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In conversation with…Rachel Parker, Surface Pattern Designer

Rachel Parker is a surface pattern designer based in Northamptonshire, and is a graduate from BA (Hons) Textile Design.  Since graduating, Rachel has worked as a freelance pattern designer, and as part of interiors brand Studio Flock, who stock her designs in Liberty London, Heals,  and Studio Four NYC. In this conversation, we discuss Rachel’s career since graduating in 2012, and why she thinks the world should value textile designers.

Why did you choose to study textiles at NUA?

I was on an Art Foundation course and really enjoyed jumping between different techniques and media. I knew I wanted to work with fabrics but beyond that I felt quite overwhelmed.

The Textiles course at NUA embraced an experimental approach and encouraged students to be playful across different disciplines.

I thought Textiles only had two areas, ‘Fashion’ and ‘Interiors’. At my interview we were talking about dresses made to be hung on the wall, embroidering into ceramics and glass, and the exciting possibilities of sensory fabrics.

I knew that it was where I wanted to be!

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You’re a member of interiors brand Studio Flock, how did you join them?

Studio Flock work with graduate designers – they saw my work when I was exhibiting at New Designers in London. 

We had our first meeting in the Liberty fabric department, they were one of our very first stockists. Seeing my fabric hanging in such a revered space is still one of my proudest achievements!

Licensing my work with Studio Flock was a real kickstart to my career and gave me the confidence to approach other studios and companies.

Being a freelance designer has its challenges. What advice would you give to anyone considering working freelance?

In my experience it’s been very challenging, despite some fantastic opportunities very early on.

My advice would be to take some time to really think about what you do/don’t want.

Working freelance can be very isolating, you don’t have financial security and you have to spin an awful lot of plates. There are definite highs and lows. This is just what makes my heart happy and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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What is your creative process? 

The vast majority of my work starts life as a drawing or something I’ve made with my hands – many of my digital geometric patterns start out as embroidered samples or hand-drawn grids.

I generally draw in my sketchbook with black pen and then scan the motifs and add all the colour in Photoshop.

What inspires you?

The changing seasons, walks with Louie my dog, historical textiles, rummaging around charity shops, David Attenborough, and people who are passionate about what they love – the next generation of creative talent.

“A world without pattern would be absolutely miserable. I believe that we should live in colour wherever possible”

Rachel Parker

If we were to take a peek inside your sketchbook, what would we see?

A few years ago it would have been a bit of everything – collage, lots of different media, magazine cut outs etc.

In the last couple of years I’ve fine-tuned my process a bit more. When I’m drawing, I’m thinking more about the final pattern and how I might make my life easier down the line in terms of scanning and cleaning up motifs.

Why does the world need textile designers?

The world needs textile designers because our goal is to create something visually pleasing that you choose to live with every day. 

A designer imagined the print on the seat of the bus you just travelled on, agonised over the colour for the lining of your bag and fine-tuned the pattern on the mug that you’re drinking out of, in the hope it would bring you joy when you use it.

A world without pattern would be absolutely miserable; I believe that we should live in colour wherever possible. 

You can explore more of Rachel’s work on her website, Instagram and shop her work at Etsy.

Explore BA (Hons) Textile Design