Behind the Tiger Blue

I had an important interiors magazine coming to take photos of my house and I suddenly realised I needed to add as much of my own fabric as possible to the house so it could make it centre stage in the magazine article. My kitchen it quite large with three arched windows over looking a courtyard. In a previous life before fabric designing I had had lovely curtains made out of Schmacher fabric, this was a seconds fabric I had acquired at a printing mill near me. I suddenly thought I need to change this fabric because it would be quite dominating in any photos taken of the kitchen. I loved this fabric and I knew I was going to have to design something in its place! quite a hard act to follow! I knew I needed something large scale and a half drop repeat, I wanted something oriental because that suites the style of my house and fits in with lots of situations. I started sketching ideas in my sketch book, I started looking around for ideas. I wanted to add pagodas and palms trees, to create a sort of exotic landscape.
People always ask me where I get my inspiration from, the answer is in lots of different places. I always do a great deal of sketching when I am designing a pattern or collection, often I will draw a whole book of motifs and ideas and often only one or two of these designs will be used for the final product. For the Tiger blue design I found some references on the internet for pagodas, one was an embroidery image, I drew my own version, others were from photographs. The best inspiration I found was an old chinoiserie table I had in my drawing room. I sketched the house, the people and the plants plus a border which continued around the table. These sketches show up a great deal within the finished design.
To create the pattern for the fabric I have to transfer all my sketches to my Mac. I took photos of all my sketches using my phone and I airdropped them into my MAC. I had to clean them up a bit in Photoshop so they had more contrast and a clear white background. Then I transported them into illustrator where I image traced them and created a digital version of each sketch. Sometimes there can be too much detail and this will show the program down quite a bit, everything had to be simplified. Next I needed to work out a colour palette, it’s quite rigid in Illlustrator and it’s important to know which Pantone colours you are using. For this design I picked a palette of about 10 colours, my inspiration came from a Schmacher fabric cushion I had, I loved all the colours together so I colour matched each one to a Pantone colour. Now I was ready to start designing and using my colours. I knew I wanted a half drop repeat and I knew the width of the fabric I was going to use. It is important because if you change to another base cloth it might not be the same width and the design will have the shrink to fit thus ruining the scale.I knew my fabric was 148cm so I made the design fit twice across the width. I needed a large scale to make the curtains in my kitchen.
The above images show you the collection of motifs ready to move around and create the pattern. The image on the right is a rough pattern idea positioning all the motifs. It actually came together quite quickly and I felt I was moving in the right direction but it was missing an element! I thought about adding a tiger and found a reference to work from, I just used the colours in my colour palette and didn’t really think much about how I was using them, I thought I could change them when I finished producing the image of the tiger. I looked at it and decided I didn’t want to make it obvious and colour the tiger in with orange, I left the accidental colour palette, I liked it looking more unusual. I finished the pattern and I know it sounds so easy writing about it here but in reality it took quite a lot of time and thought! you never know you are going in the right direction and sometimes I post ideas on Instagram to gage the reaction, its sort of market research. When posted the pattern had a great reaction so I decided to go with it and have it printed, I needed about 30m to make my curtains. I then decided to try it as wallpaper, I did a test and was so please with the result. Sometimes the colours are different to the printed fabric but in this case it worked really well. That is why it is so important to use Pantone colours so you know what you are dealing with when you print on paper and fabric.
Above are photos of the finished fabric and wallpaper, below is a photo of the kitchen and you can see one of the sets of curtains using the Tiger Blue fabric. I have been taken a back at how popular this design has been, I have sold it far and wide and it has been purchased in the US and Australia. All because a magazine was coming to my house! The magazine was English Home and you can see the results in the July issue but out in June 2019