We meet Rachel at New Designers the first year we started BeFab and have been mesmerised and delighted by her colourful fabric designs ever since. We often play ‘spot the repeat’ when we digitally print her designs (no judgment, we’re unashamed fabric geeks here!) as she is a master at hiding where they start and end and the fact that so many of her designs start out or are inspired by embroidery we have always loved too, that mixture of geometric and traditional seen through her eyes is always so refreshing. We were delighted when she agreed to join Printed and Co when we launched our collection of designer fabric too, so if you like what you see you can buy her Sampler collection by the meter here.
What is it that draws you to work with fabric and what benefits to your process does Digital Fabric Printing bring?
I love the tactile nature of textiles and the fact that a fabric choice can really impact the overall feel of the pattern – a design printed on heavy linen will look really different when printed on a floaty chiffon. That decision process opens up a whole load of possibilities for the pattern! I have a huge respect for traditional textile processes, but as a designer who loves to use a lot of colour, digital printing has always been the obvious choice for me.
How would you describe your work and what do you see as your greatest career related achievement so far, something you're particularly proud?
My patterns are generally bright and colourful and usually have some kind of layered aspect. I like to play around with textures and hand-drawn shapes; ideas usually start out in my sketchbook and go from there. I’ve been lucky enough to see my designs come to life on lots of different products, from luxury silk scarves with Firehorse fashion to cross-stitch kits with DMC. The thing I’m most proud of would have to be my recent collaboration with Studio Flock and Ercol; we designed two new furnishing fabrics for their iconic Marino chairs and they look amazing if I do say so myself! Also, the chairs are on sale in Heal’s which is something else to be proud of!
Describe your work space?
It’s a bit small! I just have a desk at home but I make the best of it by surrounding myself with colourful patterns, postcards, samples and prints. I’d love to have a big bright space and work with other creative people, but I guess the plus side is having executive control over Spotify.
When do you work best, are you up with the lark or a night owl?
I’m a day-time desk person and a night-time drawing in bed person.
Where did your love for art/design originally develop from, what or who, have been your influences?
I suppose I’ve always been a creative person but I didn’t really appreciate that pattern design was a ‘thing’ until I took an art foundation course at DMU. I went on to study a Textiles degree in Norwich and quickly realised that making patterns in print and embroidery was where my heart lay.
In terms of procrastination, what are you doing, when you should be doing something else and what, if anything is your 'impossible task'? The thing that you struggle most to motivate yourself to do work wise?
The tax return is obviously the big killer. I’m not one for leaving it to the last minute but I’m pretty bad at keeping on top of my paperwork and receipts. If I remember to stuff the receipt inside the dreaded paperwork drawer then I’d consider that a pat on the back! Playing with colourways, folding my clothes Marie Kondo style and dragging the poor dog out for another walk would be my go-to procrastination activities.
How do you overcome designers block?
Firstly, getting off social media would be a big one. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by how many designers there are out there who all seem to be doing amazing things really successfully. I’m terrible for getting imposter syndrome and not feeling like I have anything to offer. When I catch myself falling into that hole I’ll try to break the cycle by going for a walk with my camera, ideally visiting somewhere new and just trying to reset my brain.
I love the work of Katie Whitton, she has such a fun, painterly style and she’s partial to a dog portrait or two! Ness Kittenden is a good friend of mine who creates the most beautiful delicate illustrations, I’d love to see her work on fabric.
What is the best advice, you’ve ever been given, business, creative or both and who gave it to you.
Amelia Earhart said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” Solid advice for a potential dreamer/worrier like myself.
Please don’t flatten your design files to save space on the computer! Argh! Also you don’t need to wash your hair every day, what a waste of time that was.
BeFab are absolutely the friendliest company I’ve ever worked with – they’re all about supporting the creative community and I feel like they’re just as excited about printing my fabric as I am!
Aw gees, thanks Rachel! You know you're totally spot on too, we are definitely as excited as you are! hehe...
Check out more of Susan Castillo's work here: