How a print becomes a dress

An artist talks about collaborating with fashion designers and how growing up in Mexico shaped her color palette

Published September 12, 2011 1:01AM (EDT)

The artist Paulina Reyes has completed a series of striking prints that have been interpreted by the designers Whitney Pozgay for her winter and spring collections and Harvey Faircloth for its spring collection.

Reyes' work contains a playfulness that allows her designs to achieve an intimacy with her audience that helps transcend the object. George Bellows once said, "The artist is the person who makes life more interesting or beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or probably, in the best sense, more wonderful." I think Reyes' designs do just that, they take packaging designs or graphic solutions and make the world around them a bit more interesting and beautiful.

I met with Paulina and asked her about her creative process.

Can you describe the process of working with a fashion designer versus working on beauty packaging? Do you think there is more or less creative freedom involved?

The packaging projects I've worked on have been intended for very large audiences, so there are a lot of limitations that have to be kept in mind, such as dimension, the projection on shelf, the cost of goods, making the design resonate with the target market, etc. I enjoy these large-scale projects, as I get to work with a lot of people with different points of views and it's always exciting to see how far you can push a brand. You also tend to have larger budgets to work with and the opportunity to tool new components in different materials. I like working on large-scale projects where one vision can be translated to different elements, from the shape of a perfume bottle to the shape of the outer packaging, the graphic design, and in some cases illustration as well as advertising.

The textile design projects I've worked on tend to be smaller in nature, so they feel more like intimate collaborations. I have been lucky to get to work with close friends whose work I really admire and who in turn are familiar with my personal work. The process is very intuitive and collaborative, and the restrictions are usually just the inspiration/ideas they have for the season.

Ideally I like mixing up the types of projects I work on, as they are satisfying in different ways.

(See designer Rose Apodaca discussing working on her own and the exchange that comes from discussing the process with others here.)

Are you provided with inspiration imagery for the season's collection, then left to interpret the designer's direction into a print?

I always like to get as much material as possible before starting any project. I will invite the designer to my studio to chat, look at my work, and to bring any inspiration they might have for the season. It can be swipe[d] (the inspiration images of Hans Silvester also lends itself to the work of tattoo artist Tomas Tomas) -- color swatches as well as other prints and shapes they are developing. I like to make sure the print I work on will relate to the collection at large as well as contrast with the other pieces.

I will then paint a few (or a lot) of options and send them over to get feedback. I treat all my sketches as final art as I'm working on them and cleaning up the files (I like artwork that feels loose and raw, but at the same time carefully executed). Most of the time we'll go through various rounds before we hit a spot that we are all happy with. The process is a discovery. You can have something in mind that will not be as great when you execute it, so it's important for me to treat my work as an open dialogue. Not to be so certain where the conversation will go.

When creating artwork that will eventually become a dress or a blouse, is the process different for you? Are there technical considerations that come into play with textiles?

My prints tend to be used for different pieces. I initially get the intended use from the designer and go from there, but in general I try to stay loose. As far as technical considerations, I have conversations about whether the designer is looking for a very flat execution (like WHIT's spring prints) or a more painterly one like the print I did for Harvey Faircloth. The way I would execute them is fairly different, so it helps me to get started. Sometimes I will plan for a print to be in color and in the process realize it looks better in black and white. I am very open to this type of accident.

I really loved the banner illustration you did for the AIGA outdoor exhibition in Times Square. It had such a positive energy about it, do you think growing up in Mexico affects how you see design?

I think growing up in Mexico has definitely prevented me from having any fear of color and instead develop quite a passionate love for it. I also think my love for craft has a lot to do with being from a culture with such a rich artisanal background, with multiple crafts (textiles, ceramics, jewelry, weaving, etc.) executed with exceptional techniques and designed with true intuition.

Credits for the above images, from top to bottom:

1. AIGA Urban Forest banner. 2. Sketch for WHIT print, Spring 2011. 3. Final WHIT print, Spring 2011. 4. Inspiration for WHIT print, Spring 2011. 5. Inspiration for WHIT print, Spring 2011. 6. Harvey Faircloth Spring 2010 original print. 7. Harvey Faircloth Spring 2010 print. 8. Harvey Faircloth Spring 2010 print. 9. Sketch for WHIT print, Spring 2011. 10. WHIT print, Spring 2011. 11. Sketch for WHIT print, Winter 2010. 12. WHIT print, Winter 2010.

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

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By Matt Singer

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