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Meet February's Featured Designer, Anjana Simpson

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a surface designer. 

Surface design was not my first career. Or even my second! Post-university I worked as a research scientist and then as a freelance grant writer. Although I wanted to explore going to art school as a high school student, I knew my parents would not support it. Creative pursuits were to be strictly in the realm of hobbies and free time. From a young age I sewed, knitted, made jewelry and loved taking classes at our local art museum and I even snuck in some art classes at university.

Surprisingly, these careers were good preparation for being a surface designer; both taught me the beauty of small parts working together to create something larger. And, especially in the world of science, I had some highly creative co-workers who were inspiring musicians, fine artists, cartoonists and quilters. 

In 2015, after a shoulder surgery with a difficult recovery, I had a lot of down time. My surgeon and physical therapist suggested I try doing small movement things with my hands, like drawing. I turned to an old love of calligraphy and lettering. I fell into that rabbit hole hard and fast. Once I started to have some commissioned work and did some local craft type shows, I wanted to learn how to vectorize my work. I went to Skillshare to find a class. Did you know if you put “how to vectorize artwork” into the search engine on Skillshare, a lot of surface design classes pop up?

I knew nothing about surface design but once I took that first Skillshare class, I was hooked. This was the career I never knew I wanted! 

What influences your art the most?

I find inspiration everywhere. Gardens, bookstores and museums are my favorite haunts wherever I am. I also find folk art and textiles to be rich sources of inspiration. Sometimes, it’s an idea that pops into my head in that twilight just before I fall asleep.

What mediums do you use to create your art?

I am a dedicated digital artist. My sister showed me Procreate and I was immediately hooked. I had to get an iPad and Apple pencil of my own. I was thrilled to have less paper in my life. And then when Adobe Fresco and Illustrator for iPad came around, I was set! I love the portability of my iPad. I can create anywhere at any time. 

You recently created a fabric collection for Phoebe Fabrics. Tell us how that collaboration came about.

When Phoebe Fabrics put out their call for artists, I was intrigued and followed them on social media. Ultimately, I decided to watch and see what happened. Phoebe Fabrics reached out to me and asked to see more work. They liked one piece in particular and asked if I would be interested in making a full collection. That became my debut collection for them, Northern Quartz. I have another collection, Something to Crow About, coming out in the spring of 2024. 

Do you work with a licensing agent or do you approach companies on your own?

I approach companies on my own. I took Shannon McNab’s “Pitch Your Portfolio” course early on and that class was a timely investment in learning how to pitch effectively. I recommend it to anyone who wants succinct and actionable information on pitching. It gave me the confidence to send that first pitch email. I now have a monthly pitching schedule and I stick to it. I would be happy to work with a licensing agent but for now, it’s me.

Do you sell any of your own products with your artwork, retail or on POD sites?

Not anymore. I used to sell on Society 6. Truthfully, I didn’t devote the necessary time to hype my work on there. I had a few sales. But not enough to sustain me. 

You had the opportunity to design for Magnetic Me. Tell us about their company and your collaboration with them.

To date, this has been my favorite collaboration! Magnetic Me makes baby and children’s clothing. They are known for their patented magnetic closures on their baby clothing (replacing the snaps which are the bane of all midnight diaper changes). This simple solution makes their clothing more accessible to all kinds of caregivers. And their magnetic closures are especially NICU friendly. They also have a large selection of preemie clothing and support NICUs in their corporate giving. 

I am a NICU graduate as well as the proud aunt of a NICU graduate. In my own family, when we adopted our youngest daughter, she was tiny enough for preemie clothing. I could not easily find preemie clothing for her. Oh how I wish Magnetic Me had existed then! 

I could not have dreamed up a better company. They were wonderful to work with and I look forward to more collaborations with them. 

What's next for you in your artistic endeavors? Are there any other companies or designers you would like to collaborate with? 

Designing prints for baby and children’s clothing is my happy place. I’m working on more collaborations with those types of companies. I’m perpetually designing the artwork I wish had been around when my daughters were babies. I’d like to expand my focus to include children’s bedding. I’ve been pitching to a few companies but need to search out more! 

I have been working on getting back to lettering and that design list is long! Once, I have some pieces to share, I plan to start pitching those pieces with accompanying patterns in the coming year. I’d love to see that work on greeting cards, stationary/journals or even holiday home decor. It’s definitely a pitch list I need to work on.

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