Surface Designer Spotlight: Brie Bobalek

Please join us in celebrating this month’s spotlight surface designer, Brie Bobalek. We know you’ll find her story inspiring!

Please introduce yourself.

Since I was young, I was always involved in different forms of creativity. My parents enrolled me in my first dance class at the age of three because they saw how much I would light up and dance every time music played. I value the fact that they recognized my passion, and I’m thankful they allowed me to pursue it.

Surface designer Brie Bobalek

As I got older, I found myself drawn to fashion and art just as much as dance, and I’m genuinely convinced my creative endeavors played a significant role in shaping the person I am today.

I live in NYC and I grew up in Midland, a boring small city in Michigan, surrounded by my 16 siblings (including my parents’ 4 biological kids, and the 13 they adopted.) Agewise, I fall right in the middle. However, despite being the middle child, which tends to have the reputation of being forgotten… I was always engulfed in a lot of love and doted on while growing up.

My creative nature allowed me to stand out in my family and affectionately labeled me by my grandma as “the black sheep of the family that glitters.”

Surface design by Brie Bobalek
Tell us a little bit about your design journey.

When I moved to New York, my passion for fashion was intensified by the city’s vibrancy. I worked as a wardrobe stylist, freelancing and assisting on various projects such as commercials, photoshoots, editorial shoots, and independent films. Then one day a dear friend of mine who works as a set designer needed help on set. I offered to assist, and before I knew it, what was initially supposed to be a short-term project turned into me helping on set all the time.

While working on set for a Victoria’s Secret Holiday commercial, instead of dressing the models, I dressed the room. What trinkets and tchotchkes can we use to tie the room together? What elements bring an ambiance that embodies a colorful, cozy holiday vibe? Is there lighting over here? What should we put over there? Inevitably there is much to think about when designing a set and creating the look of a room.

Very similar to putting an outfit together, a room is made up of separate elements that once united, become greater than the sum of their parts. I started to fixate on the details of these parts. The artwork on various fabrics, and different wallcoverings intertwined into patterns. I would think to myself… I can draw but wondered how I’d transfer my drawings from paper to fabric and morph them into patterns.

As I delved deeper into this newfound obsession, my mind raced extensively with ideas while trying to form them into solutions. Google, Skillshare, YouTube, then Google again.

Despite my severe dyslexia, I spent countless hours taking on the challenge of learning Adobe Creative Cloud programs, which proved difficult but worthwhile. My days and nights consisted of me being at work, or at home learning. Though I sometimes felt immensely overwhelmed, I never stopped being determined. It’s what kept me going.

And now here we are today. I’m a surface pattern designer, chasing after my creative dreams to collaborate with other creatives and license my work.

Surface design by Brie Bobalek
Do you have a favorite portfolio design or client collaboration?

My favorite design isn’t the design itself, but the story behind the design. I was asked to design a pattern for a very dear friend who was getting married in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She wanted a quirky interpretation of the Copacabana sidewalk along with two parrots, as they’re known to be lovebirds who mate for life.

She instructed this pattern was to be cohesively used throughout the week of her wedding. Everything from the menus, welcome cards, party favors, beach towels, flip flops, tote bags… even a blown-up version of the pattern for the dance floor.

Overall the pattern brought a sense of unity and harmony to the couple’s big day tying everything together in a beautiful consistent way. The reason this is one of my favorite design stories is because of how much she loved the design, and I almost didn’t send it to her as an option because I didn’t like it.

The fact that she chose the one I almost did not send ended up being a huge design lesson for me! Even though I might not like something, doesn’t mean the client will feel the same way.

Surface design by Brie Bobalek
What or who are you inspired by?

People, music, fashion, and travel have repeatedly been fundamental aspects of my creative design process.

People can serve as a rich source of inspiration because each individual possesses a unique personality and story that often ignites my interest to learn more.

Music — I would die without music. It’s a significant influence. The emotive power of music evokes so many feels! It forms memories and brings joy, excitement, and sadness… music definitely lets me tap into my emotions.

Fashion and travel broaden my perspective and inspire me constantly. Inspiration is everywhere.

Do you have resources you’d like to recommend?

Feel Free magazine by Leanne Ford is a magazine I recommend. It celebrates the beauty in imperfections and is overall such a great vibe.

Surface design by Brie Bobalek
What do you like to do outside of surface design?

Living in NYC is very inspiring so you can always find me walking. I walk everywhere in the city. It’s a great simple pleasure I truly enjoy. I also love catching up with friends over drinks and a nice dinner somewhere. I’ve really been craving a night out for dancing. It’s been a while. I love to dance.

Surface design by Brie Bobalek
When you look back at your design journey so far, what are you most proud of?

I’m proud of myself for not giving up. Life comes with highs and lows, and I’ve had some really incredible lows. Those are the times I needed to believe in myself the most, and thankfully I did, and still do.

If you could offer advice to other designers who are struggling, what would that be?

Don’t give up! If it’s worth it to you, then fight for it no matter how challenging it gets. Keep putting in the work, believe in yourself, and don’t forget to celebrate the small victories.

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @brie_bobalek

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