Helen Dealtry, the head designer for textile company Woking Girl Designs, recently invited me to visit her workspace in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The studio windows look out over a courtyard garden, where Helen gathers some of her best inspiration for the prints she designs. Plants and vases of flowers fill the studio, bringing nature’s inspiration inside.
Helen has a talent for painting lush florals, but her newer work also includes geometric patterns. As she sorted through sample yardage, I was able to peek at some of her designs printed on silk.
I was fascinated to learn more about Helen’s process and to watch her at work. It all begins at the mood board.
She has an ever-evolving collection of inspirational images, such as tear sheets from magazines, photos of artwork, and even little doodads like fly-fishing lures! Next to the mood board is the table where she creates the artwork.
Painting her designs on paper, she works in layers. I photographed as she put the finishing touches on a retro scenic print. On average, she completes two paintings a day.
Finished artwork is scanned into a computer and then stored in flat files by season. The clients are fashion labels, who purchase the prints for use in their collections.
As well as designing textiles, Helen has been developing some new products for Working Girl Designs. Her line of silk scarves is currently available on the company’s website, and she’s in the process of creating some simple garments featuring her prints.
Preferring a hands-on process, Helen drapes and sews the product prototypes herself. She also keep everything local: all production takes place close-by in order to support the community economy.
Before we finished, I asked her to answer a few fill-in-the-blanks:
If I wasn’t doing this, I would …
Probably be working with dogs, although I’m not sure in what capacity. Anyone who knows me can vouch for how happy animals make me so that would probably be up there on my list.
Creating makes me feel …
Frustrated a lot of the time, but that’s part of what continues to drive and push me, what will keep me developing and improving, I hope!
I find inspiration in …
Nature, the city, emotions, people. I think I feed mainly from natural form, in what I do for a living. But meeting a new person who can inspire me, that can be an incredible catalyst.
I do my best work …
When I have allowed myself the preparation time and space to be inspired before a new project. I surround myself with color, textures, photos, poetry, music, whatever is needed to create the mood. I can only allow myself that confidence and speed on the canvas, if I’m feeling organized mentally. Creating time to be inspired, that’s the challenge!
The best advice I can give is …
When it comes to design, draw every day and push yourself to try something that is hard for you.
Its really important to keep your ‘hand’ in design. With all the new apps, filters and design programs out there it is easy to forget your own individual style. You are one step ahead if you can use technology to your advantage, adding to your own abilities and setting you apart from the crowds. So don’t forget the good old basics!
3 people who inspire me are …
My definition of success Is …
Liking who and what you are during the process is the most important part of the journey to true success. It’s the ability to produce joy and gratitude while accepting possible failures or obstacles and using them to create change and growth while working towards what you hope to accomplish.
3 things I’d like to learn are …
To take more risks!