Creator Spotlight with Surface Pattern Designer Ewa Brzozowska

This week we’d like to introduce you to surface pattern designer and illustrator Ewa Brzozowska. You can follow Ewa on Instagram and also browse her Etsy shop.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

You know, becoming a creator was kind of a natural path for me. As a kid, I was always doodling and doing all sorts of crafty stuff. It was just in my bones. But when I finished school, I wasn’t sure if I could make a living out of it, so I decided to study Information Technology with a focus on Computer Graphics. That turned out to be surprisingly helpful because I learned a ton about programming and different aspects of graphic design and animation. I even started a creative agency at one point, but something was missing. Designing websites and logos had its restrictions, and I craved more artistic freedom. Then, the real inspiration hit when my oldest son was born. He reignited my love for drawing, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a children’s pattern designer.

What do I enjoy most about the creative process? I love the uncertainty! It’s like this exciting journey where you start with an idea in your head, but you never know where it’ll take you. The best part is surprising yourself along the way, like when a random brushstroke ends up being a game-changer. It’s all about trying new things and growing artistically and personally. The freedom to express myself through my designs is just priceless. Gosh, I love it so much!

Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

According to the Gallup Test, my top talents are Achiever and Activator, and that’s spot-on for me. When I get an idea, I’m like, “Let’s do this now!” I’m super curious to see how it turns out, and I’ll even pull an all-nighter to bring it to life.

My creative process kind of depends on whether I’m working on my own vision or for a client. Both have their charms—working with clients brings in fresh perspectives and challenges. Working for myself gives the beauty of freedom. But either way, the core of the process remains the same. It all starts with a brief, either from myself or the client. From there, I make some sketches to present the general idea. Once that gets the green light, I dive into creating the pattern design. Usually, it goes pretty smoothly and takes around 1-2 weeks. My clients often tell me I’m like a mind-reader because they rarely have any suggestions, and man, that trust is priceless!

I am very enterprising, it’s so satisfying to make money doing what you love, but not everything I produce makes money. At least that’s not always my goal. Sometimes the projects I do just for fun end up being the real gems, and they get sold later on. It’s all about finding that creative balance, you know? I’ve had a few burnouts in the past when I focused too much on clients and forgot to take time for myself. But creating just for me from time to time reignites that creative spark! It’s a vital rule to live by. One of my favorite things to do is to take part in those “Draw This in Your Style” challenges on Instagram. They’re so inspiring and refreshing, and it keeps the fire burning.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

Being a freelance Surface Pattern Designer is still a pretty fresh career path, and there are some misconceptions floating around that can be a bit frustrating. One of the biggest ones is that people don’t really understand how it’s possible to draw and actually make a living out of it. I remember an incident from when I was just starting out. I was exhibiting at an International Textile Fair in 2016, and this guy, about 50-years old, a fabric wholesaler or something, came up to my stand. He glanced at my designs and said, “Nice drawings, but they won’t sell. People only buy stripes and chevrons, trust me.” Well, I thought, “Challenge accepted!” And that fair ended up being a catalyst for my success, proving that there’s a market for unique patterns.

But even today, I come across various misconceptions about this line of work. Some people think it’s a cakewalk. You know, “If you can draw, you’re good to go!” But it’s not that simple because you have to create designs that sell, follow trends while staying true to your originality. It’s a delicate balance, but that’s what makes it intriguing.

On the flip side, there are people who believe it’s too hard. They think everything has already been drawn, and there’s no room for fresh ideas. But hey, everything changes, and inspiration is all around us. Even a common theme like a fox can be drawn in a million different ways. It’s all about your unique touch that sets you apart.

And then there are those who underestimate this business, thinking, “What’s so hard about drawing?” But the truth is, drawing is just one part of it. As a freelance designer, you wear multiple hats—marketing, copywriting, social media management, research, finances, brainstorming—you name it! But you know what? I kinda dig it. As an introvert, I enjoy taking charge of everything myself.

Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?

Yes, I’ve had some copyright infringement experiences, and I must admit, it was tough to handle at first. But over time, I’ve grown a thicker skin.

The part that really gets to me is when someone swipes my art and prints it in the most horrendous quality, just to sell it on platforms like Aliexpress. Ugh, that’s a real bummer.

When it comes to fellow artists who get a little too inspired by my work (let’s remember the difference between inspiration and copying, right?), I usually try to address it in a friendly way. I’ll write to them via DMs and have a chat, and see if they recognize the issue. Surprisingly, some of these conversations turn out quite nice, and they promise not to do it again. However, there are others who go radio silent and just delete the copied designs from their feed.

Things get a bit more serious when fabric stores steal my patterns, especially when my clients have purchased them. In those cases, I don’t shy away from writing to them, and if they’re based in Poland, I prepare some legal documents to put an end to the copyright infringement. Thankfully, this approach often works. Honestly, I’m not a fan of taking legal action and going to court over these matters—I’d rather spend my time creating new designs and evolving my style. But I’ve had to go down that road a couple of times when necessary, and let me tell you, I can handle it if needed! But here’s the thing—I didn’t dive into the creative world to fight battles with everyone who acts unfairly. I’d much rather focus on crafting fresh designs and staying ahead of the copycats. My priority is to keep pushing my creative boundaries and leaving the copiers behind.

What is the best piece of advice you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?

First and foremost, remember that this is not just a playground of creativity; it’s also a business. Sure, we get to enjoy friendly clients and the joy of making something new, but we all need to sell our products and make some money too. Sometimes it can be a bit competitive and not entirely fair. However, here’s the key: don’t let the fear of art theft stifle your creative spirit! True creativity flourishes when you feel free, joyful, and excited about crafting something new. It’s not born out of fear and hiding. So, let’s be courageous.

Sure, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Don’t share your designs in high resolution online, sign agreements, issue certificates of authenticity, and register your works through the U.S. Copyright office. These measures can go a long way. But you won’t thrive if you’re hidden behind a wall of fear. Embrace the magic of creativity, protect yourself wisely, and let your art shine!

What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?

My biggest copyright-related challenge has been the rapid growth of my business. I started as a young mom, creating patterns for local Polish fabric stores. But as my talent and designs gained popularity, I soon found myself working with companies from all over the world. It’s been quite a journey!

Now, with international exposure comes a whole lot of complexity when it comes to copyright and tracking down every copied design. So, instead of being consumed by worry and endlessly chasing copycats, I’ve chosen to focus on building a strong brand. I believe in setting an example for my clients and partners, showing them the importance of respecting copyright and valuing the licensing of my designs. It’s all about fostering a culture of appreciation and pride in the work I do.

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