Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Featured Artist: Kate Thomas of Little Things Studio

Today’s guest artist is Kate Thomas (soon to be Kate Whitley) of Little Things Studio from Jackson, Mississippi. She is a graphic designer with a love for vintage scarves and an extensive portfolio. She created her own book on pattern, designs paper goods, and paints beautiful silk scarves by hand.

A: What’s your background?

K: My first degree was a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations. I started life over at 27. I was working in the corporate offices of a bank working in Excel spreadsheets going nowhere. I left my job and went back to get my second undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at Mississippi State University. I had not taken an art class since I was eleven. I didn’t even know there were different weights of pencils. I completed my second degree in December 2010. I've been working for myself ever since then.

A: What (or who) are your inspirations?

K: Alexander Girard, Vera Neumann, vintage album covers, Bauhaus, all kinds of folk art, quilts, Persian rugs, woven tapestries, etc.

A: How did you get started painting silk scarves?

K: I have collected vintage scarves for about 10 years. I have over 100 silk scarves now. I wanted to try painting them, so I googled how to paint silk, searched for supplies, and decided to learn.

A: How did you get started designing patterns?

K: I've always collected wrapping paper. While I was in school, Jessica Hische came to MSU to speak and she said "to get the work you want, you have to make the work you want." So I did an independent study with my teacher Jamie Mixon. I self-published a book, threw an art show, and started selling prints of my patterns with my favorite quotes on them. ktyazoo.com is my portfolio site that I've not updated in 2 1/2 years.

surface pattern book open
surface pattern book

A: How does your medium influence your work?

K: I'm not sure how it influences it. Most of my work is hand drawn, and I love keeping things handmade. I feel like it shows more heart and love.

A: Can you please describe your work process?

K: For patterns, I draw a shape, scan, then clean up in photoshop, then live trace in illustrator. Then I figure out how I want it to repeat then make that happen! For scarves, I put a scarf on stretcher, then pull out a paintbrush and just start painting.

painting on stretched silkbright paints on a silk scarfleaf pattern on silk

A: Tell me about your letterpress collaboration project.

K: I don't own one, but I know how to work a couple of models. I am saving for one, but they are quite a hefty investment. I thought it the best business decision to invest in my industrial silk steamer before the letterpress. I had a roommate (Kristen Ley of thimblepress.com) who had a Chandler & Price 8x12 size. She graciously offered printed my business cards for me for Surtex. I would love to do more letterpress work, but I think that's going to have to when I finally invest in one if I'm ever able to find the model I'm looking for at a reasonable price. 

letterpress design in yellow

A: What are your essential tools?

  • Bic z4 .5mm pen, best one out there in my opinion. I buy them in bulk from Amazon.
  • Strathmore sketchbooks. I like BIG sketchbooks.
  • Coffee
  • my cat
  • my collection of folk art books.

weezy the cat

A: I love your cat! Anything else you’d like to share?

K: I'm getting married in a month to Dave Whitley (davewhitley.com)! Yeah! We met in college. He's a web designer and works for automattic.com. I snagged the best web designer on the internet so I could get free websites for the rest of my life! Haha!

A: Congrats! Do you two ever collaborate?

K: YES we do collaborate! Everything I do, Dave looks at, gives me feedback and critique. He is excellent at type. He's so good at detail (which makes him great at web design), so he's great at catching the kerning mistakes that come with hand drawing type. He sends me a lot of his files and I pick the colors for him. I give him about 2-10 options of colorways, then he picks. We helped each other on pretty much every school project we had.

We did this print together (see below) and I wrote a post about the process It won an international poster design award with HOW magazine. I think there were 800+ submissions, and ours was one of the 10 selected!

lady gaga triangle poster

We want to do more together, but we just haven't yet. He has done a lot of websites for my clients, so he takes my designs and translates it to web for me. One of my favorites is http://emilypatridge.com. I did her logo, business cards, promo, etc. Then he took that and made the website.

A: I love it! Thanks for sharing, and best wishes to you and your future husband!

To see more of Kate’s amazing work, please check out her websites and social media pages:

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