How Hannah Sheffield Builds Out a Pattern

See how Hannah makes her patterns, from sketch, to ink, to final.

How Hannah Sheffield Builds Out a Pattern


Last month I featured an interview with Hannah Sheffield on the blog. She talked about how she is inspired to create complex black and white patterns. Today I want to share with you Hannah’s process for building out these patterns. I always think it’s fun to see how an artist works. Enjoy!


Hannah, one of the things I love about your patterns are how detailed they are. Can you share with us a little bit about your process and how you build out a pattern?


Well, towards the end of last year I bought a couple of Rollbahn notebooks to write in. It was pure chance, I liked the look of them. They are hard to come by in the UK and have pale yellow paper that is covered very lightly in a grid. When I started drawing again a few months later I had the perfect tool just sitting there waiting for me.


Tools Hannah Uses


What I like about them is that the gridlines help you picture a tile, and provide a little bit of guidance, but are faint. The pale dots do not get caught up in the photographing and tracing process.


I use both pen and pencil depending on how I feel. Pencil is kinder, as you can change your mind a lot and the flow is softer. And it’s nice that pencil doesn’t come out too perfectly when I trace over it, this adds a bit of texture. On the other hand I like the focus that putting pen straight to paper demands of you.


Hannah Sheffield Sketches


Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to draw so I approach things properly with initial sketches, a final pencil drawing and ink over the top. On other occasions I paint! However, I save those ideas for when I have a spare few hours and a free brain.


Hannah Sheffield Inked Design


Once I’ve finished drawing I take a photo of the artwork with my phone. I place it in Illustrator and trace it. Then the fun begins as I play around with it, discovering how it is going to come together.


Hannah Sheffield drawing on computer


Sometimes I use just part of the drawing. Other times I use the whole thing, flipping and mirroring to make a tile. I just see what happens really and when it looks right I go with it.


Hannah Sheffield Building Out a Pattern.


Pretty cool, huh? I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into how Hannah builds out her patterns.

And if you liked this post, please check out other featured designers.

Juggling Motherhood and a Design Career with Claire Dent

.You can start a business and be there for your children…see how Claire is making it happen.

Juggling Motherhood and a Design Career with Claire Dent


Today I’m excited to share with you the work of Claire Dent. Claire creates beautiful abstract patterns, full of texture and imbued with movement. She loves to use found objects to create motifs for her patterns, and is well on her way towards building a successful pattern design business. She does all of this while raising three children.

I couldn’t wait to interview Claire to hear about her approach to pattern design and find out how she is growing her business and juggling motherhood at the same time.

Hi Claire! Can you tell us a little bit about your background as an artist and how you got into surface pattern design?

I have always been a creative person. I paint, draw, make collages and craft both jewelry and bridal headbands.

I studied fine arts in school, graduating from the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey.  While in school I found myself making artwork that featured repeating motifs. In fact, I once painted several very large (9ft by 6ft) pieces all with hand drawn ‘bubble’ style drawings in pen. Each piece took over a month!  I still have the scars on my fingers to prove it!  It was then I realized how much I enjoy the therapeutic nature of making repeating patterns.

I continued to paint after leaving university and then a couple of years ago came across Make It In Design. It’s an online pattern design school featuring courses taught by Rachael Taylor and Beth Kempton.  Completing these courses fired up my enthusiasm for surface design and provided me with the tools I needed to establish my own business while raising a family.


How would you describe your signature style?  Did it take you awhile to settle on a style?

I would describe my signature style as abstract, intuitive and textured.  It took me years to find my style, and I will say it is ever evolving. It quite often changes with the seasons, or how I’m feeling, or even what tools I have on hand.


Can you share with us anything about your process and how you approach building out a pattern?

I love using unique textures and effects.  Quite often I get my hands dirty and create patterns using found objects.  Once I dipped an old candle in paint and used it as a printing stamp.  I also love pens, whether its a plain old black one or a sumptuous metallic one with an iridescent quality.  I use pens to draw textures and motifs in unique ways, and then manipulate my drawings digitally in either Photoshop or Illustrator.


Four patterns by Claire Dent
Upper left-hand corner: painted with a wooden cocktail stick. Lower right-hand corner: painted with the base of a candle.


Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from my immediate surroundings and in particular nature.  I live close to the South Downs National Park, which has an abundance of flora and fauna that inspire me.  I like to look at unusual aspects of nature. For example, a close up of a dragonfly wing or moss growing on a rock, and create unique abstract shapes from these.  I am a very intuitive artist and sometimes I just see where the pen takes me.


How has motherhood impacted your career and your decision to start your own surface pattern design business?

Although my creative career took a backseat when I became a mother to three beautiful children, I have made it a priority to maintain a regular creative practice.  Being a parent has increased my confidence, boosted my organizational skills and helped me be a more positive person. All of these things will in turn influence the way my children perceive life.  I think being a mother has given me the confidence to think ‘yes I can do what I love!’  When my youngest was 4 months old I decided to start working towards my goal to become a creative professional. That is what I have always wanted to be.


