Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught?
I was raised in Connecticut and was fortunate to go to public schools that offered art classes from grade school through high school that I took full advantage of. I was always crafting little projects on my own in my free time. This lead to my course of study at Miami University in Oxford, OH where I earned a BFA with a concentration in Advertising and Graphic Design. I had a broad range of fundamentals behind me when I graduated and moved to Chicago to start my career as an Art Director at Leo Burnett.
I quickly learned that I would rather be creating artwork than directing it for Advertising, so I began exploring other career paths that were more appealing to me. While at Miami, an artist visited us from Herb Lubalin & Associates and her presentation of custom lettering and logotypes really made an impression on me. I decided to try to pursue that type of work and began to practice drawing letterforms with my templates and Rapidograph pens that eventually led to freelance assignments with a studio I had worked with while at Leo Burnett. In 1983 I opened Sarah Frederking Design and developed a business of 20 plus years creating custom lettering, logotypes and hand-scripts for advertising agencies and design studios across the nation. It was a wonderful niche market, and every job presented a new challenge around the best way to portray the mood of the piece I was working on. Technology finally caught up with what lettering artists were doing by hand, and therefor it was time to reinvent myself yet again. Surface Pattern Design seemed to be a natural next step for me. After so many years of doing everything by hand and in black in white, you can imagine how excited I was to finally work on colorful patterns!
Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I work in a few ways. I will often start with my calligraphic line work or brush work, take it into Adobe Illustrator and color it, or do everything in Illustrator, depending on the look I am going for. I still prefer a real brush when looking for a calligraphic approach.
What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
Just about anything can inspire me, from a color combination that simply stops me in my tracks to a beautiful flower or an architectural element I come across. This doesn’t necessarily mean I use the same palette or element in my designs but it certainly plays into how I think about color and pattern.
My granddaughter is my newest inspiration. Her arrival into this world is so timely as I am doing more and more juvenile patterns and soft books just in time for her to enjoy them. She lives in Denmark, and I have so adored seeing her Danish influenced attire and lifestyle. When thinking of wall décor, juvenile print patterns, or puzzles and games, I have her in mind.
My Connecticut upbringing combined with my urban area living creates quite the mix of feelings I bring to my work. I am just as happy designing a formal scroll or a damask pattern for textiles, wallpapers or pillows as I am doing a quirky flower or a whimsical character.
What are you working on now?
I’m just completing my next quilting series with Studio e Fabrics, which is a holiday collection full of fun Santa’s, snowmen, penguins and more. Some of these same characters are going to be licensed for Christmas wraps and bags for 2016, and possibly for some Christmas ornaments.
Once these are completed I will be starting some new spring, Easter and summer looks for kitchen, bath or home décor accents. I will be thinking about my next novelty quilting series as well.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m a firm believer in going after what you love doing, and I’ve taken a different path towards building my business with a few detours along the way, but they were valuable detours. I interrupted my Surface Pattern Design business at one point to work in product development and although I again realized it was not my passion, I learned a lot about what it takes to get a product to market, the presentation process to the customers and the manufacturing decisions that come into play. The fact that I have been on both sides of the business has helped me understand what my customers are looking for.
I think it’s important to sift through all the information that is out there in the way of advice with an informed understanding of what you are doing. Had I listened to a colleague many years ago questioning how I could make a living as a custom lettering artist, I never would have pursued that passion or career path. I also believe in trying something new every once in a while. My first novelty collection came about because I challenged myself to try my hand at some fun animals, which was completely out of my comfort zone. That piece was in my portfolio for a couple of years before it caught the eye of my Studio e customer, and that is now what several customers look to me to do. I never would have considered myself a novelty pattern designer until then. You need to follow your passion, but also listen to where your market takes you.
Are you an early riser? or night owl?
I'm definitely a night owl. In fact my son gave me a Night Owl coffee mug for all those late nights. When you love what you are doing, time passes very quickly and the next thing you know it’s the wee hours of the morning.
What is your favorite food?
That’s a harder question than I thought! I would probably say my significant other’s
grilled salmon as he does it beautifully. I also love vanilla ice cream.
You can find Sarah:
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