Q&A: Penney, a fabric designer in Senegal

Picture 1Hi Penney. Thanks for talking with us today. Tell me, what’s it like being a fabric designer now based in Senegal?

It is certainly inspirational living here. The wax prints are a phenomenal. I also find inspiration from architectural details and even things like drainage covers and graffiti.

The swatch samples I’ll show you are designs specifically influenced by my life in Senegal.

African Visage 2 / Spring Swatch

African Visage 2 / Spring Swatch

And how did you get started in this field?

I have known since I was five I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, however most of my adult life has been working in other fields. The arts can be very difficult to find work in. I managed so find some arts related work briefly teaching art to high school and adult students, working a few years for an art gallery in the US and doing the occasional craft shows.

I had been looking around for an outlet with little start up costs that would allow me to sell my product repeatedly. I saw an ad for Spoonflower in the US based Quilting Arts magazine. Fabric design allows me a family friendly flexible schedule (wherever I live) and fulfills the above qualifications.

Picture 4

African 1 / Winter Swatch

Where can we learn more about your designs?

I have a blog that highlights some of my art: bloomingwyldeiris.blogspot.com which includes some of my fabric designs as well as other projects.

My fabric is printed on demand by Spoonflower in most natural fibers like cotton, silk and linen. In the near future, a wider range of fiber options may be available.

One of the advantages of printing on demand is that it lessens the environmental impact of my art. An artist always hopes there will be an audience for one’s work but if not it is nice to know it won’t be rotting away somewhere unwanted.

Faux lace designed with African motifs on a midnight blue background. Coordinates with African Visage.

Faux lace designed with African motifs on a midnight blue background. Coordinates with African Visage.

So how do you actually create your designs?

I use many techniques to create my designs. They may be based on a photograph, print, be hand drawn or painted but all must go through digital manipulation to send the file to the printer. Some get more manipulated than others to create the final repeating design.

Inspired by Moroccan tiles, this geometric design is created with a subdued rainbow of dots on white ground.

Inspired by Moroccan tiles, this geometric design is created with a subdued rainbow of dots on white ground.

Any advice for those of us who might want to try our hand at fabric design?

If anyone is interested in getting started, I suggest you invest in a reliable computer and Internet connection. I use a shareware program, Paint.net and have started experimenting with Art Weaver. If you want to design hand drawn/painted work a scanner or camera is necessary too.

There are tutorials on the Internet that explain the basics of creating a repeating design. This is a good one http://www.designsponge.com/2008/05/welcome-julia-and-how-to-make-a-repeat-pattern.html. It can take quite a while to get a return on your investment, so take the long view.

Thanks for sharing your story and designs with us, Penney!

Visit Penney’s online shop with 60+ designs: Blooming Wylde Iris on Spoonflower

Decaying cement wall repeat

Decaying cement wall repeat

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