Meet the woman using textiles to bring colour and joy to the world

Through her vibrant, feel-good textile designs, Imogen Switalla brings colour and joy into her various corners of the world

Textile designer Imogen Switalla’s life-affirming designs often involve flowers and the colour pink. After initially enrolling in a fine arts course, she switched to textile design when she realised that most of her artwork “was coincidentally a pattern”.

Imogen relocated to Melbourne a few months ago, but not before she took out the 2022 Bolt of Cloth Textile Design Award, which means the four designs she entered have been made into cushions and will be sold in store and online. She says she feels very lucky. “I’ve been meaning to enter for a few years and I’m glad I finally put my mind to it and did it. It’s such an amazing opportunity for me and my career.”

How long have you been a textile designer?

About three years. I started my Instagram account in 2019, sharing my designs online, and it grew from there, and I started gaining an audience and getting work from it.

Why did you move to Melbourne?

I wanted to move here in 2020, the year of Covid, so it feels good to finally be here. There are a lot of creative opportunities here and many local designers that I look up to. I’m also very keen to travel and explore Australia’s nature while I’m here. I’m currently working as a barista and doing design freelance
on a part-time basis.

How long did it take you to conceptualise your winning designs?

Some flowed to me very quickly and others took a few days. I had a vision of a big flower, a plaid, and a leafy design, and the fourth design was a result of creating the first ones.

What is it like seeing your designs in stores and online?

One of the most rewarding parts of being a textile designer is seeing my designs come to life. I love
that they will be in homes around the country.

What inspired this particular collection?

Before moving to Melbourne, I spent a few weeks at my home in Ōmokoroa. There is so much nature, greenery and flowers there that inspired this collection, hence the name ‘Mum’s Garden’. I also revisited old work and took inspiration from that.

Can you talk us through your design process? How do you get started?

It’s always different. Sometimes it starts with some hand-drawn sketches and paintings and I might even start with some colours I’m currently loving. Other times, I draw straight onto my iPad when I have
a clear pattern or design in mind. At the moment, I’m trying to get back into painting and drawing more,
as I produce much more organic, original and often better work that way.

What’s the secret to creating an engaging and interesting textile pattern?

I think a good colour palette is one of the most important aspects of a textile pattern. That’s normally how I start with mine. A good pattern is something eye-catching and unique.

What’s the signature Imogen Switalla look?

Definitely flowers and definitely pink. Although not always intentional, they both seem to make an appearance in most of my work.

The textiles industry creates a lot of waste. Is there anything we can do to minimise this?

There are so many things we can do as consumers. Op-shopping is a great way to use what already exists. Avoid buying new where you can and if you do, try buying from ethical and sustainable companies. I’m not perfect myself, but it’s important to keep in mind the amount of time and energy that goes into making a garment. When working with designers and companies, it’s important to me that they have sustainable practices in place and they look at minimising their own waste too.

What are the challenges for a freelance designer compared with being employed?

For me personally, it’s finding a balance, as I also work in hospitality. It’s important to foster my creative brain and make time for it. Self-doubt is a challenge as well – which we all have. That creeps in when I’m in a period of travelling around and haven’t created anything for a while. You definitely have to back yourself and your work 100 percent as a freelancer and make sure you dedicate your time to it.

What are your design aspirations? Where do you want to be in five years?

I would love to be working full-time as a textile designer, have really honed my style and know exactly the kind of work I love doing. I would also love to have my own products out there in the world. One of my dreams is designing a bedding range.

Dream textile design job?

I’d love to be able to travel and work at the same time. For me, that is the dream. Although I still really want to gain some industry experience, I would love the freedom of creating while travelling and exploring the world. @imogen.switalla

Photography by: Alice Veysey

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