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Nancy Wolff Designer for the young at heart

February 13, 2015

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Nancy Wolff graduated from Skidmore College in the USA, where she studied fine art and majored in painting, she now designs textiles and lives in New York City. Apart from her own business, Nancy has established ‘Loboloup’ where she creates wallpapers, cushions and fabric. She has also designed several fabric collections for Kokka. One of their distributors is Nunoya Textiles, a Japanese company who sells fabrics online and from their shop in Barcelona. I caught up with Nancy last week, to ask a few questions about her role as a designer.

When and why did you first start to design in repeat ?

My first job right out of college was at a textile company. I was a fine arts major and my job seeking portfolio only served to show I had no real marketable skills. It was a miracle they let me in the door, and why they hired me, remains a mystery. I got hooked on pattern by the end of week one.  A few months in, I started creating my own designs at night, with the idea of freelancing once I had a suitably sized portfolio. Oddly enough, I never did the actual repeat when I had a bona fide job. It was someone else’s responsibility to put my faux repeat into a repeat that worked. Once I was out on my own, I had to buy a how-to book and teach myself. I love designing in repeat. It’s a wonderfully complicated puzzle. You start out with a general idea, weave together the various elements until a form takes shape, and eventually all the pieces fit. Now that I’m designing wallpaper, the challenge is considering not only how the pattern looks repeated a few times, but how it will look repeated over and over on several walls.

Let’s start with these fifties inspired geometric designs.

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With regards to modern textile design, what styles/elements do you see becoming more popular in the next couple of years ?

I think it’s the approach a designer takes that makes a style relevant. I take notice of forecasts about color and style, but try not to get too caught up. When designing for home furnishings, you have to take into account that your customer has to live with the choices they make for more than one season. If you’re continually creating new designs, and keeping up with what’s going on in your field, you automatically get a sense of what looks fresh and what feels stale.

What part of your job gives you the most / least pleasure and why ?

I love that I’ve picked up a lot of skills over the years and can rely on myself to get things done. I function as designer, painter, photoshopper, colorist, contract negotiator, and agent. It’s also what I hate the most. The creative side of my brain is often at odds with the business side.

Some cool and very stylish florals.

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Nancy is also the author and illustrator of two children’s books, Tallulah In The Kitchen and It’s Time For School With Tallulah, both published by Henry Holt. In addition, she illustrated This Little Piggy’s Book of Manners, by Kathryn Madeline Allen. Her work has also appeared in numerous magazines.

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Your children’s characters are both fresh and quirky. What inspires you design-wise to maintain that fun side to your work ?

The characters inspire me. I start out drawing the general form of whatever animal I’ve picked for a new character, then deconstruct it into various components — snout, ears, etc., and piece it back together, weaving in pattern and collage elements. It’s probably the same puzzle thing that draws me to repeats. Somewhere in the middle of the process, a personality reveals itself and I just go with it. It’s a happy undertaking.

Which other artists work do you most admire ?

I was a kid in the sixties, and it’s a hard decade to shake. I’m drawn to clean lines, pops of color, text, and lots of pattern and texture. At this moment in time, I’d say I’m influenced by the work of Stuart Davis, Alexander Girard, and Sonia Delaunay. I also appreciate the playfulness found in the work of Saul Steinburg and Maira Kalman.

Most of all, I love her cheeky characters.

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The Penguins, Dachshunds and Forest Folk are fabulous … such expressions !

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Boats and planes never fail to please and these newspapery elephants … Wow !

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A little magic and we’re off to the Circus !

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Do you have plans for more products that you would like to create designs for ?

I always have plans. I’m co-founder and do all the designing at Loboloup. We started out with hand-screened wallpaper and recently added pillows and fabric to the mix. Lately, I’m obsessed with the idea of making rugs. The various textures and effects that can be achieved using wool, silk and other yarns are amazing. I’ve been working on a collection of designs and although I still haven’t figured out a way to make it happen, it would be a thrill to see this dream realized one day.

Loboloup is a design company Nancy founded with her niece, specialising in fun and funky patterns for the modern family. By combining pattern, texture, and typography in a fresh and edgy manner. Designed by Nancy Wolff in New York City, Loboloup is committed to creating child and eco-friendly products. It’s unique and bold designs are painted by hand then silk-screened using water-based inks and sustainable paper. Loboloup is committed to bringing the highest standards of design and patterns to interior environments.

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Anything else that you would like to say to inspire or encourage people who want to draw repeat designs ?

The only advice I can offer is what works for me. Sit down and design. One design inspires the idea for the next, and so on. Design in groups and color stories. Build collections around ideas. Doodle a lot. I’m not a big sketchbook person, because I’m less apt to commit the thread of an idea to paper if I know there’s a degree of permanence. I scribble and scratch whatever comes to mind for my eyes only, then save the scraps that have potential for further examination on days when ideas aren’t forthcoming. Take some risks and do whatever it takes to get your work noticed. Above all, have fun. If you enjoy what you’re doing, it will show in your work.

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Which shows would you recommend attending either to view or exhibit at ?

Exhibiting is a great way to get your work noticed by the right people, especially when you’re just starting out. I’ve exhibited at Surtex, The Licensing Show (when it was in NYC), and ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Show). Surtex is good for making connections in the fabric, stationery and giftware industry. If you have characters, The Licensing Show is worth considering. ICFF is the right show if you have product (e.g., furniture, lighting, floor or wall coverings) you’d like to get in front of interior designers, architects and retailers. Surtex, ICFF and the Stationery show take place at the same time and in the same venue, so you can participate in one show and get a feel for the others, or just walk all three.

Nancy’s clients include Acme Studios, Barnes and Noble, Galison, Great Arrow Graphics, Klutz Press, Kokka, Mattel, Nickelodeon, Oopsy Daisy, Peaceable Kingdom Press, Pleasant Company, Robert Kauffman, Santa Cruz Organics and UNICEF.

Such a stylish mix of lovely artwork here. Many thanks to Nancy for letting me share them with you and for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Now … who feels inspired ?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2015 10:42 am

    Lovely designs, liking the textiles!

    • February 13, 2015 12:58 pm

      I know they’re rather retro-yummy aren’t they : )

  2. February 13, 2015 4:33 pm

    My absolute pleasure Nancy. I’ve already had people asking me where do you sell your cushions ? : ) All good .

  3. February 13, 2015 6:45 pm

    Wonderful! The pillows are available in the Loboloup online shop — http://www.loboloup.com/pillows/.

  4. February 14, 2015 8:14 am

    Thank you, that’s what I told them : )

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