Getting Real

Last week brought two events, one of which had me flying like a kite, the other of which brought me down to earth with an unforgiving thump. The former was the exciting arrival of my sample t-towels: the quality is good, the colours are how I envisaged, and ultimately ….. I actually like them! I sought honest feedback from friends and family, which in hindsight was most likely biased whether consciously or not. Nevertheless, people were free in expressing a preference for one over the others, and I even got a few “I’m not sure about that colour”s, but generally, it was all very positive. Then came the thunderbolt:

“Oooh, it’s very Orla Kiely”


Now don’t get me wrong …. I’m an Orla Kiely fan as much as the next person, and I have products at home to prove it. I have huge respect for her as a designer and person; her talent, her business mind, her perseverance among other things. BUT …. I don’t want my designs to be very Orla Kiely. I want them to be very Cat Christopherson. I’m not remotely interested in copying another designer. Aside from having far too much respect for the work other people put into their own design processes, I actually want to create my own style …. something that, if not ‘uniquely’ me, is at least ‘distinctly’ me. That’s the whole reason I embarked on this journey in the first place.

But how do I stop my work resembling another artist’s, when I’m not even consciously thinking of another designer’s work while designing myself? How do I become Distinctly Me???

Two words: Time and Experience …… neither of which can be magically forced. You see, Kiely, like many other highly successful designers, went to Art College. She also worked in industry for several years before setting up her own label. Through years and years worth of time, she has gained years and years worth of experience. And through this experience and experimentation, her own unique style has evolved organically. Nothing is contrived. That’s what makes it so beautiful. Even the freshest of art school graduates have had three years to experiment and focus solely on their art (and have most likely picked up a few useful industry contacts along the way).

  • I have have not been to art college
  • I have no industry experience
  • I have exactly 18 hours a week when I don’t have small children various hanging off my legs.
  • I have been doing this for three months.

I think I need to get real. I need to remember that style cannot be forced. That it takes time to evolve ….. a lot of time. That it’s OK to use those 18 hours a week just experimenting. That I don’t need to be manufacturing shed loads of products. (That I can’t afford to either!) I need to trust that in time, my style will come, but that it could take years. I need to learn to be okay with that.

I need to learn patience.





2 thoughts on “Getting Real

  1. The designs are wonderful – and yes I understand the Orla Kiely comment to the extent that they have a similarity (crisp repeated shapes, tonal, with a simple, strong graphic) in their design.

    However, I feel the need to say that equally, they are distinct enough to NOT be Orla Kiely. They are very much your designs.

    As your friend previously said- we are all influenced by designs /colours / images we have previously seen.. and our brains constantly search for similarity that corresponds to our own image memory.
    Given her now ‘ubiquitous stem design which has taken root on bags, tablecloths, wellies, iPhone cases, radios, cars & London buses- seen in the Tate, John Lewis and seasonly morphing into new colours and guises’ (telegraph fashion), and the relatively small number of well known textile designers, the comparison between your work and hers is almost inevitable.

    From another perspective, to develop designs so rapidly, enjoying the process, enjoying your art/ and being likened to OK is pretty amazing to have achieved in three small months.. with a vibrant blog to boot! (Especially with the 18 hrs you have to fit this all in!)

    You inspire and delight- keep being you, have confidence in your ability… and I’ll buy one of each please!! Becca X

    • Hi Becca

      What wonderful and encouraging feedback – thank you so so much. It means a lot.

      My plan for the foreseeable is just to practice practice practice, create create create, and hopefully I’ll become more confident in my own designer skin (regardless of who or what might have influenced my style) ….. and have a heap of fun along the way!

      Thankyou for filling my day with positivity.
      Cat xx

Leave a Reply