Meet Gaynor Marshall. Gaynor specializes in Surface Pattern Design and is my first artist interview in a series of interviews over the coming months. Today I’m asking her all about her experience with Skillshare (affiliate), the Bonnie Christine class (affiliate) she’s taken and how she’s benefited from this class.

For those of you that don’t know, Skillshare (affiliate) is an online global community for creators. Become a member and choose from thousands of online classes or even create one yourself! The classes are presented in a way that you can learn at your own pace with bite size, high quality videos. There’s also the opportunity to meet other students, present your coursework for exposure and get feedback from the teachers.

If you’re interested in trying out classes with Skillshare please use my *affiliate* link for your first 3 months at Premium for just $0.99…you’ve got nothing to lose!

Here’s Gaynor, in her own words…

Gaynor Marshall


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?

Hello, I’m Gaynor, a Surface Pattern Designer. I’m originally from Manchester (UK), but I’m now based in Altrincham, Cheshire (UK).

I do a lot of design work from home but I’m very lucky to also have a large dedicated studio space nearby which has allowed me to continue to grow my business. I am currently enjoying having the space and freedom to combine all my passions and build a cohesive collection of work.

Have you always been creative? Are you from a creative family?

I grew up surrounded by a family of very creative people. So I was able to learn a variety of skills from a very young age and  I was always drawing or sewing something.

My Mum was a seamstress and she taught me to sew and knit. My brother was an artist so I have fond memories of watching him paint and trying to copy him (he was 15 years older than me and got married when I was 7) and his wife, my sister-in-law, was an accomplished sewer with an aptitude for all crafts. She didn’t really enjoy watching TV and would happily craft with me for hours on end.

I studied Art & Design at college and dabbled with a few creative endeavors after that for a number of years.

When did you first get into designing surface patterns?

My earliest memory of pattern design goes way back to my childhood. There was a particular photograph of an embroidery sample in a 1970’s craft book that really inspired me. Rather than try to embroider what I saw, I’d spend hours copying the shapes and colours in pencil and paint, mesmerised by the texture. The book is still on a shelf in my studio.

By the time I got to college I was well and truly hooked. I discovered screen printing and I was away. I even hand printed a length of fabric and made myself a dress; grey fabric with pink, grey and black jig-saw shapes. At the time I thought I looked really cool!

When did you recognize that you would pursue this path? Do you work in other fields creatively?

After having my children I returned to education to build on my sewing skills and gained a number of professional accreditation’s. I was invited to teach a number of sewing courses alongside running my own bespoke curtain making business.

More recently I have been running my own screen printing business making home decor products, but I didn’t feel that I was fulfilling my potential. My heart still lay with pattern design rather than in actual fabrication.

My real journey into surface pattern design finally began in May 2015, after much discussion with my long suffering husband about how I wasn’t happy with the way my existing screen printing business was going and that I had lost my vision for it.

Whatever creative path I have taken I’ve always found myself being drawn back to surface design. However, for years I thought that I wasn’t good enough and my lack of confidence always got the better of me. This time something clicked in me and I began to think, if I don’t do this now I may never do it!

I’m so glad I took the leap and finding Bonnie Christine’s classes  (affiliate) seemed liked fate, especially when some of the first things she said were “There is room for you” and “The world needs what you have to offer”

Where did you learn your skills and how have they helped you in your current business? Would you consider further learning?

Once I had decided that I definitely wanted to get into surface pattern design on a professional basis I began to look around at online courses in order to expand my skill set.

I already had a lot of practical experience with regard to creating repeats from my screen printing business but I didn’t have a clue where to start with digital designs.

I also joined a couple of Facebook groups and asked about various courses with my focus on learning how to use Adobe Illustrator. There are a number of online courses to choose from which is good, but I would highly recommend that you make your decision based on what you need to learn and how you want to pursue your career.

