A Good One to Start With

A Good One to Start With

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Making the Invisible Visible

Having recently departed my full-time gig (really needed a major change) I actually have a little free time, in between job hunting efforts. I've been reflecting on the role of designers in commerce, the perceptions of those hiring and the obstacles we all build every day that block the flow. I try to visualize a more efficient way of accomplishing common goals.
Business owners know they need to market their services and products, but they are reluctant to commit enough (often any) money and energy to the process. I can only guess they feel uncertain, not able to pick something off a shelf like a new lawnmower. Most likely they've been burned in the past. Perhaps they aren't convinced design really has monetary value. Maybe they just don't feel adequate to the task of making the relevant decisions outside of their own skill set -- the person, the plan, and the chances of success.

Like I always say, you can't change someone. All you can hope to do is inspire them into action.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Using the Spoonflower goods

Just recently had a panic moment. Good friends coming for dinner, the chair seats on our dining table looked ragged and stained...awful...what to do? Grabbed a yard of fabric of my design that was printed by Spoonflower and cut it in fours and tacked it down. Not bad, eh? Take THAT Martha Stewart!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Me & Robot Art Gallery - A Perfect Match!

I have been working hard these last several weeks to launch my prints in a gallery setting. It's been so exciting. I don't know how these things happen but somehow they always work out... what they want seemed to be work like mine, very graphic-design oriented, and I needed an opportunity like this one to push the work to the next level of exposure and presentation. I'm thrilled!
The opening was last Friday night, April 2nd, and as far as I was concerned, a huge success. So many people came and loved what they saw, several pieces sold, and most of all, I got so much enthusiastic feedback. Really gratifying. It will be up through May.
They do a first-class job at Robot and I couldn't have been happier. Thank you Lara August (owner) and Andrew Watson (graphic designer) for everything. What a wonderful experience!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thank you to all my art patrons! Sold some prints and made a lot of new friends in the process. I really appreciate all the encouragement and ...well, love! On to a new year and more fun with art, photos, antiques, and good friends.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What a thrill!

Five of my designs are hanging in the hallway at the Southwest School of Art and Craft for the holidays, "Art for Giving." I couldn't be more ...flattered?...no, honored. The work there-- in the art galleries and the craft gallery-- is always top notch and beautifully crafted, well displayed. I just love it. "Articopia" is the big holiday sale day, Saturday Dec. 12th. There will be some great finds. If you're in SA check it out.

Saturday, December 12th | 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Gallery Shop , Navarro Campus

Ring in the holiday spirit with creative, unusual gifts for those you love; refreshments and holiday delights are available throughout the day. Special guests artists are invited to join in the merriment.

Free and open to the public.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wall Art

Okay I'm delinquent. Been neglecting you, blog, for other things. Been working on getting my designs into a new format for hanging on the wall. I love the process. Questioning and exploring, playing and experimenting. I've been invited to hang a few in a downtown venue for the holidays, so my task is to choose which ones. Here's a sampling of the formatted pieces to eventually post on Etsy. They are 16 x20 with birch wood frames. My imagined customer? Someone who likes clean modern surroundings, has more taste than money, wants an affordable print that is strictly visual pleasure. Art? Who cares, it's good design.

Friday, July 31, 2009


I don't know what it is about this little shop that I like so much. I think it's because the first time I went in there they had stuff that was distinctly primitive Texas. My favorite antiques are the spare, simple pared down pieces that seem to be authentically Texan-- Depression-era and earlier. Last time not so much, but antiques scouting is never the same twice so that's OK. Still good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Etsy Find of the Day

I can't believe the design effort and talent that goes into buttons. Tiny little works of art. This pendant from Violin1 is such a clever way to recycle old buttons into something wearable. She obviously is sensitive to keeping her vintage items as intact as possible... I can't stand to see old things ruined in the name of crafts! This is just great!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Okay, I finally did it! Here it is:

Still a bit raw but will continue to build. So much fun!


Here's the pattern that was published in a Raleigh News & Observer newspaper article last December, about Spoonflower and its founders Stephen Fraser and Gart Davis (and Kim Fraser's contribution too). I was so flattered– no, honored– to have one of my pattern designs in that article. It kept me dancing around here for weeks, and still makes me very happy. One of the things that impresses me most about the whole Spoonflower concept is the nurturing of a creative community...the spirit of sharing, supporting and encouraging. I've witnessed so much of the opposite and although I have learned to hold my own in that atmosphere, it's not nearly as much fun. Thanks, Stephen.


