Over the past few months, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Jessica Swift, artist and creative mind behind Pattern Camp. We recently sat down with Jessica to get the scoop on her weekend-long virtual, online pattern design workshop and to hear the story behind the latest Pattern Camp + Zazzle Design Challenge winner (spoiler alert: she had no background in graphic design prior to participating in Pattern Camp!)
Note: Registration for the July 16-17 Pattern Camp opens tomorrow! Zazzle designers interested in learning the craft of repeating pattern creation can save $30 with code JULYCAMPHEREICOME.
Let’s talk Pattern Camp! What inspired you to teach your gift of design to other artists?
So many people asked me for a long time if I was ever going to teach a pattern design course. I said no no no for a long time, because I was afraid, because I didn’t think I was a teacher, because I just didn’t have time to consider developing a course…but at the beginning of 2014 the seed of an idea for a course came to me, and then the name Pattern Camp hit me one day while I was out on a run, and I started creating the course. The time just felt right, and I thought my idea for a 2-day, weekend-long intensive course was a good one and one that no one else was really doing. It took me a while to plan the whole thing out, and I spent most of the summer working on it before I launched the course in September, and it was a real labor of love. I just thought about what kind of course I would personally like to take and how I’d like to learn this material, and that’s really what inspired it. That along with people asking me to create a course for several years beforehand. 😉
You describe Pattern Camp as the, “magical place where I get to exercise this love of mine for lifting people up, showing them the possibilities that exist, that they’re capable of so much more than they may have realized, for creating a community of folks that cheer each other on.” What has been the most rewarding part of teaching Pattern Camp and leading the Facebook group of past Campers?
You know, this has been the biggest surprise for me in creating and running Pattern Camp. I thought I was creating a pattern design e-course. And it is that, yes of course, but it’s so much more than that. People in the Pattern Camp Facebook group say it feels like family there. That it’s their favorite place to hang out on the internet. That they wish we all lived in the same town. And that’s how I feel, too.
I didn’t realize that in creating the course I was also creating a place for people to discover they can do, learn, and create things that they never imagined were possible. I didn’t realize how much I love helping people discover that potential within themselves, cheering them on along the way, and then congratulating them as they discover more and more amazingness contained within themselves. It’s honestly an honor to witness. I love connecting like-minded folks in our community, and I love that my love for cheering them on ripples out into them cheering one another on. There is miraculously no competitiveness in the Pattern Camp group. There is no one copying one another. It’s a group of amazing people doing their own work, sharing it, and rooting for one another and helping each other all at the same time.
I thought I was creating an e-course, but it quickly became so much more than that, right from the start. It’s really a place for people to discover their potential and to celebrate themselves and one another. It’s awesome to witness and an honor to know that I created and am holding that space for them.
What can campers expect from a weekend of Camp?
They can expect to have SO MUCH FUN! But seriously, as un-fun as a weekend sitting in front of your computer sounds, just ask any Pattern Camper how amazingly fun it actually is and how fast the time flies by.
Campers can expect to spend the weekend learning how to create patterns using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop in a fast-paced, friendly, supportive, inspiring environment. The bulk of the course is a series of video lessons that start at the very beginning of the pattern design process and progress into more difficult techniques throughout the 2 days. Students practice the skills demonstrated in the videos, doodle and sketch, share their work and connect with the other Campers in our private Facebook group (which is the hidden gem of Pattern Camp), and create their very first patterns. Campers are amazed during every session how quickly they’re able to learn the techniques; it’s always an incredibly fun time when it starts clicking and the first patterns start popping up in the Facebook group. The excitement is always palpable! We also have 3 live check-ins on Spreecast during the weekend, during which I answer questions that Campers have. Those check-ins are recorded, too, so anyone who wasn’t able to be there live as it happened can watch it later.
So not only can a Camper expect to walk away from the 2 day camp knowing how to design several types of repeat patterns in both Illustrator and Photoshop, they can also expect to be part of a brand new community of like-minded folks with whom they want to hang out all the time. The Facebook group is always busy and active, during and after the Camp weekends!
Pattern obsession is almost guaranteed from a weekend at Camp. I see it happen every single time.
I’m on hand throughout the entire weekend in the Facebook group and via email to answer questions, help Campers get un-stuck, and to be a cheerleader. I spend the whole weekend at my computer, too!