I felt that Bonnie Christine’s course (affiliate) on Skillshare, Introduction to ‘Surface Pattern Design and Illustrator’, ticked all the boxes for me. Bonnie guides you through all the steps needed to take your work from initial concept to finished design using Adobe Illustrator, which was exactly what I needed to know. I was able to go at my own pace and repeat things as often as necessary in order to master them. Because you are able to see her screen as she works it makes it so much easier when it’s your turn to practice because you become familiar with the software.

I really enjoyed this style of learning and have since taken a number of other online courses, some connected to surface design, others were more general and aimed at small creative businesses.

Intro to surface pattern design

With so many artists now designing patterns, how do you stand out from the crowd? For example: do you have a way to display your portfolio that’s original or do you have a certain style that you feel people would easily recognize as yours?

I think my signature style is still evolving, although I can see it starting to emerge.

All of my designs are inspired by a love of the natural world, and the wonderful shapes, patterns and textures that are all around us. I love simple shapes and bright colours and am particularly drawn to mid-20th Century surface pattern design, the result of having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s and a childhood that was full of clashing colours and bold motifs. That said, I do also love the striking simplicity of Scandinavian design.

I feel my design style captures elements from both of these genres and is reflected in all aspects of my life. I tend to choose clean lines and minimal detail with a splash of colour and I can see this starting to show through in my work.

Can you share your workflow with us, from the inspiration to the finished piece? Maybe you could use your ‘daisy butterfly wip’ as an example?

When I design, I take inspiration from the world around me. My designs all begin life as simple sketches. I like to use a 0.3 pigment liner as it suits my style. Once I have enough detail jotted down I scan the images into the computer and use my Wacom tablet to digitise them. Next comes the fun bit, adding colour and playing with placement, scale and repeats until I am happy with them. Working this way allows my final designs to retain their hand drawn, simple and fun quality which is important to me.

For example, on my “daisy butterfly wip” you can see the digitized version of my original sketches. On the left hand side is a random selection of flowers, swirls and motifs.

Daisy butterfly sketch

daisy butterfly work in progress

I really liked the flow of the design that was already starting to emerge but it was far too cluttered and un-cohesive. I simplified the design and began to play around with the scale of some of the images. Once I was happy with the layout I started to introduce colour as you can see from the final piece.


 Do you have a project that you’re particularly proud of?

One of my favourite collections is “Ellies”. It was such fun to create and makes me smile when I look at it. As well as a range of fabric and prints I plan to expand the collection to include lampshades and greetings cards. It would be perfect for a baby’s nursery scheme and will work well for both boys and girls.



 How do you sell your work, do you have an online store or physical outlet? Have you or are you considering licensing your work or getting an agent to represent you?

Currently I sell my greetings cards via my online store on my website and I am planning to sell my fabric designs by the metre together with a bespoke selection of coordinating homewares later this year.

I would be happy to license my designs and I have been researching the possibility of finding an agent.

What are your plans for the future?

I am so inspired by my new venture into the world of surface pattern design and I have lots of plans in the pipeline.

  • to continue to expand my portfolio to produce a wide and varied collection of work
  • to sell my fabric designs by the metre on my website together with a selection of bespoke, coordinating pieces of home decor such as lampshades, cushions, prints and wallpaper
  • I am about to launch a series of sewing tutorials over on my blog and would love to make a course of videos to go alongside them, showcasing my fabric designs of course
  • I would love to do one of the big trade shows
  • and ultimately I would like to bring all of my passions together in a book

That was an amazing insight into Gaynor’s world and how she’s using classes online to get ahead. Thank you Gaynor for sharing this with us. Please follow Gaynor below on all her social media sites and keep up-to-date with what she’s doing.

Website     Instagram     Twitter     Facebook     Pinterest

If you’re interested in taking the same Bonnie Christine class (affiliate)  ‘Intro to Surface Pattern Design’ or any other course, you can join Skillshare and receive your first 3 months for $0.99 courtesy of my affiliate link.

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment to tell me. Come back soon to read my next interview and don’t forget to join my newsletter and you’ll receive FREE access to the library page full of resources for Surface Pattern Designer + Artists!

See you soon…

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