Today I had the wonderful opportunity to interview illustrator and pattern designer Julia Rothman. Julia is currently working on her first fabric collection with Windham Fabrics called Type.
Type is a whimsical collection with a cool retro vibe that is filled with patterns of vintage typewriters, tossed paper clips, typewriter keys and notepads. This imaginative collection debuts in store November 2012.
Let’s Meet Julia
Q: Tell us about your education, experience and background?
A: I graduated from The Rhode Island School of Design in 2002. Many students wound up doing something totally different than what they majored in at school once they graduated. I am one of the few students from my year who graduated from the Illustration department and became an illustrator. I started doing editorial illustrations for magazines right after college. After a few years, I realized surface design was another way to use my work. I started turning my drawings into patterns and figuring out how to apply them to all kind of surfaces like wallpaper, bedding and housewares.
Q: How, why and when did you get involved with art and illustration?
A: Ever since I was a kid I loved drawing and my mom nurtured my interest by taking me to all the New York City museums. I learned how to draw by copying other drawings. My childhood sketchbook is filled with Garfield, Disney movie characters, and Keith Haring-inspired figures. I didn't get too serious about drawing until I was in high school when I finally started taking art classes. I used to make the posters for my school's dance productions and took an intensive art summer camp at a local college. RISD was the only art school I applied to and when I decided to go there, it meant I was committed to making a career out of my artwork.
Q: When working on a new project, what is your biggest source of inspiration?
A: My biggest source of inspiration usually is my surroundings. Living in Brooklyn, I am immersed in so much culture and urban architecture. Many of my pattern ideas come from walking down the street and noticing something intriguing – rows of eyeglasses in a shop window, hub caps of all shapes and sizes hanging on a fence, the repetition of Brownstone buildings. I'll make a note in my iPhone for later.
Q: How would you describe your personal design style?
A: Playful, eclectic, nostalgic
Q: Who is someone you truly admire?
A: My friend Grace Bonney runs the popular site Design Sponge. I think it's incredible how she created such a fantastic resource on design and exposes emerging talent. She started a blog many years ago as a way to keep track of the stuff she thought was cool, and the site has grown to become her own business where she employs a handful of writers. She also runs a weekly Biz Ladies series which shares advice on running your own business from experts and people who have done it themselves and a scholarship program for art school students. I'm always impressed by whatever challenging project Grace is working on – making her own newspaper, starting a handmade market, organizing local meet-ups. When she has an idea, she figures out how to make it happen and gets lots of people involved. With her as a role model, I have been inspired to attempt my own bigger, dream projects. Above all that Grace has been an amazing friend to me over the years who always there to lend a hand, bring me treats when I'm feeling down or to help brainstorm ideas. I feel like I've learned to be a more considerate person just from being around her.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
A: When I was a teenager I used to take a lot of dance classes, ballet and jazz three times a week. I gave up when I went to college and always missed it. Recently I started taking dance classes again and enjoy it so much. I am taking currently taking a class that has very little instruction which is very different from my previous experiences. It is supposed to be a form of dance meditation but the music is very fast paced. You just dance however you want for two hours letting yourself just react to the music. After the class is over you feel like you ran a marathon and also had a really good cry.
Q: What is one thing that people should know about you?
A: Last year I published a book called Farm Anatomy which was the probably my biggest and most rewarding project to date. The book visually describes all the parts of a farm from animal breeds to weather predicting to country recipes and craft projects. The book took a year for me to make and its 224 pages, all illustrated and hand lettered. The book has been very successful and I'm proud to say there are currently 36,000 copies in print and still going! The book was sort of a tribute to my husband who grew up on a small farm in Iowa.
Currently I am working on a book about where I grew up, New York City. The book will be full of places to check out, interviews with interesting New Yorkers and my own stories about living in the city. It will be out in next year with Chronicle Books.