How did you become an artist?
As a little girl my mother worried that I spent a lot of time in my bedroom working on little art projects. It was anything from experimenting with a watercolor paint set, or making little characters out of yarn, cutting out clothes for my dolls, or stringing beads, etc. Art class was my favorite and I pursued as many art classes as I could. Fortunately I went to a public high school that offered many art and music options.
Did you go to Art School?
I went to Miami University of Ohio, a state university, where I got a BFA in Advertising and Graphic Design. Although I certainly had my liberal arts courses, my degree required lots of studio coursework in drawing, painting, advertising, graphic design, and options for print making, sculpting and what we called "applied design" or surface pattern design as I know it now. I had some wonderful instructors who had practiced in their field and were passionate about teaching. We also had a few guest speakers who, I now can say, looking back on it, greatly influenced my career choices.
Upon graduating, I wanted to move to Chicago, and had the opportunity to interview with Leo Burnett, for an art director position. I had enjoyed writing and creating ad campaigns in college and it seemed a good fit. I started at Burnett shortly after graduating, and worked on print ads and a little bit of TV advertising for a variety of clients. As the art director commissioning others to create the art, I realized pretty quickly that I missed being the artist on the drawing board. I knew I wanted to get out
of advertising and get back to the drawing board.
Has anyone influenced you in becoming an artist?
I had always been interested in logos and typography and remember an incredible guest lecturer in college from the design firm of Herb Lubalin, and I wish I knew her name to credit her. (I have just established myself here as an old timer with this acknowledgment). I was fascinated with her ability to make type speak for itself with the style it was created in. I remember the specific example she shared of a nasty expletive written in a fully flourished Spencerian script and it read ever so nicely! That made quite an impression on me. So upon leaving advertising, I started to explore various ways of creating words and fonts that produced a certain "attitude”. This lead to an incredible career, in a very niche market of creating advertising slogans, packaging graphics and testimonial advertising scripts for advertising agencies and design studios nationwide. It was a wonderful ride until computers and new fonts entered the market, taking away much of my custom work. I might have considered font design, but by that time I was ready to try something new, and I was so excited to explore working in color! The same computers that took away much of my former business opened up doors to creating flat areas of color in my vector art illustration style. My need to create different attitudes and looks in lettering still follows me today as I create different looks in my illustration and pattern work. To me, each pattern is a new process to explore and I have only touched the surface of all that I intend to try.
What Inspires you now?
That's a tough one. It can be almost anything. A flower, color patterns and palettes I find in nature, the smallest element from a motif in architecture, the colors in a fine art painting, or even an accident that occurs on the computer trying to create a new effect. If I like it, I run with it. I am in awe of some of the beautiful document prints and damasks or paisleys I see. I feel that I can never stop exploring those, and that my patterns are very contemporary takes on some of the classics. What seems like the simplest damask pattern, can be more challenging to do than an overall character pattern. It is just like logo designing or doing a piece of flourished script lettering, where all the elements have to fit perfectly together, and those last few pieces can be the killer pieces to create.
Can you tell us a little about your process?
I work in so many different ways. Some of my pieces start from traditional pen and ink line-work that is scanned in and taken into Adobe Illustrator. Others are drawn completely in Illustrator. I occasionally dabble in Photoshop to get certain effects, but Illustrator is my preferred program. I have learned a lot from the various manufacturers I’ve worked with regarding their requirements, and that is still a work in progress as I enter a new category. Each one is different, and I really enjoy the collaboration of working closely with my customers.
What kind of market is your work sold in?
I'm returning to Surtex after several years away where I was working in product development, and that was an experience that gave me a lot of insight into the other side of the business. My former and current licenses are in the giftware, kitchen textiles, tabletop and home accent markets. With this show I expect to see more in the home decor and home textiles markets. A couple of things are in the works but I will wait to announce them when the product is released.
Is there a site where we can see more of your work?
My website is www.sarahfrederkingdesign.com. Much of what I showcased at Surtex however is yet to be posted to my site, which I am currently reworking. The best way to see my new collections is to contact me directly.
What do love most about what you do?
I absolutely love the ability to explore whatever I'd like to, and to see where it takes me. I do however, have a clear understanding of the fact that my patterns have to meet certain criteria and that the work has to be somewhat marketable and have an audience it captures. I want to work with great customers who want to work collaboratively with me. I am happy to take direction, but I also know that if I can bring something just a little bit special to the table, that is what may make the difference. The challenge is to find that “something”, but I love the challenge. There are times I develop a pattern that will sit unnoticed for a few years, and although I believe in it, the timing just isn't right. I am sometimes surprised at the simplest things that do draw attention when they are patterns I was hesitant to show. It's all these little surprises that make it a fun journey.