds the seed was sown and we had ourselves an upcycle project.

Putting a plan into action

So, how did we do it? Firstly we needed a high resolution image of Secret Garden, a diptych. Elle Bruce’s professional photography skills captured a perfect high resolution image we knew would work well. I then set about digitally manipulating it, blending the 2 canvases seamlessly and creating a workable repeating design that could be transferred onto fabric. We didn’t want to take away the essence of the art and the brush strokes. Art Fabrics based out of Quebec, Canada offer eco-friendly on demand printing, perfect for this type of project. We just had to upload the file then order the exact yardage we needed. The velveteen fabric we chose was printed and on the doorstep within a matter of days and it looked amazing! All the texture of the paint and even the canvas perfectly executed onto fabric.

We picked a coordinating plain green velvet for the back of the chair and the project was then passed into the hands of my highly skilled upholsterer to work his magic. A few short days later what had been a tired, water stained antique pink chair had been transformed into a stunning eye catching statement piece. Now we need to find a room worthy of it!

Top – Original Art
Bottom – Digital Seamless Repeat

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From Photos to Fun Stripes

I would be embarrassed to tell you how many photos I actually have on my phone, but I also use it like a visual scrapbook. Little snippets capturing a moment in time where something has peaked my interest. It could be colours in nature, some amazing colourful graffiti or just an obscure thing I find visually stimulating.

So what do we do with all these photos? People rarely print them now as we live in such a digital paperless world. I’ve made a conscious effort though to change this for myself and plan on making some photos books capturing family time and vacations in the coming weeks. Many of my photos I use as colour inspiration for interior schemes or surface pattern design but one of the simplest forms is to create these fun stripes. Below you’ll see just a small selection of the photos I have taken and the lovely stripes they can generate. For some cosy Autumn vibes check out my previous post Interior Colours for Fall.

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Architectural Elements & Design Motifs

Do you ever think to look up as you walk around towns or cities? Often the architecture found above street level is far more interesting than the modern day facades on our level. So many decorative architectural elements and details are a source of inspiration and also act as a record of the passing of time. The different styles and types of stone or brick tell so much of a story.

There is a beautiful gothic style church on the main street in my town dating from 1888. My eye has often been drawn to the shapes and structure of the stained glass windows. Although I have never been inside it, I imagine the windows take on a whole new look with the light shining through. All the windows are made up of simple repeating geometric shapes, the perfect starting point for a collection of fabric designs.

With a fresh colour palette to hand I began by drawing various elements and motifs to then develop into new designs. This colour palette is part of a collaboration with another group of designers. Throughout the year we design several collections all using the same colour palette and then offer them for sale on Spoonflower. Customers can then order from a collection of over 500 mix and match designs all using the same range of colours.

Spring Garden Collection

This group of designs has a retro feel to it but the crisp colours give it a more updated feel. By varying scales and colour combinations the designs can be used together and applied to a wide range of end products. The full design collection can be found on my Spoonflower Store or you can contact me directly for ordering and customizing locally here in Canada.

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Miami Beach Club Inspired Designs

In the Spring of 2023 I discovered a wonderful design community founded by the creative minds at Make It In Design. Headed by Rachel Taylor and Beth Kempster they are a multi-disciplinary team of creative experts with a diverse range of backgrounds. They share their expertise and knowledge to inspire other designers and creatives and to foster a supportive community.

Each month there are industry experts who come together to create a design brief working closely with trend forecasters. It’s a place for designers to brainstorm and share their ideas, help each other and cheer for each other.

Developing Ideas

My first assignment was to create a kidswear & accessories collection reflecting the Miami Beach Club trend! With a love of art deco architecture and bright colours this was a great project to kick off with. The first task was to put together a mood board. I collected images that conveyed to me the vibe and feeling of a Miami Beach Club. What was the eptiome of endless summer days and beach fun? Being a child of the 70s and 80s there are many trends from my youth I see repeating again but with an updated current feel.

Next comes the digital sketching. I work mostly on my iPad experimenting with shapes and colours, manipulating often very simple shapes that transform and lead into other ideas. My iPad has become a digital sketch book and is such an easy portable way to develop concepts. I take my ideas and refine them further on my computer, putting elements into technical seamless repeats that can be printed on a wide range of products. Mixing different patterns and scale is the key to creating a cohesive collection of designs. With interiors being my main focus of design the challenge of coming up with designs that would work on smaller scales and children’s clothing is fun to do.

Showcasing a Collection

There are many digital mockups available which help to visualise how fabrics can look in use. With a bit of computer wizardry a whole range of cute kids clothes can be displayed and variations on colour and scale can quickly be developed by switching things around.

Would a heavy dose of vibrant maximalism be too much for you though in your home? We often wear pattern and colour yet we shy away from having it in our interior environment. Kids generally do love colour so interjecting some fun bedding or cushions would be great in a tween bedroom for them to express themsleves and add their own stamp of personailty.

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Interior Colours for Fall

With so many colours around us in nature I have a camera reel full of interesting colour combinations that I have collected over the years. Extracting the colours from an image is a great starting point for pulling together an interior scheme. One really simple yet effective technique I use within Photoshop enables selecting just one fine line segment out of an image and then using it to generate a lovely blend of stripes.

These ornamental cabbages with their rich autumn shades of oranges, purples and pinks have a wonderful comforting warmth to them. Imagine these printed on a luxurious velvet or as beautifully textured linen curtains combined with a deep terracotta wall colour. The perfect environment to curl up with a good book and a soothing mug of hot chocolate.

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