Sue Zipkin has been doing wonderful work for Clothworks for some time. Her designs are playful and festive, often focused on the seasons and holidays. Her most recent collection, Hug Me, is a featured pattern at Fat Quarter Shop, will be popping up on The Works on October 29th for Princess Crown tutorial (just in time for Halloween) and will part of a giveaway at Sweet Sapling. So, look out for those events and without further ado, here’s Sue Z!
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist/designer?
A: An owner of a dinnerware company once told me that my style was very “what you see is what you get” and he said that I should continue to be honest and direct, that it would help me succeed in business. Being direct is not always valued in business. I am extremely grateful to him for his encouragement.
It would be hard to just share one piece of advice. So my answer would be a combination of things: If an artist or designer is looking to earn a living from their creative work, firstly, they must be passionate and committed to their work. They must be innovative and never copy other artists. Artists often work with the same general trends and themes as one another, but they need to make their own designs fresh and bring heart to the art! An artist must be realistic as to what might sell in the market they are working in. One must be open to criticism. It is important for an artist be a good collaborator and work closely with the client. This is never just about the artist, it is about offering something beautiful that will help sell a product.
Q: What is on the top shelf or your design inspiration library?
A: I collect all kinds of reference books. I have a variety of classic design books, and nature inspired books.
Q: What do you do when you feel a block?
A: I spend some time organizing; I find that when I am able to clear clutter around me, I can be more creative.
Q: If you could meet any designer or artist and see their studio, who would it be?
A: I have been quite fortunate to meet many wonderful designers over the years in the art licensing industry. I have developed some wonderful friendships. I have never met the famous Mary Engelbreit, though; she is a groundbreaker in my industry. She seems like she’d be a fun person to visit with. I would love to have a candid conversation with her about her life, and how she has managed to do such a great job in the industry over the years and still keep smiling. Based on the pictures I’ve seen online she has a fabulous workspace, so I imagine it would be an inspiring studio to visit.
Q: How would you describe your design aesthetic? Are you drawn to certain types of colors, shapes or patterns when you are designing?
A: My design aesthetic is quite varied. I love to mix things up, bring the old and mix it with the new, drawing from traditional elements and design, but adding a new twist on them. I really love color – playful color – especially bright colors. I am always incorporating watercolor washes into my work. I’m also drawn to swirls and little decorative details. I love to stylize flowers, butterflies, and elements from nature. I am all about happy art.
Q: What inspired this collection? (Hug Me)
A: I had some artwork that was developed for Valentine’s Day for a kitchen textiles company. I showed the artwork to Clothworks; they loved it and suggested a really fun colorway. They asked me to incorporate gray and pink into the design, taking it from an ordinary design to something with a much more fresh approach. We always work very closely together to develop beautiful groups that have a broad appeal to many quilters.
Q: Where do you work on your projects? Do you have a studio?
A: Yes, I do have a studio. It is located in my home, I love that there’s not much commuting. Most importantly I have a studio cat who hangs out with me all day.
Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: The best part of my job is when I have the opportunity to really be creative and experiment. My favorite part is that painting is so therapeutic. It is my form of mediation.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: Currently I’m working on a few things: experimenting with some mixed-media and doing some new Christmas artwork for a client.
Q: What are your top ten tools?
A: My top 10 tools would have to be my watercolor paper, my brushes, my Schmincke watercolors, my Photoshop program where I have some more wonderful tools to work with. In Photoshop I love the clone tool, the brushes, the eraser tool, a new tool called content aware, the selection tools . . . Is that 10 yet?
Q: What’s your favorite local fabric store?
A: Where I live, sadly, there is no longer a local fabric store. So I would have to say my favorite one is Knight’s Quilt Shop in Maine. I blogged about it here http://suezipkin.typepad.com/blogging_with_dyslexia/maine/ .
Q: What’s your favorite color?
A: My favorite color changes depending on what project I’m working on, the season, what I see that is beautiful that day. I don’t really have a favorite. I am most well-known for using yellow in my artwork; I love to blend pinks and reds into yellow watercolor washes.
Q: What projects bring you the most happiness?
A: The projects that bring me the most happiness are the ones that come from my heart, hoping that others would like it; then a manufacturer sees it, and really gets inspired and wants to develop a program or a collection for fabric, giftware, greeting cards, or something else, and run with it and it sells well.
Q: Describe your typical day.
A: I have breakfast, and I make myself my favorite organic Mexican coffee, then I go into the studio and check in on my emails and see what’s happening on Facebook. Then I try to pull myself away from the computer and get to work. My workday is filled with handling business details, designing, gathering new artwork to show potential clients, and since my studio is in my home I juggle running my business with taking care of things that need attention in my home and for my family. There’s always plenty of work to be done.
Q: What’s your earliest memory involving art/design?
A: Probably my earliest memory of art and design was crayons and coloring; I knew I was going to be an artist by the age of five.
Q: Who taught you to sew?
A: I would love to be able to sew and design quilts, however there’s only so much time in the day. I don’t think I’d be very good at developing the technical aspects of projects because I am dyslexic and I have trouble with instructions and that sort of thing. I am always excited to see what Clothworks and the project designers that work with them create with my fabric. While designing fabric I think about what the wonderful sewers might enjoy working with.
Q: Can you show us any family quilts?
A: Sadly I never had any quilters in my family; when my mom was alive she used to enjoy needlepoint. I’m sure she would have been thrilled to see how I was able to develop a career in art. She was always really supportive of me. One day I hope to work with a quilter who would be able to come over to my home and help create some family quilts for future generations from my wonderful fabric stash.
Favorite food: It is really hard for me to pick a favorite of anything as I like so many things; I guess I would have to say pasta.
Song that gets stuck in your head the most: They range from day to day. Today is International Day of Peace, so the song that stuck in my mind today is “Give Peace a Chance”.