Welcome Sheri Berry Designs to Riley Blake
Posted by alpinefabrics on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
We welcome Sheri McCulley Seibold of Sheri Berry Designs to Riley Blake. We are absolutely thrilled to have Sheri as part of our design team. We have been a long admirer of Sheri's work and know that her look and feel will fit in perfectly with Riley Blake Designs.
Sheri's first fabric collection with us is called ModTod. She defines her ModTod collection as "a contemporary look geared to parents who prefer a more modern style for their kids." We love ModTod and know you will too!
Here is a sneak peek.
The colors are fantastic. ModTod will be arriving in stores in October.
We usually highlight our new artists when their fabric lines are due to be released, but since we are introducing ModTod at Spring Market, I was able to have a nice Q and A session with Sheri and this is what she had to say.
How did you get started? Please summarize your career for us so that we understand your background.
After graduating from college with an art degree in 1986, I worked as a publications designer and then spent several years as a college art teacher. My dad was a professor of art, and I was familiar with the academic environment. However, I was getting enough design work on the side that I finally decided to go full time as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. My work was featured in numerous publications.
When we had our first child, I lost interest in commercial projects and put my energy into designing “cute stuff” for my daughter’s room, our home, and as gifts.
I spent four years as a volunteer kindergarten and art teacher at my kids’ elementary school, which provided a nice outlet, but by the time both kids were in school I was ready to work full time again.
I never stopped creating and designing during the years I stayed home with my kids, even though I didn’t know what I’d do with all the art accumulating on the computer and in my portfolio.
In 2004, I started as a designer for a prominent manufacturer of scrapbooking and crafting supplies and was responsible for various products sold in Target, Wal-Mart, and craft stores nationwide.
In 2007, I started designing fabric. I have released 8 fabric lines under the Sheri Berry designs brand.
How would you describe the Sheri Berry style?
I don’t really have a concise phrase or term that describes my overall style. I’ll leave that to others.
However, something buyers seem to find unique about what I create is that it’s a hybrid of graphic design, product design, and illustration. I don’t think of typography, or color, or pattern, or illustration, or even shape or material on three-dimensional products, as elements in isolation. I picture everything I do as a complete package, a finished product, just as I imagine the buyer will see it on the shelf.
One of the things I like about designing for fabrics is getting out of the four-color-process restrictions of the offset printing world. I have always had a clear picture of the pure colors I want to use for my projects, and my style lends itself to solids. But in offset printing no one can afford to have a dozen or more custom-mixed Pantone inks. With fabric, just about any combination of colors I imagine can get printed.
What were your influences as an artist?
When I was a girl, my heroes were Betsy Clark, Holly Hobbie, and Charles Schulz. I always wanted to create art that could be mass-produced and reach as many people as possible. I love the idea of a child being as excited to have a new pillowcase with one of my designs on it as I was when I was ten and my mom sewed me a pillowcase out of Holly Hobbie fabric.
My look is influenced by a wide variety of styles and periods in 20th-century American commercial art and product design, and I think my appreciation for everything from Art Nouveau to kitschy 1970s culture comes through in my work—reinterpreted for today’s buyer, of course. Some people call it retro, but not everything I do has a historic twist.
Can you describe your design process?
My overall method is the same no matter what I’m designing for. It typically involves some combination of hand sketching, followed by scanning and on-screen design and production using Adobe Illustrator. Sometimes, however, particularly with patterns, I get an idea and just start creating on screen without picking up a pencil.
The way the computer allows for duplicating and altering design elements quickly is ideal for how I think. I sometimes start the morning with one concept and by suppertime the original idea has been eclipsed by a dozen variations. My ideas branch, and create new branches, something many artists are familiar with. After a long session like that, one of my biggest problems is simply keeping track of all the files I’ve created, each with a slightly different name. My husband refers to my creative output as “fission,” a kind of endless chain reaction that I can’t stop from happening.
I’ve always been an artist who likes solid colors and clean edges—almost a print-making way of doing art. Before computers, I often cut paper by hand. Now, I illustrate and do patterns on the computer and prototype finished products, often incorporating printed computer output, by hand.
What advice do you have for aspiring fabric designers?
I can’t approach that question as an old veteran of the fabric industry yet, but I can share a few things I think are relevant to aspiring designers, in general.
First, while it’s important to be confident about your own look and style, remember that you are part of a team that’s needed to get the product to market—not the center of the universe. Be nice and don’t step on other people while trying to get your work noticed.
Second, be prepared to compromise and adapt what you do. You may create beautiful or fun or sophisticated art, but each manufacturer has their own goals in the marketplace and you need to help them achieve those. I love quilts, but I’m not a quilter, so I knew I could either accept the manufacturer’s instincts on adapting my style and actually get a product on the market, or insist on having everything my own way and spend the next 20 years creating art for myself. Manufacturers know their audience—and if you help them succeed, you will succeed.
Third, take production deadlines seriously and deliver your art in the form requested. Just like when you’re working at a salaried job, establish yourself not only as a good artist but a reliable partner who manufacturers can count on.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of “following trends.” I’ve never been comfortable with the idea that “market research” consists of going shopping and copying what other companies are already doing—or paying high-priced consultants and “trend experts” to tell you what to make next. So, “pastels are in this year”? Guess what! With some buyers, pastels are always in, as are owls, or woodcut typefaces, or geometrics. Determine to be yourself and create trends, not follow them.
What are your interests and hobbies?
My primary free-time activity is thrifting, finding great old stuff for my home or studio. Whether it’s furniture, or lamps, or clothes, or books, our spaces are filled mostly with things from earlier eras that we feel had more classic styles and better quality. After a fresh coat of paint, or a trip to the dry-cleaners, we bring them into our home and give them a second life. Even our house is vintage—built in 1939. It’s our way of “going green.”
My husband and I also enjoy spending time with our two teenagers, who seem to have inherited our interest in art and creativity. Between the four of us, it seems there’s always someone drawing, painting, sewing, inventing, cartooning, refinishing furniture, taking pictures, redecorating, producing videos, animating, or writing blogs. We’ve always taken the time to work with our kids on creative projects that interest them, and now that they’re older, they actually help us with real projects!
We also enjoy traveling together as a family when we can. One of our most inspirational trips was a tour of National Parks during the Summer of 2009. Riley Blake’s home state of Utah was one of our favorite legs of the trip, and we hope to come back someday.
Thanks Sheri! I love the advice you give to new designers...it is spot on. Sheri will not be at Spring Market, but she is planning on attending Market in the Fall.