I've been working on setting up an Etsy shop, (it takes awhile when you have a family and a day job) and realized it would be fun to preview some of the fabric yardage I'll be offering. Here's a sampling of my first line of products... a Spoonflower swatch window. I think Stephen Fraser is brilliant and insightful; he and his partner, Gart Davis and his wife Kim are heroes to me in the world of business– creative, courageous and smart, with a heart. They have inspired me to make another stab at making a business venture out of these bits of color and shape that I love making so much.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I've made a few collages with my patterns. They're a great exercise in composition. I envision them as actual quilts or just graphics on a wall. I set out to take the patterns further than just themselves as a way of seeing them differently and hopefully making them better, but they become a work unto themselves. Time consuming but a lot of fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


We're experiencing record-breaking heat and a 22-month drought here in central and south Texas. It wears us all down, that's for sure. More than a topic for elevator chit-chat, it's a serious problem. I think it makes everyone a little crazy.

I have always practiced trying to find the beauty in everything, but it's pretty difficult to see the beauty in dry, brown grass, wilted trees, burned up flowers, cracked earth. Sometimes just for visual relief I pull up photos of the flood of 2002. Water as far as the eye could see.
Here's a scan of a healthy plant I made last winter. Such rich color. Bound to come again someday, right?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm really proud of the work I did for Blue Avocado. Or I should say, I'm proud of what the Blue Avocado people did with my pattern! They incorporated it in their fabulously clever products that are a well-coordinated, smartly-marketed line of useful items that contribute to a greener world.
Start-up businesses are not easy or automatically successful...just the opposite. They pretty much blew me away when the products came out. Now they're everywhere and all over the press. Congratulations, Blue Avocado gals, you did it! (And, I hear, they're doing it again... can't wait!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Been playing with patterns and type. (It's always more fun to do the first one than the whole alphabet!) Wondering if there's any use for monograms. Maybe stationery? Personalized note cards...or even as stock imagery. Maybe I'll create a set for my Etsy store and see how they do. At any rate, it's fun. I used Illustrator for these. They might be fun to create really big and print out on some material like laminate or glass to mount on a wall. Or apply to a glass wall. Or something... any ideas?

Monday, July 6, 2009

MORE PATTERNS_click to enlarge

This Ekko ad appeared several times in Print magazine... I still love it as an example of patterned imagery used in 3D illustration. Stephen modeled it with 5 of my patterns as a sales tool for 3D people. When we ran put of money, Print graciously offered to run it a couple of time au gratis because they felt like it was a good contribution to the ad pages. That meant so much to us when we were running low on optimism. Thank you gracious people out there, there are so many of you.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


A little background...I created my first digital repeating patterns in 1998. My husband Stephen, a freelance illustrator, had received a software package and bundled with it was Specular Texturescape, a program designed for web designers. It was primarily meant to be used for backgrounds and textures for web...lots of little bubbles and weird 3D effects. Knowing I love repeats, he said, "I think you'd like this one"... I got hooked right away and haven't stopped. To date I've created at least 900 pattern designs. It's a sickness. Really.

In Texturescape, you created a shape-- or used one of their basic shapes-- multiplied it, colored it, manipulated the edges, etc. until you got the tile you liked-- then saved it as a tif or jpeg and tiled it in Photoshop
. You were working in a vector format but it only saved to a raster. However, it could be rendered to a chosen size, it just had to be rendered in Texturescape. I created small, medium and large files of each pattern and we started selling them. First we created a double CD of stock images for graphic designers and others. It was called EKKO Digital Patterns, and we sold them online. So proud of our little online store! Yahoo...

This was 1999 so we really were digital image pioneers. Stephen created some amazing 3D illustrated examples of possible uses to help our customers visualize ways to use them. We did not allow anyone to sell them outright, but did allow usage within other design applicati
ons. In other words, you couldn't just print one out on paper and call it giftwrap, but you were welcome to incorporate it into your own design. We sold quite a few and were feeling pretty good about our little entrepreneurial venture. With Stephen's freelance work, my graphic design commission work, EKKO and 2 small children we were busy.

