A novice textile designer who started learning her craft during a lockdown is making her mark and winning more than fans
Frances Poff didn’t spend her days in 2020’s lockdown working her way through a Netflix series or baking sourdough bread like many of us. Instead, she taught herself how to use Adobe Illustrator. “At that stage, I didn’t know anything about designing textiles and actually had a different project in mind,” she says. “But, after taking a couple of online courses, I came across a surface pattern design on Skillshare, which led me to enrol in an eight-week immersion design course.”
One year and hundreds of designs later, Frances, who works full time in administration, now has a new feather in her cap – as the Bolt of Cloth 2021 Textile Design Award winner. “I was over the moon,” she says. “I’m still amazed that 18 months ago I had no idea how patterns made it onto bolts of fabric.”
How long did it take you to conceptualise your winning designs?
In August 2020 I saw one of Bolt of Cloth’s Facebook posts inviting people to submit designs to the awards, but there were three days until the deadline so I took a deep breath and started designing. I spent the weekend putting together a mini portfolio with four designs in three colourways and submitted it.
How did it feel to win the Bolt of Cloth Textile Design Award?
When the People’s Choice was announced and it wasn’t me I thought to myself, “Oh well, it was a fantastic learning experience,” never dreaming I’d be the winner. I was at work a few days later when I saw I had been tagged in a post by Bolt of Cloth and when I checked I saw that I had won.
What is it like seeing your designs in store and online?
It’s so surreal. I’m so thankful to Bolt of Cloth for having these annual awards where even new designers can submit their work.
What inspires your designs?
I love using lots of colour – beige on beige is just not me – and drawing leaves and flowers as motifs. My mum has always had an amazing garden and I’m constantly taking photos of her flowers to use either as colour inspiration or as possible future subject matter.
Tell us how a design comes to life.
I quite often start off with an idea but then it morphs into something quite different as I experiment with different shapes and colours. I’m currently working on a project to try and create 100 different patterns from a set of 13 shapes and 20 colours. The constraints that those 13 set shapes impose mean I find myself thinking “I wonder what would happen if I do this” or “perfect time to try such and such technique” to create something unique.
Once I’m happy with the pattern, it’s recoloured in a couple of coordinating palettes. I am constantly amazed at how changing just one or two colours in a design can result in a totally different mood.
Do you prefer to work digitally or on paper?
I started off working on paper and those designs were scanned into Illustrator to be digitised and coloured. I still do this from time to time, though I’ve recently purchased an iPad and I do a lot of drawing directly on that, which can then be exported to Illustrator for vectorising.
What’s the secret to creating an engaging and interesting textile pattern?
I think colour is really important to catch people’s attention, along with interesting motifs. A pattern that flows seamlessly without any obvious repeat is a must.
What’s something about textile design that not many people would know?
Textile design can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Textile print-on-demand sites like Spoonflower.com will even allow you to upload a painting your child has made and you can then have it printed onto home decor items such as tea towels or place mats.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
I’d say the hardest part is finding companies to approach for licensing of the designs. As an introvert it can be challenging at times to put yourself and your art out there in the world. You can find yourself in a rather vulnerable position.
And the best?
I love the design process. I can easily spend hours drawing shapes and textures and creating seamless repeating patterns. Now I’m confident with the process, I find it’s a very relaxing activity and I believe every mistake is an opportunity to learn better and more efficient ways of doing things.
Words by: Bea Taylor. Photography by: Anna Briggs.