On the Surface


The bandwagon is rolling!  Heading out to New York City and the Javits Convention Center, artists and designers and agents and buyers are converging on the Greatest B2B Show in the surface design industry.  SURTEX opens on Sunday and among the hundreds of exhibitors waiting to see you are:

Kathy Davis, Kathy Davis Studios, Horsham, PA — Led by one of  America’s top social expression designers, the Kathy Davis lifestyle brand touches over 90 million consumers each year through products across the home, fashion, gift, stationery and social expression markets.

What began more than 25 years ago with a handful of greeting cards is becoming what Kathy calls “A way of life,” evolved from her core belief that everyone has the right to create a life they love.  With its signature expressive painting and inspiring messages,  Kathy says,  the Studios “are committed to creating meaningful products, fostering connection and above all, honoring our passion to ‘Make Life a Work of Art.’”




Micaela Zahner, Micaela Zahner Design,  Brooklyn — Launched just months ago, it’s no surprise that Micaela Zahner’s design firm is all about textiles.  She holds a BFA from FIT in Textile and Surface Design and worked for fashion companies for the previous seven years.
“I reached a point where I had enough understanding of the textile design industry to launch my own venture,” Micaela reports.  She also invited friends and former co-workers and classmates to contribute original prints and now represents 25+ textile designers.  Clients already include such majors as Victoria’s Secret PINK, Macy’s, and Eddie Bauer, Micaela reports.

Working from super-trendy Brooklyn, does she follow trends?

“My environment absolutely influences my work. I love living in Brooklyn and experiencing its design culture, beauty, and grit.”

Favorite inspirations? “The geometric patterns and distressed textures on industrial materials – concrete, metal, bricks, tiles, and wood… the dotted yellow strips edging the train platform, worn-in and imperfect… the shadows metal grates make… reflections in puddles…the tiles on the walls of subway stations…workout and yoga leggings with crazy fun prints… bright neon pop in more neutral surroundings — “I’ve been seeing this a lot lately in restaurant and cafe deco.

“Conversely, I grew up in Vermont surrounded by trees and flowers! I’m just as inspired by nature, incredible evening lighting in the summer, the rich gradients of fall foliage, geometric patterns on leaves and insect wings, and bright, colorful gardens!”


Clare Dean, Clare Dean Illustration, Somerville, MA —  A UK-born artist, illustrator, and surface designer working out of her New England home, Clare sells and licenses original surface designs and illustrations to a variety of companies, including Calypso Cards and Yoga Democracy.



She owes her flourishing career to Motherhood, Clare relates.  “I took a decade’s hiatus from art (while designing jewelry and making gourmet chocolates) and resumed drawing when too pregnant to do anything else. It soon became my passion (and is) gradually taking over my career in publishing.”

Does she depend on trends?  “While I am not inspired by trends, paying attention to them does inform my decisions about which ideas to pursue, and in which directions to take collections,” Clare affirms.  She’s particularly influenced by color forecasting, Clare says, but always maintains her signature style: detailed silhouetted motifs with a limited color palette, exploring a wide variety of themes.  To wit, recent collections touched on royalty, safari, curiosities, 1960’s vintage objects, and fish.”

Sarah Steele, Granger, Historical Picture Archive, Brooklyn — When Erika and William Glover founded their historical picture library in 1964, it was not difficult to find a suitable name to grace what for 50 years was known as The Granger Collection.  The Rev. James Granger, an avid print collector in 18th-century England, had published his “Biographical History of England” in 1769, a book notable for including blank pages.  Readers were free to add other illustrations, supposedly from their private collections.   Such “grangerized” books remained popular with the leisured throughout the 19th century.



Today known simply as Granger – Historical Picture Archive, the collection is a rich source of  images, ranging from prehistoric times through the recent past — millions of engravings, photographs, lithographs, and other forms of illustration.

“We also represent the collections of a number of institutions and photographers,” said Sarah Steele, Deputy Director.  A generous helping of the Archive’s holdings will be showcased at SURTEX for the first time.