In the fall of 2000 I met a most rem
arkable person who inspired us to shift our focus-- Elizabeth Smith. She had just moved to Texas for family reasons after 9 years in New York, representing some really good surface designers to the retail and manufacturing industries. She was extremely knowledgeable about the business of licensing art, and full of enthusiasm. We hit it off right away, she launched Contact Representation and we partnered up to sell image rights to my patterns for products and packaging.

I named my business Martha Durke Design, segued the website into the new direction and prepared for Surtex in May. All three of us worked night and day to present the work in the booth-- graphics; portfolios; laptop slideshows; handouts; business cards; all of the collateral that goes with a trade show booth. I won't detail the show but in summary it went well. We left with a few sales, a lot of contacts and a lot of lessons learned. And we had a great time doing it. It wasn't cheap, for a fledgling business, but a good start.

That summer, the summer of 2001, we fielded requests and inquiries from all over the country and even a few international ones. We sent out a lot of sample packets, and Elizabeth was hard at work negotiating prices and arrangements with clients like Crate and Barrel, Burnes of Boston and many others. In August we were interviewed for I.D. magazine...there weren't a lot of designers at that time creating repeats, nor were there many working digitally. At Surtex I was, possibly, the only one...? Not many for sure. (It was a little difficult for clients to understand how to use a tiled digital image, so that was an obstacle...)

September 2001, the first week...I.D.Magazines were mailed out, the opening line of the article about us reading, "If you've been searching for the perfect pattern for your next project, Martha Durke is the answer to your prayers." Phone starts ringing. September 11: phone stops ringing, packages returned. That terrible tragedy. We were sick with grief, of course, and didn't really worry about ourselves or the business. It was a devastating event to everyone and especially those with ties to New York. Elizabeth was shocked and sad, we all were. After a couple of weeks of grieving we started talking about the business. We thought we could put it on hold for a couple of months, maybe six months...who knew how things would settle out? What we didn't realize at the time was that it would never really return to the way it was. So very tragic, so much sadness, so much loss.

The companies we were marketing to were so locked into New York, so centered around the industries headquartered there. When business started picking up again there had been a lot of shifts and changes. Globalization, the internet and a proliferation of imagery all contributed to a very different business climate. People wanted imagery to be free, or very cheap...clients were sticking to the known, not gambling on new. I felt lost. All the things that seemed so straightforward had become so confusing, so discouraging. Time to get a day job and sort it out later. That's what I did. Elizabeth did the same (our kids come first, right?) and we are still good friends. I have learned a lot since then. Graphics, business, design, technology, manufacturing, marketing, new skills, new outlook. It all contributes to an artistic life so I'm okay with it, just curious about the next.

I almost forgot...you're probably wondering about Texturescape. It's no longer published. Specular was bought out by MetaCreations, and they are no longer in business. I have to use Classic 9 to run it. I have dreamed of teaming up with someone to publish the next generation of it for designers like me. It should be a simple program, with the option to save files in a vector format. I have to create vector patterns in Illustrator for clients who insist on that and it's slow going. It's also not a fluid, seamless process. Labor intensive and technically challenging.

I promise not to post so long again...this one was a long time coming. Thanks for reading. Write me.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I've done a lot of image-making, mostly patterns, but more. (I'll be posting the "more" later...for now patterns are first priority!) Most people I show them to see something nostalgic in them; they are reminded of something domestically comforting...their grandmother's bedspread, a favorite shirt, wallpaper in a guest room, a tablecloth on mom's patio table. All associated with home and good times.

It's interesting to me that they are basically abstract art, yet most people can relate...is that because of the repetition of elements? Maybe because we don't hang them in a gallery, they just provide a decorative surface to everyday life objects. Whatever it is, they seem to appeal to many... I have loved them as long as I can remember.

When creating my pattern designs I have challenged myself to pull ideas from the past but make them new and fresh; try to avoid literal imagery; and ignore style at all costs. Style is simply the result of visual choices, not an end unto itself.

I do want your feedback... lemme know what you think.


Design is the process of making the complex simple. Hopefully that happens in the work I will be posting here...I'm all about getting down to the fun part. Working hard at playing!