Brooklyn-based designer, artist and pattern-obsessive Rebecca Atwood is celebrated for her stunning marbleized creations. We chatted with this red-hot textile designer on where she draws her inspiration from, her tips on starting your own textile biz, and her favorite pieces on Chairish embodying the spirit of pattern play.
You make wallpaper, textiles, pillows and throws. Do you have a favorite?
I love it all—I constantly want to be working on new techniques, materials, and products. It’s often about reining in the ideas as you can’t do it all at once. Right now, I am particularly obsessed with woven fabrics as we’ll be introducing more this year. It has been so fun visiting the mill, looking at the yarns, textures, and creating a pattern from a structure.
Living in New York, what do you find most inspiring about the city, and how do you incorporate that inspiration in your work?
I find it everywhere! I find inspiration in the daily moments of how we live and thinking about how my customers live. I also find it in my daily life walking around the city, the shadows on the sidewalk, a beautiful blush color against a rusted metal, or a woman’s floral dress reflected in a glass building. New York inspires me with the constant odd intersections of colors, styles, and people. The design community here inspires me – people doing what they love.
Are there other places you find inspiration?
I also draw a lot from my childhood growing up on Cape Cod as well. The shifting light and calm coastal palette, as well as the natural textures. Most of my designs aren’t inspired by one specific thing.
I stay inspired by allowing myself time to recuperate and stay fresh. It’s so important to allow time to relax as otherwise you just can’t be inspired in the same way. I also make time to just play and experiment in my sketchbook without pressure. That’s when my best ideas come out.
What is your process for designing your textiles?
My design process is a bit different for each pattern, but all my designs start with a hands-on process. Painting, drawing, and experimenting are the foundation of my process. It might be directly painting on the fabric, folding and dyeing it – or working in my sketchbook. I work with gouache, watercolors, ink, fabric, dye, cut paper, and various mediums that excite me at a particular moment in time. I focus first on creating an interesting concept and then how to translate it into fabric. It may be digitally printed, screen printed, woven, hand painted or dyed. Then I work on creating a mood board for a collection – I’m pulling together a color palette, pinning up inspiration images of rooms and environments, and mixing in my artwork. I love this stage of developing the bigger picture.
I love working with my hands and finding ways to express my ideas – from the fleeting thoughts on color and shape to longer held interests. Livable pattern and calm environments are at the center of it all. I like to think about what I’d actually use in my home — how we live and what we want to be surrounded by.
Apart from your renowned work as a textile designer, you’re also an interior designer who uses vintage really well. How do you incorporate vintage into your spaces?
Vintage pieces have stories to them. Even when you don’t know their history I still feel it adds something to your home. I grew up surrounded by antiques so I think that’s where my love for them comes from. I also believe in quality over quantity and buying pieces that will last. Often the quality on vintage items is better than what’s available in stores today.
Suggestion for other textile artist who may want to get started?
Work experience is so important. You can learn so much on the job—even if it’s not your dream job. Knowing the rules of the industry and how it works is essential to starting your own line, as is a bit of courage and naivety since you can never know it all before you take the leap. Ask lots of questions, read books on the topic, and focus on your vision.
What is your golden design rule?
Trust your gut. Ultimately, your home should reflect your personal story and taste so if you love something you can find a way to make it work. This is really at the heart of my book, Living with Pattern.
What’s a design rule you love to break?
Matching colors. I like tonal variation and I think it’s more interesting when things aren’t a perfect match.
Love Rebecca Atwood’s style? Shop her dreamy pastel Chairish collection to get the look.
Photography by Emily Johnston, Ren Fuller and Lydia Hudgens.