I’ve always been what I call a left-brained creative. I have a head for logic and math, but also love to make pretty things, so when I went to college, I chose an art program within a larger university (Syracuse University) because the idea of ‘art school’ seemed too freewheeling for my taste. That actually turned out to be a really serendipitous choice because SU is one of very few schools in the US that had a Surface Pattern Design department. I didn’t know anything about it when I first enrolled, but Surface Pattern is a perfect discipline for me. Designing with an end product in mind and reworking motifs to fit them into a repeat really appeal to my left-brain. Now I split my time between patterns and illustrations, but of course licensing is still all about surface decoration, and I’m so glad to have gotten into it right from the start. After college I was lucky to gain tons of design and product experience in home decor and apparel, working at 2 home textile companies and then switching over to work as the print stylist for babyGap for a few years before going into business for myself.
Do you work in just one medium or style? Several?
I create art for licensing as well as for companies in a freelance capacity. For my personal portfolio, I mainly stick with vector artwork. Sometimes that starts with hand-drawn scans and hopefully most of my work has the personality of more hand done designs but I enjoy a modern look and love the flexibility of Illustrator. For my clients, I do a little bit of everything. I’ve designed everything from super traditional jacobeans to dinosaurs on skateboards so I’m pretty adept at switching styles. These days it’s primarily vector art, hand-drawn textural prints, or watercolor designs.
What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
I love conversational prints, so I’m always looking for offbeat icons to mix in with more saleable imagery like florals and geometrics. My favorite motif has always been fruit. I love the bright color and the variety- there is something so cheerful about them to me- and so when I’m a little lost on direction I try to take it back to that. Recently I was working on a collection that I wanted to be about hot air balloons, and as I was designing, it wasn’t really coming together as anything special. In the end I turned the balloons into lemons and pears, and it’s so much happier now!
How did you start licensing your art?
After working for 10 years in New York City, I was ready for space and green grass and the suburban American dream, and so I left my job to start freelancing in order to move to the outskirts of Raleigh, North Carolina. For a few years I was only working behind the scenes at a variety of textile companies, but after taking the inaugural MATS courses with Lilla Rogers I was inspired to look for an agent. In late 2013, I signed with Jewel Branding. It’s been a learning curve for sure, but I now have a well-rounded portfolio that I’m really proud of, and I love the flexibility of designing for my own purposes.
What are you working on now?
This summer I’ve been working hard to create a lot of new collections. I love so many types of products, it can be hard to focus, but for the next few months I’m concentrating on kid’s art, greeting cards, and bolt fabric. I’m also almost done creating a course for atly.com that I think is going to be something relatively fresh for all the artists who have honed their artistic skills but still don’t have many (or any!) clients that pay them for their work. Definitely keep an eye on my instagram (@esilverdesign) for more on that, it’s scheduled to launch at the end of August.
Any great advice for our readers?
Take the time to tag and organize your designs. I use Adobe Bridge and created a ton of relevant keywords that I can check off for each design. Shortly after I started licensing, I made it a part of my process to finish each collection by tagging all the new work, adding copyright info to the metadata of the files, and putting it in my “Licensing Complete” folder. When I had slow work days I took the time to go back through my archives- files created for clients and old jobs- and tag them as well. I also tag any jpegs that I may have downloaded as reference, i.e. photos of animals. Now when I want to to do a new collection based on Christmas ornaments, I first search and see what ornament I already have in my archive. I don’t always find something useful, but especially working with vectors, it’s nice to have the basic shape created already in order to modify for a new project.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
In addition to my atly.com course, I launched a newsletter in February that focuses on market trends, and I have become a total convert to trendspotting! I love scanning the stores for gift and home direction and have fun putting it together every other week. Artists can subscribe to a version that highlights resources, business insights and Adobe tips along with trends and palettes. Creative Directors can sign up for a separate newsletter that features new art and market analysis. (www.elizabethsilver.com/fresh)
Are you an early riser or night owl?
If I had my way, I’d be neither- sleep is pretty much my number one self-care method. I have a 16 month old little boy, and he is a great sleeper like his mom, but with an early bedtime he does wake up at 6:30AM so even on days when it’s my husband’s turn, I’m up by 7:30 at the latest.
What is your favorite food?
I have a wicked sweet tooth which I am always trying to curb. In the summertime it’s definitely ice cream!
You can Find Elizabeth