Meet: Shannon Orr
Five years ago, I was wandering in my own creative wasteland, of my own making. Creativity used to be a lush vivid experience, full of imagination color and fun. At that time though the very idea of making anything was stressful and lackluster. There seemed to be so many other creative people online having magical vibrant lives. Mine looked and felt terribly gray in contrast and I felt trapped and uninspired.
I’ve learned a few things since then, but two are the most important and have helped propel my own creative expedition back into the world of color, texture, and life. The first lesson was that I had to choose to see the sunshine in my life. Choosing to find joy in small things like frost, fall leaves, raindrops, and laughter made a huge and daily adjustment to my point of view. The second lesson was that I needed to take the time to explore new ways to share my work. Finding joy and choosing to share, rather than keep my artwork to myself was so liberating.
Years previous I had learned to quilt and a friend suggested that I should explore fabric design, but my background was in architecture, not textiles and I just put it in the back of my mind. Naively, I didn’t realize fabric and surface design was a career. I just assumed most things with any pattern on them were the result of in-house designers.
At the time we lived in New Hampshire and winters were so long and dark and cold. Just to get outside I started drawing and photographing flowers, trees, houses, and household items. Just getting in the daily practice of putting pen to paper helped me to let go of old ideas that I wasn’t an artist and accept that although I’m not a fine artist, I’m a doodler and a lover of all the colors. I still draw and paint on a daily basis, I take a camera everywhere, and try to use every little down moment I can to doodle. In 2014 and several sketchbooks later I felt like I had enough doodles, and really ought to find something to do with them all. It was time to make surface patterns.
I knew how to make an old-school paper repeat pattern from my architecture days, but had never learned Illustrator, which I knew from research was the best way to submit art for licensing. Experience had also taught me no one was ever going to come to me and ask to license my artwork, I needed a portfolio to go to them.
There were several classes I had looked at online, but Bonnie’s class seemed to be the most approachable. I took it and it cut my learning curve in half! It was so practical and explained how to use the tools of Illustrator that would be the most effective for the results I was looking for. I liked being able to zip back to segments of techniques to practice again and again. I have taught myself many a program, but I felt like taking a class in this case really gave me a head start and a lot of stressful troubleshooting.
So all those years of doodles and ideas caught in sketchbooks were scanned, arranged, colored and organized into themed surface patterns. It took about 6 months of steady work and reworking colors to finish what I felt like was a good body of work. The patterns were then organized into a portfolio which I sent copies off to several quilting fabric manufacturers, and then held my breath. Honestly, I still had a lot of self-doubts and everyone would hate my work, but I had done the work and bravely sent my art out into the world.
I feel so fortunate that Moda Fabrics was the company who was the most impressed! They contacted me within the month, and I could hardly contain my excitement! I have always loved their materials and the family feeling they bring to their artists. I have been licensing my art with them for the past three years and will release my third fabric collection with them this spring.
All of the opportunities and experiences that have come my way I fully believe were the results of asking and putting myself and art out into the world. Most of all my creative world is full and colorful and fun again. Keeping my focus on the things that matter most to me and not what everyone else is doing helps me to stay motivated and enjoy every messy minute.