Ever wondered how an artist collaboration comes together? Emily takes us through the process of selecting an artist, and translating the artwork onto garments, how this influences the capsule and the benefits of working together. The beautiful pictures are from Emily's recent visit with our latest collaboration artist, Elizabeth Barnett. You can view our new collaboration Banksia here.
Can you share with us how you chose an artist to collaborate with? What are the main things you look for?
We are always looking for amazing artists and follow lots of local artists and galleries! The artists’ colour palette is really important, as we use that to create or inspire the palette for the whole collection. We think about how their work will translate to digital printing on fabric – there usually needs to be some strongly defined forms in there – sometimes more subtle tonal works don’t translate so well. And we’re usually looking for something to reflect the season – we create 8 small capsule collections a year from high summer to deep winter, so that feeling needs to sit in the artwork.
Pictured left Emily with Elizabeth Barnett
What do you love most about working with artists and their work?
It has been one of my favourite parts of designing in the last few years! I love working with artists and the new sparks they bring to our collections. It's really been a joy, and I believe the feeling has been mutual – for artists seeing their work in another context, used differently, is really special, I think!
Working with Elizabeth Barnett has been a joy – I met her many years ago (I think back in 2010 or 2011?) when we shot a campaign in her studio in Abbotsford, and I have collected some of her work over the years. She is such a star! We knew her work would be so brilliant on textiles. The colour and shapes work so well. A dream collaboration!
How do Nancybird shoppers connect with these garments?
I think our customers really respond to print and colour – and I know I do too! Falling in love with a print, especially something painted by hand where you can see the maker’s mark, brush strokes and all, is very powerful! I also love that by bringing these artworks onto things we use and wear it becomes more accessible to celebrate every day.
What’s the process of designing a collection with the artwork? How is it translated to clothing and forms the other designs in the collection?
We start with the artwork – from this, we develop the palette for the collection – this informs our knitwear, leather colours and woven checks or plains. Depending on the artwork, we might put it into a repeat pattern or carefully extend the edges so that the size variation of the garment will work without affecting the placement of the artwork. We do print tests on different fabrics – sometimes the artwork needs texture or colour tweaking, and we play with the scale of the artwork. We try not to manipulate the artwork too much however – my favourites are usually the large placement prints that let the artwork shine.
What are the benefits of the artists, and how are they paid for their work?
We have a licensing agreement that we use – sometimes, we use an artist’s existing artwork, where we pay a reproduction fee based on our production numbers, or sometimes we commission a new work, so we pay an artwork fee along with the reproduction fee. We also promote the artist during the collaboration – the artist is celebrated and is front and centre of the collection. We hope this opens the artist up to a new audience – there’s so much incredible talent here!
Can you share any highlights for collaborations to come?
So many good things in the works! We’re working on Autumn Winter 2024 and a new HOME collection. As a little teaser, we’re working with a celebrated local ceramicist in an upcoming collaboration – she’s creating some tiles for us to develop into textiles… I can’t wait to see how that one unfurls!
View our past collaborations here.