Meet Our Designer, Siobhan Watt
The Modern Crafter started organically when I asked my sister, a talented artist if she would be able to design me some patterns that I could embroider whilst on maternity leave to ease my anxious mind! Siobhan designed me an air stream in the wilderness inspired after her trip to Yosemite National Park. I absolutely loved stitching it and I chanced my luck and asked for another, The Heron pattern followed. This was also such a beautiful pattern to create and I enjoyed the mindful stitching flow and the end make! The Heron is based on the Heron of Lloyd Park in Walthamstow, London which Siobhan often sketches. I discovered Punch Needle which is another craft I am passionate about and again Siobhan came up with brilliant patterns that lend themselves just perfectly to this traditional craft. I put this down to her knowledge of print design.
I knew we had to share her talent with crafters to also enjoy and gain the benefits of mindful crafting along the way! That was 5 years ago and it makes us so very happy when we hear how much our customers enjoy Siobhan's wonderful patterns too!
I would like you to all get to know my amazing talented sister! I sent her some questions so I could dedicate this blog post about Siobhan. It's been really inspiring to read Siobhan's answers and her dedication to the creative industry in her career. Hope you enjoy reading it too. Siobhan's hand designed products and schedule of fun paper cut workshops can be found at https://www.siobhanwatt.com
What inspired you to further your learning and study Fashion & Textiles, what were your highlights from your time at university?
I always knew I wanted to have a creative career - I was always obsessed with creating stuff & I remember how proud I felt of a Paper Mache Owl I made at Nursery when I was about 4 years old.
From there, I remember just being obsessed with making stuff. School projects were a highlight, as well as watching Hartbeat, Blue Peter and Art Attack, which always inspired me to create something.
My Dad had studied for a while at Edinburgh College of Art so I think that was also an influence. He later became a Furniture Restorer. Growing up our house was full of inspiration, art, books, furniture, ceramics, textiles - literally everything. I also knew about a 2nd cousin of mine who was an artist in New York City. I later went on to work in New York and we got to spend time together.
At High School I spent as much time as possible in the Art Room & remember being taught printmaking for the first time.
My parents were keen for me to have a practical skill & so I decided to study at Heriot Watt University, School of Textiles. There had previously been a big textiles industry there, which meant that the school had excellent facilities such as a huge Screen Printing Room, knitting machines and weaving looms. The technicians were also excellent as many of them had experience working in the industry.
Did you find it easy to start a career in the creative sector?
I wouldn’t say it was easy - but I had been lucky enough to do a bit of work experience in the industry, with a relative who was working for a fashion brand in London. After doing that, I decided I would move to London as soon as I graduated. I also did an Internship with the Color Association of the US in New York City.
I exhibited at New Designers Graduate Show, and I made a few contacts there.
When I moved to London, I didn’t have a job lined up - but I started calling round some of Print Studios. I also took the Eurostar over to PV in Paris, and talked to a few of the exhibitors. This is what got me my first full time job at Tom Cody Studio in London.
Before you started designing for The Modern Crafter what other companies have you worked for and is there a career highlight?
After working with Tom Cody, I then went onto work as a CAD designer for a large Lingerie Supplier. It wasn’t a particularly creative roll, but my job was to take the Garment Designer’s sketches and turn them in to CAD’s on photoshop, tidying up the sketches and adding colour and pattern. I really threw myself into learning the Adobe programmes. Following this I worked for a Supplier designing T-Shirt Graphics for young fashion.
After this, I got my first job with a Retailer and moved to Sweden to work for H&M. This was a real learning curve and a great experience. A highlight was getting to Travel to places such as Tokyo and New York for inspiration, as well as visiting factory’s in Turkey. I met a lot of great friends during that period too.
When you are designing for The Modern Crafter how do you initially approach the process?
First off, it depends if I’m designing for our Embroidery Range, Punch Needle Embroidery, or Punch Needle with our chunky wool. The end product always influences how I approach the design process.
If I’m designing for our Embroidery range, I know that I can use finer lines with much more detail.
I also like to think about how many colours we will be using, so I don’t get carried away in the beginning and then have to take out colours later.
I think having restrictions is helpful in the design process - it’s good to understand all of these things right at the start in order to create a successful design.
The season I’m designing for is also taken into consideration, we like to plan in some designs through-out the year.
Otherwise I’m often inspired by nature, and I like to add this into my design process. Nature has a soothing effect and we want our customers to feel that too when they are making one of our kits.
I also collect lots of books, vintage fabrics and vintage sewing books in particular are really inspiring! Living in London means I have access to a lot of great and often free exhibitions, and I feel so lucky to live around the corner from the William Morris Gallery. It’s basically a meca for textile designers.
