Headshot by Jen Siska
Today's interview is an actual dream come true! I love Jen Hewett's work and her style. I felt like I was shooting for the moon when I reached out about an interview because I know how busy she is. Her work is incredible as you will see below.
I first started to follow her in 2018 when I discovered her fabric for the backing on the two Brothers Quilts I made for the boys' nursery.
(I can't believe they were ever this small!)
Photos above by Bree Linn Photography
Jen is an artist and author living in Hudson Valley with her precious rescue dog, Franny. She has worked with Anthropologie, Cost Plus World Market, Moda Fabrics, Unilever and Yelp. Her first book is one of my favorites, Print, Pattern, Sew: Block Printing Basics + Simple Sewing Projects for an Inspired Wardrobe. I recently went through this book and tested out some block printing myself. Read about it here! I hope you will enjoy this very special interview with Jen! Let's jump in!
Did you always know you wanted to be a surface pattern designer? If so is that what you studied in school? If not, what did you originally see yourself doing? Tell us all about how you got to where you are today!
I didn’t know, because that wasn’t really a career path that existed when I was a teenager, or even when I was in college. I don’t know that people specifically major in surface design in college. It’s curriculum that’s folded into a fashion design (usually textile design) or illustration/graphic design major.
I majored in English in college, then bounced around in education, working at schools, nonprofits, and an eLearning company for a bit. I took a screen printing class on a whim, and was immediately hooked. I knew the moment I pulled my first print that I’d found my medium. I spent all my free time at the public printmaking studio where I’d taken classes. Then the economy intervened at the end of 2008, and I was laid off from my corporate job when that company folded. I used my newfound free time to spend even more time at the studio.
In any case, I’ve never been a person with a set career path, and remember changing what I wanted to be “when I grew up” frequently. I’ve always been more interested in following where my interests and skills take me.
I tend to think of myself as a printmaker and textile artist first, and a surface designer second. My work as it exists now grew out of my printmaking background, when I started screen printing fabric by hand for my art and commercial projects, rather than using commercially available, printed fabric.
Headshot by Jen Siska
How many years were you working in the design industry before you felt like you had the career you dreamed of? Or are there still larger dreams you are working towards?
Being an artist isn’t a career with a set path, so I’ve never had huge dreams for my career. Which isn’t to say I don’t have goals, or I’m not ambitious. It’s more that, the more I do this work, the more possibilities I see. And the more I work towards these possibilities, the more opportunities come my way.
You can purchase these beautiful scarves in Jen's shop here!
What other artists, musicians or creators do you find to be inspirational?
Headshot by Jen Siska
What is your favorite material or item that you like to design surface patterns for?
I don’t design specifically to a material or a substrate. My work is flexible - as is a lot of surface design. I create a design, then licensees use those designs in a variety of different applications. I’ve had designs be licensed for fabric, glassware, stationery ceramics, etc. Sometimes designs have to be tweaked, depending on the application, but often the in-house designers at those handle that as they’re way more well-versed in those design constraints than I am.
A blank page can be so intimidating. Where do you start when designing a new collection? A theme? A color? Or does it just build organically?
I’m always drawing, and one drawing often leads to another. Again - I’m following my interests and working from there. When it comes time to put together a collection, I already have a sketchbook (and an iPad) full of designs that I can choose from to form a collection. Once I pull those designs together, I’ll figure out what’s missing, and will create new designs to pull it all together.
Latest fabric collection for Ruby Star Society - Unruly Nature by Jen Hewett
I always find color to be intimidating. Where do you start when selecting your color palettes?
I have a few palettes I like working with, though this changes from year to year. I enjoy experimenting! But most of the licensees I work with have palettes they’ve created for a season or a department. These colors can be trends they’ve forecast (licensees are often working 12-18 months out), or so my collection will integrate well with other designers’ collections (this is especially true with quilting cotton), or because they’ve figured out which colors manufacture well. I set up all of my digital artwork with separate color layers so I can change colors easily.
What do you have coming up over the next year? Any exciting projects you want to share about?
My career has gotten to the point where I’m designing 1-2 years out, and I usually can’t reveal anything until the project launches! So, I’m not working on much that I can share right now.
How can people best follow you along your creative journey? (Instagram, email list, etc.)
I’m fairly active on Instagram (@jenhewett) and I also send a newsletter twice/month.