Super–Nature

We caught up with pattern-queen Marie Perkins (aka Bowie Style) to find out all about her hugely popular Print & Pattern blog, and her latest book for Laurence King which features prints inspired by nature…

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Scout & Whistle– Gem Pattern

What’s your background, and when did your obsession with pattern start?
I have been into drawing, paper and painting since I was tiny as it runs in the family. I went to art college straight from school and studied Graphic Design and Illustration, mainly because I did not know about pattern design courses back then. Plus I was really into music and my dream was to design album covers. I enjoyed the illustrative aspects of graphic design the most and by the time I graduated I was really into interior design and somehow fell into creating bright hand painted pottery. This was where I found I loved patterns and colour and changed direction. I started doing freelance for textiles and then moved into full-time design for lots of UK retailers.

In 2006 I was creating trend boards for companies such as Argos and Marks & Spencer and where I once used to use magazines such as Elle Deco and Living Etc. for my images I was now turning to new design blogs such as Design*Sponge that were starting up in the USA. I felt I could do something similar in the UK but focusing on my particular passion for print and pattern.

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Mouni Feddag – Sketchbook

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Barbra Ignatiev – Indian Summer: Feathers

How did the name Bowie Style come about?
When you are signing up to blogger they ask for a username and being a big David Bowie fan I always tended to use something along those lines. I tried several Bowie names but all were taken so I glanced around the room for inspiration and on the shelf was a book by Mark Paytress called Bowie Style and it just seemed a good fit. I wanted to use a pseudonym so nobody would know who I was. But I had no idea then that it would later be used on books or I would probably have chosen something more relevant…

 

The Print & Pattern blog has been going for over ten years now, has it changed much since you started it?
One of the biggest changes is that when P&P began many of the British stores I was featuring did not have retail websites. So the only way to see what was happening on the High Street was to actually go out there and photograph it. Now of course just about everyone has online shopping so there is less need for secret snooping in the shops themselves. Another change has been that companies have realised the importance of exposure on blogs and are happy to be featured. For example I went from sneaking around in Paperchase 'guerrilla style' with my camera to actually being invited up to head office to photograph their products at press shows.

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Helen Black – Colourful Coral

Has it been hard work to keep it going? Were there ever times when you got fed up?
I have never become bored or fed up with seeing patterns and prints as they are ever changing and I still get excited when I see something new. I get a real buzz from seeing new designs and often can't wait to publish them up on the blog. The only downside is that my own design work has suffered as I have to put so much time into the blog and the books and there is less time to create work for my own portfolio. But I love the blog so much I couldn't bear to stop at the moment.

Tell us a bit about your books for Laurence King…
I was very lucky to be approached by Helen from Laurence King in 2008. She had spotted my blog and asked me if I would be interested in writing a book. I am so grateful that she recognised pattern design needed its own separate category of book and was different from books on graphic design, textiles, or illustration. The success of the first book lead to us doing a follow-up. We then decided to break the subsequent books into themes. So far we have done kids, geometrics, and nature.

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Zoe Wodarz – Digital Palm

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Wacka – Shibby

How do you go about finding new and exciting artists and designers?
I am always looking out for designers on sites such as Etsy, Pinterest or Instagram, I also look in shops and galleries – always checking the back of greetings cards or books to see the artist’s name. I try to keep up with who is exhibiting at trade shows such as Top Drawer, Surtex, Progressive Greetings, etc. to see who is making their debut.

But I am very lucky to be in a position now that a lot of artists write to me and tell me about their work.

Trends in surface design come and go, but do you ever get to the point when you feel like you’ve seen everything before?
Not really no, because even if a particular trend or a certain motif comes around again it will be in a new way. Sometimes I think those of us in the industry can tire of fashions quicker as we have been looking at them a lot longer than those outside of the business. For example we can have been working on cactus designs for two a three years before they really filter down to the high street.

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Starla Michelle Halfmann –Tale of Love

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Scout & Whistle – Gem Print

Tell us a bit about the Print & Pattern scholarship…
This came about because of mutual relationship with designer Rachael Taylor. She has the outgoing personality and skills to teach pattern design and I had the audience to help promote her school. By working together we were able to give free places to those wanting to learn to create patterns through the 'Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design' courses. We have now given hundreds of pounds worth of training out to worthy winners.

What's your next book going to be about, and have you started in it yet?
We haven't started it yet – we always need to see how the last book does first. If the P&P Nature book goes well then hopefully we'll do another one in the series. I have a really good idea for what the next one should be – given current trends – but I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed.


Follow The Print & Pattern blog here, and grab a copy of Print & Pattern Nature here.

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