Pattern | Colourful Peacocks
  • I know i’m a bit behind with my One On One interviews, but all I can say is I have a lineup of pretty amazing designers coming really soon.
    Sian Thomas came to Israel a few months ago and while starting to build her textile empire, she is also trying to master the Hebrew language. As I’m all about spreading the word when it comes to young talent I figured Sian is the right fit for DesignBreak. With one light box and lots of ideas Sian is one of those you should keep an eye on!
    She has a lots to share so I’ll pass her the lead.

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    Pattern | Umbrellas
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    Well hello there, beautiful Sian!
I’d love to hear about you, your journey, how it all began.
I always knew I wanted to do something creative, and felt like there wasn’t any other career path for me from a very young age. After finishing school I went on to study for an Art Foundation course in Wales, which is where I am originally from. It was there that I decided to become a graphic designer, because I knew I wanted to work in design and print, and I felt like it was the most varied and vocational of subjects. At that point in time I didn’t know what surface pattern design was. After my foundation year, I studied Typography and Graphic Design, and History of Art at University. This course taught me to be disciplined and appreciate colour and layout, and it led to my 6 year career in Book design for two top global publishers: Oxford University Press and Penguin, both in the UK. I worked mainly as a children’s book designer where colour is so important, and so it’s here that I developed my love for colour and also typography.
During this time, upon seeing the array of pattern and colour in One Year On at New Designers in London, I knew from then on I would make it my goal to make patterns for textiles and print for my career. It took me 2 years to make this a reality, and this is how I came to take the big step of quitting my full time job, and pursuing my business in surface pattern design.
I’m lucky enough to spend this year in Israel with my partner who works at the University as a professor, developing my designs, and starting my business. I’m still very interested in book design and do freelance work for Oxford University Press and other clients, and in fact some of my designs reference book design, like my typography patterns.
As you just moved to Israel, I’d love to hear about your first impression and then what do you like most about it so far?
My first impressions of Israel are that it’s a welcoming place with less structure and order than I am used to! The people are so open, they have fewer boundaries than British people; for instance strangers on a mountain walk want to be your friend. I also come from a small country, and so in that respect I feel like we have something in common.
I’m learning Hebrew which is a lot of fun, but very hard work. The letters seem so alien to me, but I’m so happy that I get an opportunity to learn a new language and use my brain in a different way than normal.
The nature here is wonderful – the sea, large gorges and forests, and the desert. Nature is very important to me, and Wales has many nice beaches and mountains, and it’s where I can draw a lot of inspiration from.
Can you describe your work process for me?
I normally go out and about and look at things. I see pattern everywhere I go so I always take a camera with me – just in case I like the colour of a sign I see, or the pattern some leaves make on the ground – and I need to document it. The challenge is being able to see how things in reality can turn into a pattern that is arresting, and also commercial.
I take objects I have photographed and draw them in a black pen. Most of my patterns are hand-drawn because I love the control it gives me, and I love the more quirky finished effect it has. I then scan in all my images, and start working with them on screen; this is my favourite part of the process. I place motifs on the page and see how they can work together. Once I am happy that the pattern might be going somewhere, I start to add colour in Illustrator. I keep a reference file of colour combinations I like, and I also document them on my pinterest page. Once I have found a colour combination I am happy with, I complete the rest of the pattern to make it into a repeat, so that it could be printed on anything.
I keep everything I have ever worked on, incase a motif I have drawn works on a new pattern. I’ve created many new patterns out of old objects I’ve drawn. Sometimes when a pattern isn’t working, it’s best to leave it, and inspiration will come to you when you are least expecting it. Other times patterns just flow and can be achieved in a couple of hours.
Which materials do you work with?
I work with a black pen with a 0.3mm tip, and white a4 paper. The pen is the most important part to me, and I have 100s of black ink pens which I enjoy drawing with. I will draw onto any white paper, it doesn’t have to be amazing quality. I also use a light-box a lot, to trace objects I have photographed. I then use a scanner, and Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign.
What is the most unusual piece you have ever designed?
I work with a charity called First Story, who I design book covers for. They are a wonderful organisation, whose aim is to foster creativity and literacy in young people through the medium of writing. I worked on a book called Handwritten, where I involved the students by using their handwriting on the cover. I gave them an image of a fingerprint, and each student traced on top of the lines to produce a fingerprint made out of their own handwriting. It was a very fun and collaborative project. I also got to meet the wonderful children’s author Julie Hearn, and the famous author of the Golden Compass, Philip Pullman.
  • Handwritten. Book cover for the First Story charity
    Pattern | Typography
  • A behind the scenes look
What’s next? What is your dream?
I have a new online shop, selling my designs on greeting cards. And I have just recently been asked to have my designs published in Trend Bible. Next year I hope to exhibit at Tent.

My dream is to expand my business and develop cushions, tea-towels, and wallpaper also. I would also love to receive commissions or licensing requests from large companies like Heals, or Selfridges, and one day I’d love to have my own shop. I would also like to influence young people in some way through the medium of design. I’d love to be able to offer my own advice and skills somehow, and help to guide them and answer all the burning questions I had when I was their age.

I’m curious to know where does your inspiration come from?
Everywhere! I love objects that you find in cities like lamposts, or signs, or cabling. There is some crazy jumbled up cabling on streetlamps in Israel, which I find beautiful, and hope to make a pattern from one day. I also love folky abstract patterns as well as lettering found anywhere – on signs, on menus, on buildings, on packaging. Everyday objects inspire me too like umbrellas, or pens, or rubbers, or even an old jar.
Can you tell me which designers inspire you?
Can you tell me which web sites and blogs you visit regularly?
I love Print and Pattern, Tigerprint, Design Sponge, Book By Its Cover, Living etc, Stylist. It’s an amazing web site that presents all kinds of unique shoes. I myself am taking part in it.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
To stay true to your own style and things you like. The lovely owner of La Vague Doree told me that during the design process not to worry about what other people think, because everyone has a different opinion – and your style will become confused if you take it all to heart. He also told me to keep a small box of things that inspire me and not to show it to anyone, even my Mum! He told me not to let it get too full, because your style and preferences need to stay clear, and to give it a clear out every now and then as your style develops.
If you had an extra hour each day what would you do with it?
I’d spend more time looking at and producing patterns!