My desire for the creative life has led me to the streets of Paris, the boroughs of New York, the galleries of Berlin and always to the shores of the West Coast. I am inspired by living a simple life, rich in culture. I am drawn to cities where dogs sleep below cafe tables, where books and art grace the walls of homes and where the world slows down for a meal shared with friends.

I've made my home on beautiful Vancouver Island. My studio and home, a hundred-year-old character house, acts as the canvas for every photograph, recipe and dinner party. 

I invite you to read my blog, view my portfolio and please get in touch if you're interested in working together.

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Creative Q&A: Elizabeth Olwen

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Name, Location, Occupation
Elizabeth Olwen, Toronto, Surface Designer

Please describe your workspace: 

I have a beautiful, bright studio in my home that I'm completely in love with. It's got nice big windows that look out onto the very cute street we live on. I've tried to fill the space with things that inspire me… I have a wall of floral prints that occupies the wall in front of my desk. I have a shelf with my favourite collectibles (I love thrift shops and antique stores). My favourite thing in the studio is my nice big desk that was a DIY project. I found the legs on a table destined for the dump which I painted teal, and repurposed an old tabletop which I painted white.

What are you working on right now?
Right now, I'm preparing for my first art licensing trade show in May (Surtex! Booth 752!), so my walls are plastered with my pattern collections, along with mood boards and doodles for new collections. I'm working on developing new work as much as I can. 

What has been your most rewarding project to date?
Definitely my notecard set with TeNeues, a global publisher and well-known in the art licensing industry. They saw my work on the Print & Pattern blog and contacted me about doing some stationery with them and I was ecstatic. It was at the very beginning of my surface design journey and was a major boost for me. It made me realize that maybe my pattern dreams just might be attainable. The most thrilling experience was walking into an Indigo here in Toronto and seeing the cards for sale… It was an out-of-body experience and I cried some happy tears. I've also got a few new projects coming out soon which I'm really excited about… stay tuned on that! 

Which designer and artists inspire you?
I have always loved Matisse. His work is so joyful and is a celebration of life. The world is already so complex, sometimes it's nice to just have something that's simple and uncomplicated that exists simply to make the world a more beautiful place – a nice escape from the crazy world we live in. I also love Marimekko, Sanna Annukka, Orla Kiely, Leah Duncan, Emily Isabella, and tons of others!

Has there been a defining moment or turning point when you realized what you wanted to do for a living?
A few years ago, my boyfriend and I decided to take a creative sabbatical in Berlin. The whole idea was to just get away from our regular life, and give ourselves the time we'd never really had to play around and work on whatever we wanted to work on. I am a graphic designer by trade and have always loved patterns, and when I was in Berlin, I quickly fell into the groove of getting up every day and making pattern after pattern after pattern. My head was swimming with ideas. I was continually lost in daydreams about patterns. I came back to Toronto with big dreams and set to work trying to figure out how to make them happen.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of working in design?

My background is graphic design and I have to say the hardest part has been achieving creative fulfillment. I think a lot of designers struggle with that. We're creative people, but our jobs are often highly practical and ultimately, sales-driven. It's a challenge to find a way to merge the two. I'm feeling really lucky right now — lately, clients have been contacting me because they saw my personal work somewhere and they're interested in licensing it, which is amazing! Best of both worlds!

What are you reading at the moment?
I just picked up Sanna Annukka's beautifully-illustrated book, The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Anderson. Apart from that, I've been pretty focused on preparing for Surtex so my reading list reflects this — I've been researching art licensing, looking at old pattern books, flipping through Elle Decoration, and reading blogs.

What websites do you visit for inspiration?
Print & Pattern blog, Oh Joy, Design Crush, DesignLoveFest, Creature Comforts, and Retro to Go

What are your simplest daily pleasures?
A cup of tea and something sweet! And sunshine, precious sunshine. 

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Well, right now Orla Kiely is my idol. She started out with patterns and has worked them into so many areas of design… wallpaper, fashion, housewares, designer collaborations, you name it. If I could accomplish a sliver of what she's done, I'd be over the moon.

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