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Review: The Spoonflower Handbook
It was back in August of 2008 that I first interviewed Stephen Fraser about his new company, a custom fabric-printing service called Spoonflower. From that day to the release of The Spoonflower Handbook, I've watched the company take an amazing journey, growing into a tremendous creative resource and community. It's been so exciting to witness, and now it's super exciting be able to review this book!
I really applaud the publisher, Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, for putting a book like this out. It could be seen as somewhat risky; a manual for using a specific website to make your own fabrics, wallpaper, and gift wrap. But there's so much in this book that's evergreen, and anyone interested in being a surface designer will learn a ton along the way. Really, you could even use it with printing services other than Spoonflower if you wanted to. The only prerequisite is that you're reasonably computer-literate.
The book contains over 30 projects, but first, there's a useful first chapter that covers:
- The various surfaces Spoonflower prints on: quite a few different fabrics, self-adhesive wallpaper, and continuous-roll gift wrap. What kinds of projects are good for each, and where to look for inspirations.
- The process of turning a design into a digital file, including the various kinds of image and file types you can create, and how to work with the resolution of your original image to create various effects.
- Using Spoonflower's Color Guide and Color Map to get specific colors in your digital designs, converting a design into multiple colorways, and how to use color in patterns in general.
- Understanding various kinds of repeats in surface design, making a seamless repeat, and taking negative space into account in your repeats.
...And while all that may sound a bit technical, let me assure you that a lot of effort has gone into writing about these subjects in the clearest, friendliest, and easiest-to-understand way. You don't need to be a technical genius at all.
...So, let's move on to the project collection. These are learning projects, designed to guide you through a bunch of different ways to design your own fabric/paper/wallpaper. Things start simply, with this luggage tag that's made by placing some found objects on a scanner and turning that into a digital file to print on some cotton fabric.
Another great example: this lampshade, which was made by placing paint chips on a scanner and then printing the resulting digital file to wallpaper. Nice, right?
This is a good moment to mention that all these projects were created by members of Spoonflower's community of designers, and sprinkled throughout the book you'll find all sorts of hints, tips, and inspirations from them.
There's a series of projects using photographs as the basis for designs, as in this fabric wall panel. And in each case, you get detailed instructions on how to choose and handle your photo, and then instructions on how to make the project. Photos are used beautifully here in projects as diverse as scarves, pillows, softies, and dish towels.
It's worth mentioning that the craft instructions themselves are text-based, with very few diagrams. The projects are all simple enough in construction that this shouldn't be a problem for anyone who can sew a straight seam.
From there, we get into a section on converting your own drawings, paintings, and prints into designs. There's a primer on Spoonflower's tools for cleaning up and altering a drawing. The projects in this section include napkins, a necktie, a baby quilt, a shower curtain, and this awesome wallpaper that I would absolutely love to color on.
Next, there's a section on designing with text, words, and labels, which is intriguing not only for the possibilities of printing words and sayings on surfaces, but also for using type as a design element, as in this gift wrap.
The thing that makes this book hugely inspiring isn't so much any individual project, although they're all beautiful. To me, it's more about the cross-pollination that happens as you flip through. You could take the found-object design concept from the luggage tag project, for example, and use it to make a custom laptop sleeve. You could use your own photographs to make light switch plate covers. I will never have time for all the projects this book has sparked in my brain!
If you know any aspiring designers, or creative people looking for some new ways to create, be sure and check out this book! Or if that's you, get yourself a copy.
Disclosures: the publisher sent me a review copy, and I'm an unabashed Spoonflower fan. :-)