Today I'm sharing a chat with pattern designer, and senior lecturer in art and design, Sarah Bagshaw. I really like her colourful, abstract patterns, they are so full of energy and perfect for the fashion market. It was a treat to catch up with Sarah to pose some questions...
patternbooth: How did you discover your love of pattern?
sarah: I first became interested (obsessed) in pattern after my Mum packed me off to university with some 1960’s patterned bath towels that she’d had herself years ago!
patternbooth: You're a senior lecturer in Art and Design. How did that come about?
sarah: After my Masters course I was lucky enough to find a job as an art technician. There was then a vacancy for an art and designer lecturer and I’m still there 12 years later!
patternbooth: How does being a designer fit with being an academic?
sarah: I’m still working this out myself! My design work is only just starting to take off and to be honest I’m finding it difficult to work out how the two work with each other. Most of my colleagues are embarking on doctorates and although you can undertake practice-based PhD programmes it is not something I wish to do at present. I am really enjoying the new and exciting path my work is taking and feel that working as a commercial artist/designer is just as relevant to my students who need to see that it is possible to make a living making art. I am toying with the idea of writing a paper about the tensions between the two threads of being a commercial artist/designer and being an academic…but to be honest I have never felt like an academic – I’m more of a doer than a thinker!
patternbooth: You have a love of strong colour and bold shapes. What is your inspiration?
sarah: As my undergraduate degree is in Fine Art, many of my influences are painters – such as Bridget Riley, Terry Frost and Beatriz Milhazes. Whilst studying for my Masters in Surface Pattern Design I fell in love with the work of Sonia Delaunay and also became interested in Ella Doran and Sharon Elphick who were applying digital images and designs to various surfaces and products. Today I love the work of Suzie-Q and Luli Sanchez.
patternbooth: Where would you most like to see your patterns?
sarah: Well I have sold a number of designs via a studio in the U.S to well-known clothing companies, so it would be great to see them appear in the shops. Apart from that I haven’t really thought about it – my enjoyment is in the making more than anything, I am happy to let them go!
patternbooth: Where do you want to be in 5 years time?
sarah: Ideally I’d like to continue lecturing part-time but be working for myself part-time too. The best of both worlds!
patternbooth: What advice would you give to a student about finding their own style?
sarah: Most of my students take a fine art route and it is simply down to hard work, lots of experimentation, reading and gallery visits. It is hard to find ‘your thing’ and we cannot do it for them but the ones who put in the hours tend to get there. I do believe that you should not try to be like somebody else (peers or artists) as this can be frustrating and soul-destroying – if you go with what you really enjoy that enjoyment usually shines through. Also, they should try and find out the context for their work – are they a fine artist, illustrator or pattern designer and then use the internet to promote themselves!
patternbooth: How has your style evolved?
sarah: I didn’t set out to be a surface pattern designer so for a long time just used paint on canvas and worked on a large scale. On my Masters course I discovered Photoshop which changed my creative life. I am still amazed at some of the results I can get so quickly which would take much longer if done by hand, but I can still retain that handmade quality. In the last year or so I have really found a way of working that suits me and cannot make it fast enough!
Having an aim of sending work to a studio has been a huge incentive and discovering the fashion print market allows me to experiment with techniques, patterns and colours in a way I hadn’t before. It helps that I have an agent that lets me do whatever I want!