In conversation with…Rachel Parker, Surface Pattern Designer

In conversation with…Rachel Parker, Surface Pattern Designer

Rachel Parker is a surface pattern designer based in Northamptonshire, and is a graduate from BA (Hons) Textile Design

Since graduating, Rachel has worked as a freelance pattern designer, and as part of interiors brand Studio Flock, who stock her designs in Liberty London, Heals,  and Studio Four NYC.

In this conversation, we discuss Rachel’s career since graduating in 2012, and why she thinks the world should value textile designers.

Surface pattern designer and BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker in her home studio. Rachel is sat at a wooden desk, with her dog Louie on her lap.

Why did you choose to study textiles at NUA?

I was on an Art Foundation course and really enjoyed jumping between different techniques and media. I knew I wanted to work with fabrics but beyond that I felt quite overwhelmed.

The Textiles course at NUA embraced an experimental approach and encouraged students to be playful across different disciplines.

I thought Textiles only had two areas, ‘Fashion’ and ‘Interiors’. At my interview we were talking about dresses made to be hung on the wall, embroidering into ceramics and glass, and the exciting possibilities of sensory fabrics.

I knew that it was where I wanted to be!

A flatlay of BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker's sketchbook and embroidery. The sketchbook is open on coloured lines drawn in a stitch style. Above the sketchbook is an embroidery hoop with geometric patterns embroidered in various shades of blue, green and pink thread. Pens and reels of thread are next to both the sketchbook and hoop, as well as an embroidery magazine
Photograph of two modern chairs in an industrial style warehouse. The chairs are upholstered in geometric print fabric, designed by BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker
A modern chair with a blue wood frame, upholstered in blue triangular geometric print designed by BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker

You’re a member of interiors brand Studio Flock, how did you join them?

Studio Flock work with graduate designers – they saw my work when I was exhibiting at New Designers in London. 

We had our first meeting in the Liberty fabric department, they were one of our very first stockists. Seeing my fabric hanging in such a revered space is still one of my proudest achievements!

Licensing my work with Studio Flock was a real kickstart to my career and gave me the confidence to approach other studios and companies.

Being a freelance designer has its challenges. What advice would you give to anyone considering working freelance?

In my experience it’s been very challenging, despite some fantastic opportunities very early on.

My advice would be to take some time to really think about what you do/don’t want.

Working freelance can be very isolating, you don’t have financial security and you have to spin an awful lot of plates. There are definite highs and lows. This is just what makes my heart happy and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker's home studio. Her wooden desk, with graphics tablet and monitor is up against a bright cobalt blue wall. On the wall is a gallery of colourful prints, calendars and embroidery, some created by Rachel.
A pile of colourful, botanical print fabrics designed by BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker
A blonde haired, fair skinned female model is standing with her hands above her head in front of a modern wood building. She is wearing a fluffy teddy coat. In her hands and blowing in the wind is a silk scarf with a geometric pattern, designed by BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker

What is your creative process? 

The vast majority of my work starts life as a drawing or something I’ve made with my hands – many of my digital geometric patterns start out as embroidered samples or hand-drawn grids.

I generally draw in my sketchbook with black pen and then scan the motifs and add all the colour in Photoshop.

What inspires you?

The changing seasons, walks with Louie my dog, historical textiles, rummaging around charity shops, David Attenborough, and people who are passionate about what they love – the next generation of creative talent.

"A world without pattern would be absolutely miserable. I believe that we should live in colour wherever possible"

Rachel Parker

If we were to take a peek inside your sketchbook, what would we see?

A few years ago it would have been a bit of everything – collage, lots of different media, magazine cut outs etc.

In the last couple of years I’ve fine-tuned my process a bit more. When I’m drawing, I’m thinking more about the final pattern and how I might make my life easier down the line in terms of scanning and cleaning up motifs.

Multiple photos of the contents of BA Textile Design graduate Rachel Parker's sketchbook. A variety of hand drawn repeated patterns

Why does the world need textile designers?

The world needs textile designers because our goal is to create something visually pleasing that you choose to live with every day. 

A designer imagined the print on the seat of the bus you just travelled on, agonised over the colour for the lining of your bag and fine-tuned the pattern on the mug that you’re drinking out of, in the hope it would bring you joy when you use it.

A world without pattern would be absolutely miserable; I believe that we should live in colour wherever possible. 

You can explore more of Rachel’s work on her website, Instagram and shop her work at Etsy.