Can you tell me a little bit about how you juggle motherhood and work?

As a parent you have to be organized. There are a lot of activities to schedule, paperwork to fill out, and a variety of emotions you have to deal with on a daily basis.  Learning how to navigate these things is an asset and can be applied to any business. I am incredibly lucky to have a fantastic support network around me. My husband is very supportive and will look after the children when he is not at work, giving me a few hours here and there.  My mother and In-laws also help with child care if they know I have deadlines approaching.  I try to take advantage of any opportunity to work on my designs, whether it’s evenings, nap times or when my children are at school.


Do you have advice for other parents who are trying to build a career while also taking care of little ones?

My advice to any parent would be to find a balance between family time and work time and keep them separate.  Having said that though, I do like to include my children in the occasional drawing or painting session!  I have even started to teach my 7 year old Photoshop so she can use it to work on designs she creates.

I know that it will take time for my business to grow.  However, I’m willing to put in the hours and effort to achieve my goals and I will get there!


Photo of Claire Dent


What challenges have you faced so far as a designer?

Although I am early on in my career as a surface pattern designer, I already know it will take a lot of work to get my patterns out there and licensed.  There are so many fantastic designers in the industry. Competition is fierce! But it is also incredibly exciting and challenging.  I love a challenge!!


What have been some of your biggest successes?

So far my biggest successes have been launching my business and creating a website.  Being a fledgling surface designer I am still learning the business and establishing my brand.  However, I am getting my work out there and have sold cushions to some very happy customers through a competition Wraptious was holding.

Who knows where I’ll be this time next year. I may have a licensing deal, or be showing at a big trade show… Surtex?! Any of these would qualify as an awesome achievement.


What advice can you give others who are just starting out?

Design every day!!  ‘Practice makes perfect’ as they say! Ensure your designs show a bit of you in them. Be passionate about your work.  It’s your uniqueness that will grab the attention of a buyer or Agent.


If you’d like to see more of Claire’s work, you can visit her website or find her on Instagram @clairedentdesigns.


If you liked this interview, please check out other featured designers.

And make sure you share this post far and wide! Let’s all send Claire some love and help spread awareness of her work!






Take Time Out for Yourself Resources


Yoga, Meditation, Podcasts and Books… recommendations you’ll love.

Take Time Out for Yourself Resources

A few weeks ago I talked about how I take an hour every day, a foundation hour, that I devote to filling myself up and preparing for the day so that I can just…do better.

Today I want to share with you some of the resources that have been helpful to me as I’ve built out my foundation hour. I hope you’ll find these resources helpful. Lets get to it!

Yoga This site has tons of classes, and many of them are free. A few highlights:

Continue reading “Take Time Out for Yourself Resources”

First Time Exhibiting at Surtex with Jacquelyn Carter

What it was like exhibiting at Surtex for the first time…and lessons learned.

First Time Exhibiting at Surtex with Jacquelyn Carter


I think a lot of us newbie designers dream about showing our work at Surtex. We think “wow, when I show at Surtex I will have arrived!” Am I right? That is why I was so excited to talk to Jacquelyn Carter of Jacquelyn Carter designs, and pick her brain about what it was like for her to show at Surtex last week FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME!

I think you will enjoy hearing what Jacquelyn has to say… Continue reading “First Time Exhibiting at Surtex with Jacquelyn Carter”

From Simple to Complex: Pattern Inspiration with Hannah Sheffield

Meet Hannah and learn what inspires her to create complex patterns using simple lines.

From Simple to Complex: Pattern Inspiration with Hannah Sheffield


Today I’m happy to share with you the work of Hannah Sheffield. Hannah uses simple lines to build out most of her patterns, and works only in black and white. No color. You would think this would be too restrictive, but Hannah’s patterns draw viewers in with their complexity and detail. I just had to interview Hannah to find out how she’s inspired to create these patterns and what her process is. Are you ready?


Hi Hannah, Please tell us a little bit about your background as an artist and how you got into surface pattern design.

Firstly thank you so much for your interest in my work!

I’m not a trained artist, I am a web developer. I studied science and technology policy in college and went on to further explore complexity theory and complex systems after graduation. However, drawing is all I ever really wanted to do! My dad is an artist, so I think it’s in my blood. I take photographs, some of which you can see on my website.

To skip to the end of a long story, my recent interest in surface pattern design is an accumulation of a number of things I think. I had a eureka moment when I was sitting in a beautiful hotel lobby in the fine city of Cork, Ireland, earlier this year. It was my birthday. There was beautiful wallpaper on the wall and as I studied it the idea came to me – I have to make patterns! So just like that, I started, and here we are.

I had a ton of drawings in old Moleskine sketchbooks but hadn’t drawn properly for years. I used to draw every day. So I started with them, photographing and tracing the ones I thought would work as patterns in Illustrator. I started getting my head around how to lay out a pattern. I love it.

Doing that has led me to start drawing again.

Continue reading “From Simple to Complex: Pattern Inspiration with Hannah Sheffield”