Gin’s Journey: My Story

Gin's Journey: My Story
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Hi everyone! My name is Virginia…Gin for short. You may know me on Instagram as The Happy Artisan. I’m a French born, Aussie raised artist and textile designer based in Sydney, Australia.


Opportunity Knocks

There comes a time in life when an opportunity to grow and share your experiences presents itself out of the blue. That’s what happened when Jen asked me to be a regular contributor on this blog.  She has followed my journey on Instagram and previously asked me to write a piece about vulnerability on social media. I was both honored and surprised that someone would find what I had to say worthwhile and share-worthy…social media can be fickle at its very best, daunting and somewhat intimidating at its worst.


I’m one of those people who like a challenge and can happily adapt to any surrounding. I spent years studying things outside of my comfort zone (Bioarchaeology) and working and traveling to remote locales (the jungles of Belize and the desert landscapes of the Pilbara in Western Australia). I figure at this point I am up for almost anything!


Taking on this Challenge

If you are looking to read about someone who has the perfect life and who can share stories of boundless successes, turn away now! Here I’m going to be honest with you. And while I will share with you my successes, I will also share with you my failures. I hope to bring you along, to offer you insights into the passion I have for art, textiles, creativity, and learning.  And most importantly, to share with you my journey as a forty-six year old woman trying to navigate her way through this creative life.


My Background

I am a relative newcomer to the world of textile/ surface pattern design. Newcomer in the sense that while I have worked as a film, theatre and opera Costumer for over 20 years, and have worked with textiles in some form or another all my life, I have just recently started learning how to design and make them.


Previously I did an Interior Decoration course thinking that was where I was wanting to focus my creativity. However, it drove me nuts trying to find fabrics I wanted to work with. I felt that my creativity was limited by the fabrics I was able to source. Don’t get me wrong, there are gorgeous textiles and wallpapers out there. I just wanted to have a say in what was on those substrates!


After six months I walked away, knowing with utmost certainty in my mind that Interior design was not for me! After taking a bit of a break, and working part time as a seamstress, I enrolled in a certificate program for print and design. 

Gin's artwork


Design School

Once I started attending design classes I was hooked! I learned a ton in a short amount of time and was buoyed along by the excitement of my fellow classmates. I felt like I had found a new sense of purpose and direction for my art. It was so exciting to discover a way to make my art practical. The idea that I could take my hand drawn illustrations and turn them into printed fabric blew my mind. I seriously wondered why it had taken me so long to figure this out.


In class we experimented with mark-making, dyeing, creating simple hand-drawn motifs and screen printing. We had an incredible illustration teacher who I will always be grateful for. She pushed us way past our comfort zones and encouraged us to draw in unconventional ways. To this day I still love doing quick sketches with my left hand, despite being a righty!


Crucial to all this of course was learning computer aided design (CAD)…Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and In-Design became tools with which to turn separate motifs into a cohesive pattern or design. This is what I had wanted to learn for years!!


A Rough Patch

The downside of my coursework was that I had to create things super fast, much the same as the real world if you are working for a design company. I struggled with this as I am one of those artists who likes to take their time creating. I hate to be rushed. The pace of the class, along with the challenge of learning CAD, started to get to me. I struggled. I cried. There were days I couldn’t draw. Simple as that. I tried and failed.


Long story short, I lost my confidence. I had a hard time mentally and put a huge amount of pressure on myself to create fabulous prints. I also had a hard time financially. With only three months left of the course, my whole world caved in. So I didn’t finish.


Gin's artwork


Not Giving-up

Even though I didn’t finish the course I am still dedicated to textile design! I’m continuing, in my own way, to learn and grow my skills. I’ve made some beautiful gouache paintings that I am proud of and have ordered swatches to see how my artwork looks on fabric. The thrill and excitement of finally seeing my art on something other than paper has really kept me going. I love the idea that fabric I design could end-up on a cushion that would make an interior pop. Or a dress that that would make the wearer feel like she is a walking, breathing work of art.


My big challenge right now is to balance my desire and need to create beautiful art with my need to earn a living and to get myself back on track financially. I have been making bags, lampshades, cushions etc…whatever I can sell on Instagram. And the good news is today I got a job. Not textile design related but something that will bring in money. I’ll be sewing shade sails and truck tarp covers.


Looking Forward

I hope 2018 will be the start of great things for my textile design aspirations. Being invited by the beautiful Jen to contribute to her blog, which I love, is such a wonderful thing. I hope my failures/successes spur you along to keep at it too.


I don’t believe in only showing the polished side of life as a creative. Yes, I can draw and paint, but that’s not enough to create beautiful, unique textile designs. It’s not going to be easy but nothing ever is. How fortunate are we to be able to put pen or brush to paper and create something? How cool is it to be able to share that with other people?


Until the next installment of Gin’s Journey, keep creating, keep learning and keep striving!


Lots of love,


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  1. Hi Carol, Thanks so much for your supportive comments. I think it’s so important to be transparent as far as the real struggles faced by any artist, not just textile designers. Social media makes it too easy to comoare ourselves to others who are maybe more prolific, faster, who have less commitments, more ideas etc…I am one of those people who love to challenge myself and sometimes I feel out of my depth but I keep going at it. I just hope people/artists like yourself will be inspired by the fact that we all have to start somewhere and it is really more about perseverance sometimes. How wonderful you have beautiful Paris to inspire you. Every time I visit family in France I am re-inspired by the beauty of that country. I don’t know if I am bringing beauty to the truck tarps I am sewing but at least money is coming in for the good things I hope to achieve!!! Wishing you the very best Carol, would love to see your work some day😘😘Gin x

  2. Hey there Gin! You’re story was an uplifting inspiration to me! It’s funny because i’m an english born graphic designer whose been living here in France for more than twenty years now and i’m also trying to find my purpose creating motifs for textile and surface design! Although such a setting as Paris can often stir imaginings of a very glam lifestyle, my experiences have actually been learning to grow when faced with really challenging moment… Which is the case for me now… As i’ve been using computers to assist my design work since the 90’s, the CAD bit was the part i was able to manoeuvre around easily, however social media and self promotion is a daunting call for me… and one which i need to step up! Bravo to you for all you’ve accomplished so far and so fearlessly! You’re two drawings here are beautiful – there’s much substance and depth! I’m sure you can bring beauty to the shade sails and tarp truck cover world… Each one of our experiences helps us to get closer to the essence of who we are when we infuse our own very special light into the situation.
    Thanks to you too Jen for this blog which i recently discovered and find very a inspirational and enjoyable read! Keep your lights shining bright dear ladies! Love and hugs, Carol

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