Meet Retro Textile Designer Ellie Whittaker

Meet Retro Textile Designer Ellie Whittaker

Who is Ellie Whittaker and what is it that you create?

I design bright and bold, Aussie fabrics that I like to think of as 'new nostalgia'. Each of my designs is imbued with the colour and whimsy of my 80s childhood. I also like to weave stories through each design: unexpected elements and truly Aussie motifs that bring a smile to the mind and stories within stories.

Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?

I didn't discover 'textile design' as a profession until after we began our family. My mother and grandmother are very talented sewists so I had a little experience in sewing garments and quilts. Once I had my son I began making clothes for him. But I couldn't find any truly Aussie fabrics, especially for boys, so I put my graphic design skills to use in deciphering a 'pattern repeat'. Once I figured it out I was completely obsessed and I have spent the past eight years being obsessed with this profession.

How did you cultivate your distinct style?

When I create my work it feels most like 'digitally painting'. I choose Australian motifs, jokes, literary references and songs to inspire me. Then I let these ideas percolate until I sense a fashion or textile trend that can best depict that idea. What results are designs that are both retro and contemporary. Fun, funny and also stylish!

Ellie Whittaker's distinct style

Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?

Once my idea is fully formed I spend time sketching out elements on my iPad. I try to reserve judgement and depict elements in a few different styles. Usually the most effective elements are those where I have distilled the essence down as far as possible. Simplified kangaroos, the hint of a koala in a tree…I like to give the viewer some sense of 'putting the pieces together'.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

Every day is different, depending on where we are in the 'fabric' cycle! Usually I check off the marketing, communications, social media, content creation and shipping before lunchtime and then move to actual fabric creation after lunch. I am trying to spend fewer nights working but sometimes, if I haven't gotten to it during the day, I will sit and draw while watching TV or listening to an audiobook, and it doesn't feel so much like work when I do that!

What has been your favourite project to work on so far?

It sounds really cliche, but starting my own brand has been my favourite project! Like most artists, when you're creating work for yourself you're more brave. I give myself permission to get weird, and to see what resonates with my customers. It's only good news for clients, who get to reap the rewards of my creative playground!

Who are your biggest artistic inspirations and why?

I have always loved Jeffrey Smart's work. He saw and depicted beauty in the craziest Aussie places. Highways, sheds, the outback. Theoretically, I have been so incredibly inspired by the career paths of textile artists like Cath Kidston and Ken Done: folks who built a career from their distinctive styles. But aesthetically I take inspiration from everywhere. From mid-century golden book artists like Mary Blair to giants like Matisse, or from art exhibits to advertising campaigns. I am always curating a cerebral Pinterest!

Do you have a single piece of advice you'd give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?

Create! Create until you find your style. Share until you find your people. Keep growing and evolving. Adopt new technologies and bend to new trends in style, technology and marketing. Stay flexible and commit to growing. And, most importantly: stay delusional, committed to the belief that what you're doing is good. And of course, it helps to surround yourself with friends and family who can cheer you on when you're not feeling it!

Find Ellie here!










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