Monday, June 18, 2012

Surtex Designext Award-Winning Artist Kirby Lee Smith

Surtex is an amazing place where you find talents and see so much beautiful artwork all together. As mentioned in my earlier editorial, there were also four student finalists of the annual Surtex-sponsored student design competition called Designext. It's my pleasure to introduce you to the winner, the very talented artist Kirby Smith. The day before Kirby won the award, I stopped by her booth and asked her about her art as I was drawn to it by the unique yet beautiful colors she used in her designs.

Artist Kirby Smith
The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? I recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Fibers. I have always been involved in some kind f art program since I was in high school and have a love for drawing. When I started school at SCAD I had become more interested in the textile industry and creating surface designs for fabric. I love working with watercolor and sketching my designs on paper first and then scanning them into the computer to be placed into a finished design. For me hand drawing is always the root of my designs.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? For me I love to see how the designs will be used in the end, seeing a print transformed onto a fabric or a product is always exciting. I also love to play with color and the way colors interact.

TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? I grew up on a family farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I was always encouraged to explore and go outdoors. I feel this has influenced me the most. My colors are very warm and natural like the colors I was surrounded with on the farm and I try to always leave an evidence of myself as the artist in my prints, such as a sketched line or hand drawn elements. I also look to artists for inspiration; some of my favorites are Katie Daisy, Lulie Wallace, and Luli Sanchez.

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on? Now that I've graduated from SCAD and have some more free time, I am planning on working on some pieces I've wanted to try for a while. I recently began creating these fabric collages that I use scrap fabrics and free motion embroidery to create - there is an example on my website. I would love to do more of those as well as continue to do more illustrative work.

© Kirby Smith

TMFMA: Tell us of your recent experience at the Surtex competition. Surtex was an amazing experience and unlike anything I had ever taken part in. I was overwhelmed by the scale of the show as well as the many different attendees from every niche of the design world. I spoke to manufacturers, designers, trend forecasting agencies, and a variety of other companies from around the world. I had no idea of all of the many ways to license and sell my work before coming to Surtex, but leaving the show I felt that I gained so much understanding of the industry and made so many contacts to help me out down the road. I also got great feedback on my portfolio work and to have my work reviewed by professionals in the industry was a great opportunity in itself. This experience helped me grow professionally and has been a great way to launch my career as a designer.

© Kirby Smith

TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share to other students and emerging artists in this field? I think it is important to stay true to your own aesthetic as a designer and beware of following trends or what other designers are doing. Today's technology has made it so easy to share ideas and to see what everyone else is doing and it has caused many people to reproduce the same thing over and over. At Surtex a lot of people told me how much they enjoyed seeing something totally different. I think it is important to look for inspiration from other sources such as books or observation rather than finding images on the internet. The outcome is always much more unique.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I have been offered a position as a Pattern Designer for Target Inc. where I will start this fall. I hope to continue my career in the surface design field and hopefully one day have my own line of designs.

Kirby Smith's website:

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