I’ve been in business as a pattern designer for almost four years now, but drawing has always been my superpower, ever since I was a kid. But it wasn't until I turned 40 I realized how I could use it as a career. I call it The Big Detour.
Growing up in Falkenberg, a small town on the west coast of Sweden, my awareness of artistic professions available out there were very limited. It just about included becoming a painter or fashion designer. I didn’t want to become a painter and everyone told me the fashion design industry was so competitive and impossible to make it in.
When it was time to stop messing around and plan for some kind of career it was the mid 90’s and the hottest thing on earth was to work with web design. So I decided to study a smorgasbord of topics like system science, media- and communication, programming, finance and marketing. Right when I graduated from College the IT-bubble burst and I ended up working with marketing, completely dropping everything creative and I actually didn’t pick up a pencil and paper for almost 15 years! Sad but true.
Then came the thing that changes everything.
Turning point 1
For my 40th birthday my parents and sister gave me a weekend course in stand-up comedy. Very funny. They must have either though that I was hilarious or - and most probably - that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and loosen up. I just thought it was terrifying, but also a bit of an exciting challenge and decided to try it.
So I could have been a comedian if it wasn’t for Facebook. A couple of weeks before the course would start I saw a post by a friend who had signed up for another weekend course, this one a course on pattern design by Lotta Kühlhorn. I’ve always been fascinated by patterns - I clearly remember trying to figure out where the wallpaper pattern of ladybugs and trailing branches begun and ended in my room as a kid, so I quickly switched comedy to pattern design. Thank God. I don’t think I would have survived that weekend otherwise.
Not only did that course widen my perspective on patterns, but it really got me drawing again. Most important, all pieces fell into place when I understood that I could use my superpower for creating patterns. But it also made me a bit sad, thinking what would have been if I’d only known about this option when I was younger.
After this followed a period of serious angst and frustration. I knew what I wanted to do, but also how impossible it was to change careers in the middle of life, with family, house, two cars - the whole rat race. I couldn’t go to design school and so I thought I was stuck doing marketing for the rest of my life.
Turning point 2
A nudge to get out of that pit was when a friend of mine who has a factory that makes clogs and sandals saw one of my posts on Facebook where I showed the patterns I had created. He called me up and told me he needed a pattern for a new clog sole and wondered if I could make one.
Uhm, yes, I thought I could do that, sketched up a couple of suggestions and a few months later one of them was in full production and sold on clogs all over Sweden. Perhaps it would be possible anyway?
That and a serious push from my husband Johan, made me eventually quit my job (ok, there was a lot more angst, frustration and a year of therapy before that) to pursue my dream to work as a pattern designer. I had already started my company Bear Bell Productions in a side hustle attempt, but it turned out to be impossible to do parallell to my ordinary marketing job that sucked the soul and energy out of me.
The big leap
Despite no design experience or education to speak of, or any existing clients I took the leap anyway to start building something new from scratch. It was scary like hell but such a wonderful feeling. I remember going downstairs, into the kitchen to make coffee on that first day working for myself. How free I felt, and everything was possible. I spent the first two years studying, practicing, trying to learn the craft and business as best I could on my own.
An unexpected twist
Another very important turning point for me was to discover Skillshare and the courses by Bonnie Christine. I think she is to thank a lot for my platform of designing skills and the tools that I use every day. Also, one day I was approached by Skillshare asking me if I was interested in teaching too and it lead to my first course about illustration, followed by courses in pattern design and markers. So Skillshare has been a very important part of my business, both for learning new things, but mostly the community it provides and of course the income it brings.
Never a boring day
During the 4 years in business a lot has happened. I’ve sold and licensed patterns to a range of product brands in different industries; home textiles and home decor, apparel and shoes. I’ve also created patterns for businesses that uses them for branding and promotional materials. I’ve launched 7 courses on Skillshare, and more are in the plans.