Today I share with you the story of emerging designer, Brenda O’Connor. Brenda recently made the transition from Fitness Instructor to Surface Pattern Designer and is sharing her story here in her own words.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers? Where are you from, where are you based now? Do you work from home or have a studio?
I am a stay at home mum who has decided to go back to doing the thing she loves, and that is my art work. I was born in Uganda, lived there until the age of 11, my mum, 2 brothers and I relocated to London and this is where my main education was.
While in school I began to notice that the subject I loved the most was art class, I used to get A’s in all my projects. At the parents evening my work was chosen to be displayed, this gave me some confidence that maybe I could pursue a career in art. Unfortunately as I left school; life did not go the way I had perceived and it lead me into a career of being a fitness instructor, several years down the line at age 35, one early spring after the birth my son I took a year off work, during which time I gave some serious thought as to what I would really love to do.
So began the slow journey of reigniting my passion for my first love of drawing and painting, I am still on this journey which is quite exciting because I have learned so much in the last five years. Every day there is something new to learn. I work from home in a room which has been turned into a studio.
Have you always been creative? Are you from a creative family?
I can honestly say that I have that creative side of me that has always been there, after leaving school I did continue to draw and paint in my spare time, I do wish I had taken it more seriously and gone to loads of art classes, it would have been awesome to see how far I could be today, but I’m sure my story is not unique. Lots of people start going back to doing what they love after they have had some life experience and then come full circle to realize life is for living and if I am going to work I might as well do the thing I enjoy the most.
When did you first start creating? Do you have a formal training or are you self-taught?
I first started creating in school at the age of 16, I loved it the most out of all my subjects. Apart from the work they gave us to do at school I did some work on my own at home in my spare-time. Nowadays I do some work when I can. I find that if something catches my eye I just go ahead and give it a go and then see what the results will be.
The wonderful thing about the age we live in is the fact that we have a lot available on the internet, it has opened us up to many new ideas, in the past people had to go to some kind of school in order to get an education. Today anything I want to know I ask Google or YouTube. I am learning as I go, so I guess I am self-taught by my many teachers.
When did you recognize that you would pursue design?
Soon after the birth of my first son in 2012 I took a year off to recharge my batteries and really asked myself what I would love to do, then after some meditation it all came back to me, looks like I was supposed to be on this path in the first place. So I took baby steps, did a sketch or two.
This is a sketch of my son, I just loved the way he used to sit in front of the book case and stare at the books and folders as if he was seriously considering what he was going to read. Funny thing, today his favorite thing to do is read.
How and where do you find inspiration for your work? Does inspiration come easily to you?
As an artist I find inspiration can come from anywhere, some time ago I was thinking about geometrics and began to look at all the wonderful buildings in London, all the different angles and shapes in there, it is beautiful indeed.
Today I pin most of my inspiration on my Pinterest account, it is so quick and easy especially if I can’t get out to take photos. It’s like most of the work is done for me and I just pick what I am looking for. When I can I take my camera and go out taking as many pictures as I can. You never know which image might spark a design.
Would you say that you have a certain style in design or is it constantly evolving?
I think sometimes it is a bit difficult to look at my own work and see a certain style. I am sure my husband will say I have a style.
There are a lot of subjects that interest me. I have been on many courses that say “develop a style so that you can be known”, and I see the importance of this. For instance I look at my favorite painter Turner and I can see his style. But then I look at Damien Hurst and it is a bit difficult to see him doing one style. I think it’s all down to what our interests are and what we want to be known for.
As I continue on my journey as an artist I intend to create as many pieces as possible then take a step back and see if some kind of style is emerging.
Do you have a project that you’re particularly proud of?
To date I can say I am very proud of launching my brand Brenoco.
In October 2015 I looked into starting to build a business and with the support of my husband I went for it. I know a lot of artists use the platforms that are already provided to sell their patterns/products and I believe it’s a good thing.
I looked at companies that were succeeding and I realized that if I was going to create a business long term that I could sell on in future, then it was best to create a brand from the ground up.
With the opening of the business I have focused on one product line then in time I intend to offer more products.
I have also just started selling on Amazon.
The other thing I want to mention is that I am currently working on my portfolio This is a website that is an extension of me as an artist which is to showcase my work and record my journey as a surface pattern designer and also to create beautiful patterns for licensing or selling. Right now apart from my cushion designs which are being sold on my website, I am aiming to have wall paper patterns completed, of course my patterns can be used on stationary, gift bags bedding and gift wrap.
In future I would like to learn how to create various patterns for the kids market. I am always updating the work I put there, I want to be able to have a full portfolio showcasing lots of different design categories. All the patterns on my website are available for licencing or for sale.
Can you share your workflow with us from your inspiration through to the finished piece?
Typically I first decide on the topic, in this case if it is a floral design I would start with a mood board, looking around for inspiration on the look, feel and color scheme I want to use.
Then I would begin to sketch in whatever materials will do the job best, for this look I wanted a romantic feel, pastel colors with loads of hand drawn /painted elements. These would then be assembled together in Photoshop.
Once the design is finished. The file is sent off to the printer to be placed on the product. Here is the finished product which is now available for sale on Brenoco.
How do you sell your work? Do you have a physical store/outlet or sell online? Do you have an agent or are you considering working with an agent?
Currently I have just started selling my work on my website Brenoco but soon I intend to start selling on Amazon. Of course as the business grows I will look to going to trade shows. I know it takes a lot of organisation time and money. So that’s why it’s in the pipeline.
What are your plans for the future?
I have mentioned some of them above , but I guess before trade shows, I want to also sell on the various platforms that other artists use, although I know the percentage they offer is low but it’s worth it for the exposure.
The other thing is to continue to work on my portfolio, (perfect it….. if there is such a thing) simply because as an artist one is always improving so I guess the portfolio will ever be evolving. Then in the meantime it would be great to be able to find an agent who can take care of the business side of things.
Please list the tools you simply can’t live without.
- Smart phones are awesome aren’t they? I can take a picture of something that inspires me and straight away it’s available for downloading and using as inspiration, awesome….so my phone is the number one tool.
- Second my favorite medium to use is pastels, it comes in a wide range of colors and it is so easy to blend and there is no waiting time for your art work to dry.
- Lastly my laptop, that’s where the magic happens when creating a pattern.
Where can we find you?
Certainly a designer to be watching, many thanks to Brenda for sharing her story today. Please support Brenda by following her progress on her social media above. If you enjoyed the interview and want to leave a comment, please do at the end of this post. I love to hear what you have to say and how these interviews are inspiring you.
Once again, if you want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on here then subscribe to the newsletter at the end to get FREE access to the library page for Surface Pattern Designers and artists.
See you soon..