Surface Patterns with Make it in design – Summer School

13th October 2023

Seashell and seaweed fabric surface patterns




It has been no secret that I’ve started to experiment with design styles this last year. Challenging myself to learn new design and illustration techniques to further my skill set and improve my work. With the desire to really start developing my own style.

After 20-plus years of graphic design, I’ve always had to be quite the chameleon when it comes to design. Often I work to corporate brand guidelines or have to be flexible in what style I produce so it is in line with the service my clients want to sell.

Now, even though this is an amazing skill set to have, and with years of practice I have developed the ability to read my client’s or couple’s minds to bring to life their vision. It has meant that I am craving the desire to really embrace my own creative style.

I know whilst designing all your beautiful wedding stationery I have developed a love for simple nature-inspired botanical designs. Minimalism with a floral edge, you may say. I also know I have become more and more fascinated by the symbolism of flowers and fauna. Learning how to tell a subtle but romantic story through all my drawings. Whether that is through simple ink and paper or more detailed watercolours.

It’s through this learning I’ve discovered the joy of surface pattern design. This has been something completely new to me and has tested my skill set. I’ve learnt how to create seamless repeat patterns and the art of a trailing pattern, ones that are often seen in the famous William Morris designs of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Ellie and Liv ink and paper, fine line seashell sketches

Back to Summer School with Surface Patterns

So when I saw the opportunity to practice and test out my new skill set with Make It in Design’s Summer School, I jumped at the chance.

Make it in Design, one of the UK’s longest-running online design schools created by surface pattern designer Rachel Taylor and author Beth KemptonBeth Kempton. Earlier in the year I dabbled in a few of their online briefs in my spare time and have taken a few of their courses. But, it was this year’s Summer School that captured my interest and I decided to have a go.

Make It in Design Summer School consists of two live briefs set by the talented Victoria Brawn of trend consultancy Porter and BrawnPorter and Brawn. I decided to take the Beginners Track as a nervous novice in surface pattern design, but I’m so pleased I did as I fell in love with the briefs set instantly, especially as they both encouraged me to be inspired by the sea.

So, as we travelled to North Wales for our family Summer break I made sure I packed my camera, sketch pad and a bucket for collecting treasures for inspiration.

Wooden beach walk in North Wales

Cliff view of Traeth Porth Ceiriad

Summer skies cloud and birds line drawing surface patterns

Make it in Design Summer School Brief No.1 – Summer Skies

This brief for Summer Skies was all about freedom, optimism and escapism. With a colour palette set by Porter and Brawn. I looked to the Welsh coastal skies for inspiration. As we all know this Summer we had many skies filled with clouds, but when we saw those few Sun rays peek through our hearts were filled with joy.

Following my much-loved style of simple line drawing I created minimal cloud patterns with dancing seagulls and sunbeams.

Even though we were only required to submit one master pattern, I could not resist creating a few complementary patterns for this collection.

Things I learnt from Summer Skies

As the surface pattern is relatively new to me and I do adore the subtle pattern I created. But if I was going to produce this pattern again then I think I would thicken the line weight slightly. I’m used to fine lines for delicate wedding stationery and if this was printed on the fabric I would need to my lines to be a little more bolder.


Summer Skies surface pattern moodpboard

Summer skies minimal surface pattern designs. Cloud wallpaper

Beachcomber trailing pattern in soft monotones, seaweed and shell wallpaper

Make it in Design Summer School Brief No.2 – Beachcomber

The Beachcomber brief could not have been more perfect when it landed in my inbox a few days after my return from Wales. Whilst away I had been sketching shells and collecting them in pockets as we took slow walks along the beautiful National Trust coastlines overlooking Cardigan Bay. So I felt I was one step ahead for inspiration on this brief.

This time the brief gave us a more neutral warm monotone palette to work with and a trend that was all about wandering the beach and musing over the environmental impact that is happening to our beaches.

I was itching to try my skills again with a trailing pattern for this brief. Up to now, all my trailing patterns have been florals, but I thought this time what if I used trailing seaweeds instead to create that floral effect? I want to return to my botanical ink and pen style too. I filled my sketchbook with vintage-style botanical sketches of shells and seaweed.

Things I learnt from Beachcomber

What thrilled me the most about the design I created for this brief was that Vic Lem from Make It in Design chose my design as one of her picks to debrief in their live session and you can see it featured on their blog. This absolutely made my day and has really encouraged me to create more designs in this style and maybe create more for this collection.


Beachcomber pattern design for fabric and wall paper

Beachcomber, seaside surface pattern collection

So what next for surface patterns after Make It In Design Summer School?

Even though it was tricky to fit in working on these briefs over an already busy summer it has taught me that is good to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Whether I continue experimenting with Surface Pattern design for interiors and fabric or develop this skill more in wedding stationery or greeting cards, I know that it is good to keep finding inspiration and to learn new skills. After all, as my friend said “Every day is a school day’!

If you are interested in seeing more of my illustrations pop over to my illustrations page

Ellie and Liv Illustrations


I love nothing more than collaborating with couples or local businesses, if you have a project you would like me to work on please drop me a message.

Contact Me