Tell us about what inspires your approach to designing?
I think having a purpose is really helpful, having some restrictions - because otherwise it would just be too overwhelming. As well as that, it’s nice to also have a sense of freedom so you can let the mysterious part of the design process take over.
How do you create the designs, are you sketching, drawing by hand or working straight on the computer?
I really like to start by hand, sometimes this takes the form of paper collage - which is great when thinking about designs for our chunky wool kits as they really lend themselves to being quite bold and simple. If it’s our embroidery range, then I would usually start with some hand sketches, which are then scanned into Photoshop and placed into Illustrator. I find designing for our products is best done in Illustrator, because the scale can be changed without losing any quality. When I’m working on the computer I like to get into a flow state, put on some music and start to get lost in the process of designing. Working this way means that it’s easy to work on lots of different colour ways. I think it’s important to get away from my screen after a while - sometimes the eyes need a break from a design, and coming back to it the next day often makes a design stronger.
You have dedicated your career to working in the creative sector, what draws you to working creatively?
I think it’s always been a form of therapy for me, and it’s still just as important to me today as it ever was.
In addition to designing for The Modern Crafter, you have also recently set up your own indie business. Tell us about your business and range of products?
That’s right, I have recently got back into creating illustrations, and applying those to Giclee Prints, Riso Prints, Cards and Screen Printed Tea Towels. I'm also enjoying teaching others at my paper cut workshops in London.
I’ve always felt the need to have multiple projects on the go, so who knows what I will be inspired to do next. Working with Ceramics is definitely and ambition.
When I used to work as a Print Designer for high st retail, I would design patterns for Clothing, homeware and stationery.
I like the challenge of working on a variety of products - and I especially love being able to create my designs by hand. This wasn’t always possible when I worked in commercial design, as designs often needed to be created quickly. I make a point of screen printing my tea towels. I love the physical process of mixing the dye, and using my silk screens to create the designs. It’s a labour of love, but I really enjoy that connection to each product.
It’s important to me that I’m producing quality items that are created in a considerate way - with as little impact to the environment as possible.
Do you have a favourite piece you have created so far?
That’s really tricky - I think I will always love the ‘twin fox’ kit as that was designed after having twins, so the design is personal to me. I also love spotting fox’s out in the wild. There is something very magical about them.
How do you find juggling everything being a mum of twins?!
I’m always learning - it’s a different challenge now they are at school. I pick them up most day’s at 3.20, so I have to be careful to make the most of my work days!
What creative tools couldn't you live without?
Sketchbooks, Watercolour paper, Ink, Gouache, Eco-Line brush pens, scissors and glue
Adobe creative suite, wacom pen and tablet, scanner & A3 Printer
You've learned a few different creative mediums, can you tell us about what those are?
Yes I’m definitely drawn to learning new creative skills! I can’t see that ever ending.
I love learning Printmaking techniques, and have enjoyed classes with the East London Printmakers.
I’ve also been out on Observational Drawing workshops, and taken on-line classes such as Children's book Illustration.
When my twins went to nursery, I celebrated by taking a ceramics class at Turning Earth, it was so therapeutic!!
To come up with a great design what would you say are the key things, does the process involve a lot of trial and error?
I think it’s important to consider the end purpose - if you have a brief that’s great - but otherwise you need to create your own brief. If I’m designing for a client there is usually a brief to follow. When designing for myself, sometimes I want to dive in without thinking about the end usage, and I think it’s good to build in some time upfront to really consider what or who you are designing for.
Ultimately in Design, you have to get it wrong a few times to get it right. If you dived right in and hit the nail on the head immediately you wouldn’t be going through the process of designing.
There’s usually a point in the middle where I think ‘this is going horribly wrong’ the trick is to stay with it all the way through that. I think that’s pretty similar for most creatives, regardless of the sector!!
As the customer does not see the creative expertise involved do you feel that this is often overlooked?
I think as consumers we have become a bit disconnected with how things are actually made - but I also believe that there is a backlash against the likes of fast fashion, and the consumer is now bored of all of that generic design out there.
Is there anything new that you are going to explore creatively next, a new medium?
I’m always interested in new creative skills, possibly more printmaking as I love discovering new ways to create textures
Are you listening to any podcasts or reading that you enjoy?
Yes loads - I find it really helpful to listen to podcasts during my working day or on walks with my dog, Archie.
I love listening to The Goodship Illustration, Indie Roller, Blind Boy, The Happiness Lab, The Sensuous Peripheries and On The Wall, from Milton & King.
The School of Life, how to think effectively
Fran Lebowitz Reader