This month’s spotlight designer, Rekha, is proof that your journey as a surface designer is as unique as you are and that the path you choose maybe be winding, but the journey itself is the fun part. And I know you’ll enjoy learning more about her!
Hi, my name is Rekha Krishnamurthi and I’m based in the NYC metro area (Jersey City, NJ). I work out of my home studio. I’ve been designing and selling handmade products on Etsy since 2011 and recently via my own website since 2019.
I’ve also been creating textile art (hand-painting on silk, hand dyeing, printmaking) for several years — I can’t remember when I first started…but I’ve been doing it for a while! However, it’s only been recently that I’ve been pursuing surface pattern design in a more official capacity.
Tell us a little bit about your design journey.
My journey has not been a straight line! I’ve taken many twists and turns over the past 10+ years, so I’m not sure what exactly marks the beginning! But I can trace back some key moments that were pivotal in my design journey. My first attempt in surface design was creating a collection of hand drawn henna-inspired artwork.
I found a local printer and I had this artwork screen printed on a line of t-shirts. I sold the t-shirts at local indie design markets in Soho (in NYC) on the weekends. Though my t-shirts were successful and people really liked my designs, scaling this and improving the production process was challenging.
At the same time, my interests started to shift into the home decor space. I had just moved to a new apartment and could not find ready-made home decor accents in the colors and fabrics I wanted…so I decided to make my own! I shifted my business to offer custom-made home decor accents. It was during this time that I started to explore further and deepen my skills and knowledge in hand-painting on silk, fabric painting, block printing, and hand-dyeing techniques.
This then led me to start teaching in-person silk painting workshops. Finding an affordable space in which to host my workshops proved to be a significant challenge — leading me to create a DIY silk scarf painting kit. After selling my first kit in 2015, I’ve updated the instruction booklet, added video lessons, and expanded the collection to eight patterns.
Since 2019, I’ve shifted focus to be more intentional about surface pattern design. I’ve always been designing patterns and art, but not in a formal, official capacity. I’m excited now because I feel that all the different aspects of my design journey are now coming together in a more cohesive way. My creative business now is a true reflection of who I’ve become: a textile artist, surface pattern designer, educator, and online shop owner.
What advice about the surface design industry has been most helpful to you in your career so far?
You don’t have to have it all figured out before you start — just start. Things will change and you will learn to adapt and new ideas and opportunities will come your way…I’m an example of that! I definitely did not have it all figured out when I started. I tried different things and failed many times too, but each time, I learned something new and figured out a better process.
I’m still learning, defining, improving…but I feel I have definitely come a long way. Another piece of advice that has been super helpful to me is to be confident about raising my prices and that not all my artwork has to be in a seamless repeat pattern; implied repeats are ok, too!
When you look back at your design journey so far, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my resilience — especially during tough times. I’ve taken huge risks to do what I want to do and success has not been easy, but I’ve never given up. I’ve also learned so much along the way. There is nothing like practical experience being the best teacher!
What advice would you give to surface designers who are struggling?
Allow yourself time to figure out a design or creative process that works for you.
I’ve learned so much from experienced surface pattern designers by signing up for their courses, taking classes on Skillshare, or learning from YouTube. But it still took me a while (a few months in fact) to figure out a design process that worked for me. Now that I have a process in place, I can work faster, smarter and more confidently, ready to work with clients for collaborations, licensing etc.
Where can we find you?
P.S. If you’d like to be featured on the SDR blog, you can always submit your story right here!