Before, I was in clinical research and my background is biology. I primarily work in home interiors, designing wallpaper, soft furnishings and cushions.
I don't think homewares were a conscious choice.
I developed a style over the years and it seemed to naturally fit more for home textiles than it did for fashion or greeting cards. I remember trying my hand at lettering and I was just terrible! It took a few years of doing different courses and trying things out [to] hone my style and it naturally fit into interiors. I have a general interest in interiors too, so it probably went hand in hand.
It all started seven years ago...
I was an Australian expat in the US after I had my first child. It's a little cliche, but when you're on maternity leave you have time to reassess what will work with your new lifestyle. I came across surface pattern design and I thought, “Of course, it makes sense.” For some reason it had never occurred to me that [surface design] was actually a career! I did a few courses as an introduction to the whole industry and it went from there.
From science to surface patterns
A lot of designers have been a graphic designer or an artist, so people look at me strangely when I say, “I was a biologist!” But I always had some interest in drawing and illustration. Even when studying biology at university, I think I liked the anatomy drawings better than I liked the actual anatomy side of things! So maybe that was a sign.
When I started out it was just a hobby but the more I got into it, the more I wanted to make it a career. So I did more courses and was reaching out to people [in the industry] and seeing how they do things. I attended the Surtex trade show in New York in 2018, which cemented [my decision] to do it for a career. From there, I spent quite a bit of time working at my style because I was trying to do a bit of everything and find my place.
The Print School courses were key to making that happen.
I think particularly because I was self taught, I didn’t necessarily know I was doing it the right way or perhaps doing everything I should. And so if you see people who are obviously doing it for a living in a studio capacity doing it in a similar way you think, "I'm on the right track."
Once I worked out my style it was easier to make designs specifically for that market and also approach the right companies. I've gradually put my work out there, built a portfolio and then reached out to companies I wanted to work with. I've primarily done licensing with the commercial interiors market and home interiors.
My prints on products!
There's something extra special about seeing your designs on an actual product. I had that with one of my first designs, a wallpaper for a dumpling company in the Melbourne CBD. And people would post Instagram photos with the wallpaper behind them. It's cool, it doesn't ever get old!
The Print School is the educational arm of the world's leading fabric design studio, Longina Phillips Designs. Through our courses you can learn industry-relevant skills and develop your personal style, just like Kelly did.
Take the leap and make your dreams a reality: see your designs on homewares or fashion garments. Or work with your favorite fashion house. All of these things can be achieved when you take an online course at The Print School.