Caleb Gray, Caleb Gray Studio, Tampa, FL — Already a lifetime old when it launched in 2008, the Studio actually started when Caleb Gray was a kid, he says, “captivated by storybook pictures.”  Armed with a degree in fine art, trained with the Disney animation studio in NY City, and seasoned at C.R. Gibson, Caleb now creates what he calls “uniquely modern art with a fun, retro vibe” for products that range from wall decals and kid’s lunch boxes to gift wrap, cards, tags, and tableware.



Among several new collections Caleb will roll out at SURTEX are the sunny Beachy Keen collection, the Let Me Entertain You collection of playful TVs, stereos, and video gaming, and the tasty Season’s Eatings collection of holiday treats.

All this, yet Caleb says he still gets a kick out of creating. “It’s so fun taking the humor, style, and creativity I love and translating it into artwork that can entertain others.  You never really outgrow the fun that imagination brings!”

John Price, Fortier Price, Paris — A design archive that offers deep resources for design professionals, Fortier Price has been focusing on textile design since l993, inspiring brands in apparel, accessories, home textiles and decor, packaging and stationery.



As co-founder John Price puts it, “We think of our work like being textile DJ’s: we create original, new mixes and themes from two centuries of French textile design history.”  Also part of the Fortier Price vision: extensive travel, years of hands-on design and development experience in artisanal dyeing, printing, weaving, and embroidery.

Fortier Price offers 10 collections every year, curated “with a creative vision and an eye for color, graphic rhythm, and visual rhyme,” culminating in designs in all styles, formats, and materials, John says.

What’s new for SURTEX 2015?  Myriad florals, graphic abstracts and stripes, unique dot designs, and modern tribal and ethnic motifs.  Which explains the founders’ plan to spend their free time in New York “seeing the latest on offer in design and fashion boutiques and visiting such exhibitions as the Jacob Lawrence at MoMA and, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sultans of the Deccan and The Plains Indians; Artists of Earth and Sky.”

Dana Magnuson, Jelly Box Design, LLC, Hoboken, NJ —  To hear her tell it now, Dana Magnuson was preordained to become an artist, right from her kindergarten days, lying on the library room rug, aspiring to live in New York City and go to Parsons to become an illustrator.



“Disturbingly specific aspirations for that age,” she says now.  But that’s exactly what happened.  So it’s no wonder she went on to start her own company after putting in eight years elsewhere as a designer and product developer.  Founded in 2010, Jelly Box Design now has eight highly individual designers and a variety of customers using their art for both children’s and adults’ apparel, fabric, swimwear, home decor, and stationery.

Jelly Box has also been voted “Best Studio Ever!” Dana glows.  Then confesses: “By my parents…not sure if that counts….”

Donna Skupien, Bridgewater + Moss Design, Frisco, CO —  Company founder and surface design veteran Donna ran her experienced eye over the business and came up cheerful. “From my perspective, the surface design industry continues to recover,” she
reports.  “Our sales are strong…we continue to reach new markets.”



And she continues to find new sources of inspiration  — “from the sometimes strange to the very ordinary” — to drive the company’s designs.  Among them, she points to global influences “interpreted with a more modern twist,” and textures, including not only geometrics but also florals and other organic shapes “as a base.”

Look for what she calls a “good representation of categories — including global influences — in the Bridgewater + Moss booth.  “We usually bring more than 2,500 prints to the show every year,” she said.  Such variety is necessary, Donna says, because SURTEX attracts such a variety of customers related to the Stationery Show, as well as home buyers at Atelier.

Maria Bogode, Wundergarden, Murrhardt, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany — Making its debut at SURTEX, Wundergarden is a boutique illustration agency founded a scant year ago, comprising a group of artists whose backgrounds lie in publishing and animation.



That includes the founder herself, Maria Bogode, who looks forward to diving into new markets, she says, after spending almost six month getting ready for SURTEX.  It’s been a “very productive and enjoyable journey,” Maria reports.  “My artists and I worked until the wee hours on our designs for SURTEX and we are excited to show them to manufacturers.”

She promises “fresh and exciting” work from this new venture: “The designs are spot-on and tell of the passion we have for what we do,” Maria says.