Carmen Fernández Sanz

Switching the focus of your career can be one of the hardest decisions a designer can make, but, as for Carmen Fernández Sanz, following your gut often leads you to a happier place.

Why have you decided to change career from fashion design to pattern design and what have been the most difficult parts of that transition?
I studied fashion design and have been working for big companies for years, but the idea of being a surface pattern designer was always present in my mind. It’s not easy to take the step of changing careers, it’s like being a student again, but I really enjoy pattern design much more than fashion, so I think it was a good decision. Now things are starting to pick up and my challenge is to find my place in the market.

What’s hanging on your walls?

Lots of artwork from my favourite contemporary illustrators and designers. Right now my preferred pieces are a drawing by LA-based artist and illustrator Michael Hsiung and a Sonic Youth screenprinted poster by Dennis Tyfus, a multidisciplinary artist, musician and record label owner.

Where do you go for inspiration?
Art is a big source of inspiration for me. The starting point is different for each project, but the influence from movements such as Suprematism, Constructivism or Bauhaus has always carried a lot of weight in my work. During a recent period in which I was strongly influenced by colour I was fascinated with Josef Albers’ colour studies and Matisse’s cut-outs, but now I’m turning to black.

How do you develop your concepts?
Sometimes the starting point is an abstract idea – I just spend hours working, trying again and again until I get to what I want. Other times one single pattern opens the door for a whole collection and I work in a more intuitive way.  

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a pattern collection called Under African Skies. It´s inspired by traditional African textiles but I’m not looking for a classical African-look, it’s more about a mood. The idea is to create an African-reminiscent collection, but for it also to be very graphic and contemporary, mixing geometric forms and textures. Another emerging project is the design and production of a collection of printed scarves, but I’m still researching what the most appropriate materials and print techniques would be.

Who are your heroes?
Most of my heroes are artists and artisans who had contributed something new, with a personal and contemporary vision. In that way, regarding surface pattern design and textiles, I really admire the work of the Wiener Werkstätte, Gunta Stölzl and Nathalie du Pasquier, among others. They are a big inspiration.

How long does a typical pattern take to do?
It depends. The more basic patterns usually require more thinking time and less technical development. But, for example,  if I have to do very realistic flowers for a client, it can take up to ten or twelve hours in front of Illustrator.

Tell us about a favourite recent project.
One of my first commissions was a pattern collection for a new independent fashion brand based in London (Ada London). They wanted a very feminine and floral mood, very far from my style. It was  a real  challenge for me and that made me grow as a professional. I think it was an important point in my career.

What’s the biggest challenge of working in the way that you do?
Most clients are from the fashion industry and in that world it’s all about trend. So going with the trend while keeping my own style is crucial to my design development.  

Tell us about your most productive accident/ valuable mistake?

I joined Tumblr by accident, I wasn’t really into social networks. Now I really enjoy running my blog, Primary Yellow, and it’s the best platform to show my work.