Mama Bleu Designs Bags

How I Got Started as a Surface Pattern Designer

Have you ever had a dream of doing something big but the thought of it seemed overwhelming and out of reach? That is the way I felt several years ago when I said out loud, “I want to design my own fabric”. 

Was I capable of doing it at the moment I said that? No.

Was I holding onto an impossible dream? Maybe.

Was I willing to do the work to find out what it would take to fulfill that dream? Yes!

Last year, while I was still dealing with post-Covid stress, I found an e-course on Surface Pattern Design that intrigued me and frankly sparked a place of joy in my heart that I hadn’t felt in quite a while. It felt like a gift ~ at the right place and at the right time.

During the start of the course I was told that it would probably take about a year before I might be ready to put any of my designs out into the world. Determined to be someone who beats the odds, I put as much time into learning the process and creating designs as I could. But, here I am, one year later and I’m realizing they were right!

You might be asking why I wanted to design my own fabrics. That’s a good question. 

For years we’ve made it a practice of finding beautiful floral fabrics to use on our Mama Bleu bags. We particularly looked for fabrics designed by Surface Pattern Designers who were establishing their own businesses. Although we’ve been doing that successfully since the start of our business, I always wondered what it would be like to have our very OWN line of fabric that we could choose from. And so the dream was born. 

As a creative entrepreneur living a creative life, I am constantly curious and trying to learn new things. It’s something that is important to me and fills my cup. It not only fills my cup, it challenges me to be aware of available resources that will help me get better at what I choose to do as an artist, designer and maker. 

Chasing an earlier version of this dream has generally been about graphic design.

It was planted in my heart when my kids were in middle school. I went back to school to continue my Art Education and all of the readily available Adobe Design programs were in their infancy. I only had access to them in a classroom at our local City College. 

I was intrigued! I was excited! And learning this new skill pushed my dream further to the front of my mind.

Then, just as I was on the threshold of taking my skills to the next level in my education, I experienced a huge loss when my mom died. Everything creative dried up in me and sat dormant for a year. When the urge to create began to come alive in me again, I questioned whether I should pick up the pieces and continue on my path into Graphic Design.

My doubt led me to believe that I should let it go and take another path. But, as the Adobe programs became available for use on a home computer, I dabbled in them. Still curious. Still learning. Still wondering and dreaming. 

The possibilities of these programs, Adobe Illustrator in particular, was something I never imagined could open a door to a whole new path in my career as a designer and maker. I didn’t know what I didn’t know! When I opened my Etsy Shop I was merely using Adobe Illustrator to create the fabric reference charts for our customers to use when choosing a fabric for their bag orders. I had my hands on a program with so much more possibilities than I could ever imagine!

I’ve been sewing since I was very young and have seen hundreds of artists’ names on the selvage of fabrics over the decades. The thought of being someone who could join that list of Surface Pattern Designers is a bit surreal. I know now, that with hard work and determination, that dream is possible. 

Truthfully, creating our first fabric designs and opening our fabric shop on Spoonflower would not have been possible without a supportive team of friends and family along with using some trusted tools and techniques that I’ve embraced during my many years as a Creative Entrepreneur.

When I first learned about the Surface Pattern Designs E-course “Immersion” I held onto the news while I pondered whether I should enroll in the course or not. 

My husband is super supportive so having a discussion about how it might affect my normal work and personal schedule was an important step. Because he is also my best friend and knows me very well, I knew that once we made this decision together he would be one of my biggest cheerleaders.

Another conversation I had was with a couple of friends who were looking to meet once a month and support each other in our individual journeys toward a dream. Our coffee dates have been life giving for each of us and something we look forward to every 4-6 weeks. 

The Immersion Course offered an opportunity to join a small accountability group with other class members who were at my skill level, similar in age and live in my time zone. The ladies in my group all live in California and we’ve stayed in touch even though the course has ended.

And lastly, I choose to join the Flourish membership group. Although I haven’t taken the time to develop friendships with anyone in the group YET, the resources there have been amazing! 

When I logged into the Immersion Course for the first time I had all of the emotions. I was excited and overwhelmed with the abundance of information that was there and all the deep learning that was ahead of me. This was one of my trips of a lifetime!

From experience, I knew I couldn’t be consumed with all the things.

If I let the overwhelm of the big picture swallow me up, I would have been frozen with doubt that I’d ever get through it all. I made the decision to just put my head down and work through the details. Knowing ahead of time that it would take at least a year before I’d be at the place I am now, I did at least one thing a day to move the needle forward. 

My first target date was June 30. I wanted to finish the course to the point that I could create my own designs. My second target date was September 30. I wanted to complete several fabric designs and get them ready to upload to Spoonflower. 

With the holidays being the busiest season in our Mama Bleu Designs Etsy shop I knew I’d need to revisit my next target date after New Years Day. During the first week of January I took what I had learned from hitting my first two goals and decided to set my third target date for February 1st. It felt very ambitious but fueled with confidence I put my head down again and worked my way through all the detailed steps of setting up my Spoonflower Shop.

Sometimes the goal can feel much more lofty and unattainable than it actually is.

As I moved closer to completing my plan it felt surreal. I was doing it. All my hard work was paying off. I was checking the boxes. I was moving the needle. All the little things I had done every single day for a year had added up to this moment. 

A year ago it felt like I opened a gift that I needed at that time in my life. The gift of learning how to be a Surface Pattern Designer. I still have so much to learn and so much more to do but now I can say that I’m one step closer by opening our Spoonflower Shop. 

Do you have a big dream goal for this year? I’d love to hear about it!


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