Do campers need to be advanced digital artists in order to participate?
Campers do not need to be advanced digital artists at all. In fact, there’ve been quite a few Campers who’ve never touched Illustrator or Photoshop before and are now successfully designing patterns.
Pattern Camp includes 2 primer videos – one for Illustrator, one for Photoshop – that students are able to watch before class begins in order to familiarize themselves with the programs if they’re new to them. But also, the videos are designed in a way that students watch what I’m doing on my own computer screen, so they can pause it and follow the steps on their own computers. I demonstrate each step in detail so beginners can follow along. Many beginners in Pattern Camp have told me how much they love the method and how easy they found it to follow along!
That said, being a beginner in Pattern Camp can bring some frustration with it, because the course is fast-paced. If you’re learning how to use the programs while at the same time learning the techniques, it can be a bit more slow-going that you might like; so I always urge everyone repeatedly to be extremely patient and kind to themselves if they’re just starting out and to remember that others in the course may have more experience with the programs than they do. Because even though there can be some frustration, on the other side of that frustration is the sweet victory of creating your very first pattern, and that’s something I want every Camper to experience.
Meet Diane Sullivan, Winner of the Pattern Camp + Zazzle Father’s Day Tie Design Challenge
Diane Sullivan, the winner of the Pattern Camp + Zazzle Father’s Day Tie Design Challenge, is a clinical social worker and has been dabbling in a variety of media for much of her life. She is a potter and a photographer, and designed her first successful repeat pattern in February 2016. Diane is a four season outdoor enthusiast in upstate New York, where she lives with her partner and her dog, Izze.
Congratulations on winning the Pattern Camp + Zazzle Father’s Day Tie Challenge! What inspired your amazing fishing design, and how did you create it?
My father was an avid fisherman. It was his relaxation. He taught me how to fish at a young age. It was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of a Father’s Day tie. I loved learning about all the different types of fish we were catching. Rainbow trout are beautiful – full of color. So that was my inspiration. I sketched my fish and used Illustrator to complete my pattern.
Tell us more about what inspires your work in general! They seem to often be related to personal memories; is this a source of inspiration for you?
I am inspired by so many things. I love the outdoors year round, so nature provides me with a lot of inspiration. A simple walk in the woods, a scroll through an urban area, time at the botanical gardens, finding patterns in the placement of objects in a public space, and even sitting at my kitchen table. It is all fodder for a potential pattern design. Sometimes I am prompted by memories from the past. My personality definitely is a strong influence. I was never a kid that liked to color inside the lines, or to use colors that seemed obvious for an object. I like to play with those ideas when I am sketching my designs and choosing my color palettes. I give myself the freedom to play with color combinations that don’t always make sense, putting together motifs that might seem random and seeing what happens. I never start with a particular “look” that I’m going for, but rather, an idea. I like being challenged and have never been one to do things in a linear fashion. My patterns never end up looking how they started, and I love that. Because I spend much of my work day being analytical, I like my creative time to be more spontaneous and playful, with a bit of whimsy at times. Once I tackled some of the technical challenges, I opened up to allowing myself to just play with every bit of the process. I give myself little challenges to improve my skills and I try not to think too much about it all. I feel like my best patterns come when I spend less time in my head and more time just being free with the process.
You’ve moved through some significant challenges and stumbling blocks on your pattern design journey; what have you learned about yourself in the process? What discoveries have you made that you wouldn’t have had you given up along the way?
I have learned that if the desire is there, anything is possible. I was my own worst enemy. My lack of patience and self-compassion for my learning curve got in my way. I had to push myself to ask a million questions, even when I felt like they might be “elementary” and to watch the videos as many times as necessary until things “clicked”. And eventually things began clicking. I have to remind myself that everyone starts somewhere, and I just started at the very beginning, having had no experience with drawing or painting, or with digital programs, which meant my journey might take longer.
I have fallen in love with pattern design in a way that has totally surprised me. I love the weekly challenges and pushing myself to learn something new every week, whether it be about a new theme, or trying a new technique with Illustrator or Photoshop. I came in with one small idea in mind, and now my mind is busy with so many things I would love to do with pattern design. I had no idea this would happen. I would have lost the opportunity to be among so many great and talented people, while learning something that I now I am completely addicted to had I given up on myself. Once I finished my first pattern, I knew I was hooked.
We’re so glad that you are, Diane!