As a print designer, it’s often difficult to have a sense of identity and meet client briefs at the same time. WTiN’s Cara Dudgeon talks to Canadian print designer Jackie Tahara, who’s trying to do both with her work at UnBlink Studio.
Jackie Tahara happened across pattern design by accident after stumbling across some courses in 2016. The Canadian print designer has since utilised print-on-demand services to broadcast her designs across a variety of merchandise, including stationery, interiors and fashion for both adults and children.
Tahara begins every pattern with her sketchbook and gets inspiration from multiple places, including Spoonflower – a US-based, print-on-demand community.
She says: “Each week Spoonflower sends out design challenges, and those differing themes are really fun and inspiring. It gives me a lot of new ideas and keeps my portfolio interesting.”
Having a unique and recognisable style is important to Tahara and ensures her designs are as recognisable as possible.
Tahara describes her design style as “very bold, colourful and organic”, and notes that her patterns often nod to retro due to their lack of texture.
However, she likes to ensure her designs appeal to various audiences and does this by changing the colour palette.
She explains: “I absolutely love designing repeat patterns. I probably have several hundred patterns that I’ve done over the years, and I’m constantly thinking, ‘I don’t have enough time to make all the designs I want in all the different colours.’
“So, I like to cover the spectrum with each design by having a bold colour option, as well as a more subdued version.”
This especially comes into play when designing interiors and home décor. According to Tahara, brighter shades lend themselves to throw pillows, but she believes her subdued designs are perhaps better suited for bedding. However, Tahara does have one rule: if she likes it, she releases it, as it’s likely someone else will too.
She says: “These days it’s really easy to second guess your designs as there’s so much noise out there with social media. You really have to keep your blinders on so that you can make sure that what you’re doing is what you like and not being influenced by what others are saying.”
The demand for home textiles skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic and Tahara explains the desire is still there, despite market decline.
She says: “My designs are still selling quite well on print-on-demand sites, such as Spoonflower, and although the [Covid-19] pandemic is over, people are still reconsidering the way they live. And it’s the small things that can make a big difference in a home.
“Not everyone has the money for a whole bedding set, but smaller items like blankets and pillows make the difference people are looking for, at a reduced price.”
To create her designs, Tahara uses Adobe Illustrator as she says it gives her more control. She explains: “In Illustrator, I’m able to manipulate the colours and zoom in to fine tune things.
“If you see some of my patterns, I love using smooth curves, lines and flat shapes and Illustrator allows me to make these graphic shapes and repeat them. Plus, I’m able to really utilise negative space by moving the motifs. The flexibility of Illustrator is really valuable.”
Tahara admits she has invested in an iPad and an accompanying pencil with the intention of using Apple’s ProCreate. Despite this, she says, “It just doesn’t appeal to me.”
Although, she does believe she will always use digital processes due to their ease. For example, if a client doesn’t like certain aspects of a design, they can be easily changed in the digital file – making it a simpler process for everyone involved, says Tahara.
In spite of this, Tahara thinks the more digital things become, the more people will want more traditional, handmade items.
She explains: “There’s a warmth and a value to traditional, hand-crafted items, which I think people are beginning to crave. Especially as you can’t truly duplicate that in digital software. So, I think there will always be a place for both techniques, rather than one overtaking the other.”
Unlike other print designers, Tahara says she was not affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and as her studio is at home, she was still able to work as normal. Plus, she says, as people were at home with nothing to do, they started buying more and more fabric, which naturally had a positive impact on her business.
Inspiration continued to find Tahara during this time, although she does admit she has periods where she is unmotivated.
She says: “Like every artist I have lulls where I’m not inspired, but I’m pretty disciplined about sitting down to work, even when I’m struggling with motivation. Whenever I find myself in this mindset, I just get my sketchbook out and start drawing, and sometimes that leads to the best patterns.
“I think being able to force yourself to work through those tough times, even when you’re just not feeling it, is really important.”
Thankfully, Tahara hasn’t noticed her demand decrease with the current economic crisis but says Canada has been affected in terms of retail. For example, American luxury department store Nordstrom recently announced it was shutting all of its stores in Canada.
Regarding print design trends, Tahara believes mid-century and modern designs are still really big and here to stay, especially as they are selling so well, she adds.
For herself, Tahara wants to continue to get her designs “out there” and become recognisable across various sectors, including apparel and interiors.
To discover more of Tahara’s designs, please visit: unblinkstudio.com
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