3D modeling in pattern design with Bethany Westall

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Today I’m excited to share with you the work of Bethany Westall, a designer who uses 3D modeling in her pattern design work. In this interview she explains her design process and highlights a really cool project she just completed: using patterns to represent sensations in the body.

I think you’ll enjoy hearing Bethany’s story, and may be inspired to try a new way of designing patterns. Enjoy!


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

I’ve always been interested in art and design, and when I was younger I always thought I would be a fashion designer because I loved drawing girls wearing different dresses and outfits. But I realized that I didn’t have an interest in fashion, I was more interested in drawing and being artistic. My favorite subjects at school were art and textiles, and I was lucky to have teachers that encouraged me to make whatever I wanted.

I studied Graphic Design at the Winchester School of Art and decided to specialize in Illustration. I realized during my second year at uni that I was naturally including patterns in my work and making patterns from parts of my illustrations, and that’s when I decided to start making patterns on purpose. 


How would you describe your signature style?  How would you define your work?

I’ve never really thought I had a signature style. Other people tell me that I do, and that they can recognize my work right away, but I’m not really sure about that. I tend to work in a lot of different ways, although they do sometimes overlap.

I enjoy working in 3D, creating small scale sets using simple techniques and materials, such as paper or modeling clay. I also enjoy creating collages using found materials, photographs I’ve taken, drawings I’ve done, and textures I’ve created.

My projects are often themed around visualizing the invisible (such as sound or taste), encouraging creativity, and creating wonder.


Today you have some really cool patterns to share with us that represent sensations in the body. Can you tell us about that?

The patterns represent a different feeling or process within the body, such as pins and needles, brain freeze, itchiness, and stomach gurgling. The design of each pattern is based on mine and other peoples’ visualizations of the feelings. The patterns were inspired by digital microscopic images of bacteria, cells, and materials, which is why I originally created the designs using Cinema 4D.


Bodily sensations patterns by Bethany Westall
Bethany’s bodily sensations patterns. Top: pins and needles; bottom: itchiness


How did you come up with the idea for this work?

In a previous project, I had set myself the task of visualizing taste, and I created a series of 3D sets that represented different flavors, such as sweet, sour, and salty. I really enjoyed the process of exploring what visual elements people associated with something they couldn’t see, and I wanted to do another project like it.

I also have an interest in scientific medical illustration (one of my favorite places to visit is The Wellcome Collection in London), and decided to base my final university project on how science illustration can benefit education. As part of my research, I created a questionnaire that tested people’s knowledge of the everyday workings of the body. I discovered that most people’s answers were limited to educated guesses. However, they did express an interest in learning more about the amazing things their body does without them noticing. I decided my aim would be to create interesting new imagery that would encourage people to become more interested in the everyday workings of their own body. One of the outcomes was this series of patterns.


What were the challenges of using bodily sensations as the inspiration for your patterns?

The main challenge was creating patterns and images that were recognizable to other people as the different bodily sensations. No knows what the feelings of brain freeze or pins and needles etc look like, because they are things that cannot be seen, so I had to find out what visual elements most people associated with them. To do this I asked people to take part in drawing activities where they would try to illustrate the different feelings. I also asked people what materials, colors, shapes, sounds, smells, and even tastes they associated with the sensations.

Using this research, I developed motifs and sketches to represent each feeling, then made wearable versions of them (for example, pins and needles socks and a brain freeze hat). During this process, I continually asked for feedback from others and hopefully the final patterns successfully illustrate each feeling.


Bethany’s bodily sensations patterns. Top: Brain freeze; bottom: stomach gurgling.


Can you tell us a little bit about your process? How you used 3D models in your designs?

I use models because they help me visualize my ideas.  It is a more natural approach for me to work hands-on first before moving to the computer. Models were especially helpful for this project because bodily sensations are invisible, so once I made them into objects/costumes that could be worn on the relevant parts of the body, they became ‘real’ things that I could base my patterns on.

To create the patterns, I used motifs from the physical models. For example, the pins and needles socks were covered in bits of silver pipe cleaners and strips of Velcro, so the pins and needle pattern includes silver spiky stars and rectangles with bristles.


How would you suggest someone who is interested in designing patterns from 3D models first approach it?

My advice would be to look at the model or object as if you were dismantling it into its different parts. You could also break it down into its visual elements, such as; color, shape, texture, material, layers, etc. Then, when you have chosen the separate parts, you can experiment with how to recreate them and arrange them into a pattern.


Model representing sensations. Left: brain freeze; right: itchiness.


What’s up next? What are your plans for the future?

I really want to try to make money off of my illustrations. I’ve just set up a Society 6 account and would like to start selling and marketing my patterns and designs there. I also want to start reaching out to people and getting exposure for my work. Other than that, I want to keep improving as an illustrator and gain as much varied design experience as I can.


Want to see more of Bethany’s work? You can: 


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

And make sure you share this post far and wide! Let’s support Bethany and help spread awareness of her work!

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