An Interview with Ewa Brzozowska
Ewa Brzozowska, a surface pattern designer from Radom, Poland, has provided us with a written interview with her detailing her experiences as a designer.
How long have you been a surface pattern designer?
I made my first steps as a surface pattern designer seven years ago, in August of 2015, and made a complete leap two years later, on January 1, 2017. I still remember the emotions I felt making this decision!
When did you realize surface pattern design was something you were interested in pursuing?
From the very beginning of my professional life, I’ve been a freelance graphic designer, and I was fulfilled in this business. After about seven years of designing websites and logotypes (I started in high school), I felt a little burned out, but I didn't even consider other options. The first moment I thought I wanted to make some difference came after my first son was born in 2015. It was my first slightly longer break when I could verify where I was and what I wanted. At that moment, I had no idea that something like a surface pattern design career even existed. I realized it by coincidence when I created my first ever pattern, “Pandemonium.” My sister asked me to prepare a pattern design for a contest in a fabric store. She wanted me to win free fabrics for her. I did it, they printed it, and it became a massive hit in Poland. Shortly after that, I came across an online class by Elizabeth Olwen. When I saw her “Surface Pattern Designer” job title in the video, I thought, “I want to be that, too!” I did not know how it would happen, but from that moment on, I wanted it badly.
Why did you become a surface pattern designer?
I liked my job as a freelance graphic designer. I was thriving, getting more and more clients. But when I became a mom, my approach to my work/life balance changed. I was dealing with motherhood and running my own business. While spending my nights in front of my computer, I felt something was lacking. I wanted to make something more emotional and meaningful than designing websites and catalogs and animating hundreds of flash banners. I wanted to do something worth staying up for all night, something that gave me energy instead of taking it away.
I firmly believe that entrepreneurs have this fantastic ability to see opportunities where other people don’t and go for them. Being an entrepreneur is my calling, so I have been looking for these opportunities around me. I had some illustrations and character designs in my portfolio, so when I stepped into the surface pattern design world, choosing children's patterns for my niche was quite natural. Imagining my baby wearing my designs was a nice thought, too. ;)
How did you become a surface pattern designer (school, self-taught, etc.)?
My creative passion showed up very early in my life. As a thirteen-year-old, I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer or a web developer. I taught myself Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, and I had great fun creating all kinds of visual compositions. I turned this passion into my educational and professional path. I graduated from the University of Information Technology and set up a creative agency I was running for the next five years. I had solid knowledge and practice in creative work, but I had no experience designing patterns. I started learning it by myself. I watched some online courses and practiced, practiced, and practiced. I enrolled in a two-week pattern design online workshop by Elizabeth Olwen on the Skillshare platform. I was very inspired by her story and loved her style. Under her watchful eye, I created my second pattern design ever: “Tribal Adventure.” I submitted it for a contest on Spoonflower.com. I hit the top ten. With my third pattern, “Sleeping Fox,” I won another Spoonflower contest. That was the moment I felt it all made sense, and it was worth trying.
From that moment, everything fell into place and gained traction. In 2016, I found out about the international textile fair organized in Nadarzyn, Poland, from a friend, and I decided to exhibit there with her. I promised myself that if I got at least one client at the fair, I would leave graphic designing and switch to pattern design only. It was tough to do both simultaneously, taking care of my baby at the same time, so I had to make brave decisions—what I really liked doing in my life. The fair was a hit! I stepped into 2017 as a full-time freelance surface pattern designer with a long list of potential clients, excited as never before.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m a mom of two amazing boys, so the living inspiration runs through my house—literally. I let them draw me into their world of books, movies, toys, and stories. Being a mom and pursuing a creative career blend into each other and awakens my imagination. I’m a really cheerful person and a daydreamer, so most of my ideas just come to me naturally. I’m also a doer. I don’t like to overthink. I try to execute each idea. Not all of them are successful, but creativity wants to be implemented, so I treat it as my daily exercise.
What does your design process look like?
Each pattern design starts with a brainstorm, either by myself or with a client, if it’s a custom design. When I have a general idea of what I’d like to create, I prepare some sketches and a color palette to work with. I work digitally from start to finish. Painting all the elements is the longest and most creative stage. When I’m happy with the effect, I export everything to my computer and continue working in Adobe Photoshop. I compose the pattern design, prepare some mockups, and the final pattern design is ready to be shown to the world.
Which programs do you use to create a design from beginning to end?
I use Procreate app on my iPad Pro and Adobe Photoshop on my iMac. When I design vector patterns, I work in Vectornator (iPad) and Adobe Illustrator (iMac).
How did you design your portfolio?
Keeping my portfolio up to date is a nightmare. I'm not good at systematically carrying out brand-building tasks. I found a perfect solution and set up my portfolio on the Adobe Portfolio platform. When I upload a new project to my Behance profile, it also shows up in my portfolio. I present my projects on mockups that stimulate the imagination and show the possibilities of their use.
How do you deal with feedback?
Dealing with feedback is not easy when you’re pursuing a creative career. It’s hard to draw a thick line between each project's personal and business sides. After all, you put your whole heart into it, and the customer doesn't always see it the same way. It’s crucial to understand that when a client has some suggestions, they’re talking about the project, not about me as a creator. It took me a while, but I think I can separate it now and don’t take it personally. The key is not to fight the client but to work on myself and my self-acceptance. Even if the client doesn't like the design, it doesn't mean that I suck as a designer or that the design sucks. People have different tastes, and that’s ok.
What are some of your favorite designs or projects you've worked on?
My favorite collaboration—and the one I’m the proudest of—was when I worked with Swatch on their kids’ watches collection.
When it comes to textile designs—which I create the most—it changes all the time. I always try to make each pattern one of the best in my portfolio. I have strong sentiments about “Boho Sky,” “Dino Girl,” and “Tribal Woodland.” I chose “Tribal Woodland” for the central theme of my younger son’s nursery.
How do you use mockups to display your designs?
It makes a huge difference when you present your client with a project on a mockup next to a flat image. As a textile designer, I use bedding and clothing mockups to show how it may look as a final product. I also like the mockups of a creased fabric; it seems so natural. A good-quality mockup is crucial here. Good mockups help with an overall impression, while poor ones don’t work in your favor. I also use mockups during my creative process to test the composition, the scale of my design, and the color palette. It helps me to decide if the project looks better on bedding or an article of clothing.
What's your dream job?
My dream job is the job I have. I can’t even imagine doing anything more fulfilling, passion-filled, and original than running a creative business designing patterns that I can see as the physical products of my clients. An essential aspect of this job is its flexibility and the ease of combining it with parenthood. Somewhere recently, I heard that people born for creativity MUST create daily. Otherwise, they are unhappy and unfulfilled in life. They cannot replace this need with anything else. I am glad I have this opportunity and the courage to fulfill myself professionally. It makes each aspect of my life more awesome.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
My story shows that it all started with a little thought that I wanted to change something, and I was able to do it. Some people may say I was lucky. But it wasn’t just luck. It was a series of minor and major decisions—often against common sense, but with heartfelt enthusiasm—to create and derive joy from it. I have been designing patterns for seven years now and haven’t gotten bored of what I do. And that means something :) If you want to see more of my work, please check out my website at http://brzozowska.net and connect with me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/brzozowskanet.
Ewa Brzozowska x Creatsy
We truly appreciate you sharing your amazing works with us. It was a pleasure to work with your patterns on our kids and baby themed mockups. Thank you Ewa!