by Lynne Myers
“It's never a good time to take a chance. You just have to do it.”
~ Lillian Farag
Inspired by the world around her, in particular nature, Lillian Farag’s work realizes a joyous expressiveness. From swirling marbles to abstract floral forms, the New York based artist has left her mark on a number of patterns and products. Enjoying collaborations with various companies, you can find Farag’s distinctive style on charming coin purses, gorgeous tableware and linens, and even a range of vibrant wallpaper.
DLISH recently caught up with Farag to discuss the art of creating, the positive side of COVID-19, and the importance of taking risks to pursue your passion.
Lynne Myers: Where do you find inspiration for your ideas? Is there a process or is it very spontaneous?
Lillian Farag: I get asked this question a lot and it comes from many different things. I look to nature, I do a lot of florals, and much of my work is botanical inspired, whether it's abstract or not, just the colors and nature. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of work with shapes and more graphic things. I always start by either hand painting or hand cutting shapes, or collage, and then transferring it digitally for my pattern work. I think it comes mostly from nature and then just a lot of things in daily life, such as fashion, a silhouette, a flower on my walk or the botanical gardens in New York. Then I sit down and create some handmade pieces for a mood board and pull ideas from there for some of my digital work.
I hate to say that I'm also inspired by social media. There are so many different artists and techniques out there. I’ll be scrolling on my Instagram and see a technique that I'll be so inspired by that I want to attempt my own version of it. I'm constantly being moved by other people's artwork.
LM: What are you saying through your art?
LF: What I would love for people to take away is the fact that my work is so loose and free. It’s not to be taken too seriously or give people the impression that they could never achieve something like that. It’s just the form of expressing yourself. It's a form of meditation and just putting pen or paintbrush to paper. I hope that people would feel a little bit inspired by the color and the movement on the page and the expressiveness of it.
Image by Lillian Farag
LM: Is art like therapy for you?
LF: I think so yes, especially in the last couple of years when I first leased my studio. As a working artist, you don't always get the opportunity to have a studio and so it was something that I felt I needed to earn. The more I worked there I felt how much of a privilege it was for me to be able to go to a space where I could freely create for the sake of creating and be with myself and my thoughts. With that in mind, I felt myself becoming more productive because I had this space to just mix color and not look at the dishes next to me. Or feel like I had to answer emails right away - to just have the space to meditate on one thing, painting some paper, cutting it out, scanning it. I can set a goal and focus on it and go to another place in my mind and relax.
LM: Who do you enjoy collaborating with?
LF: I love collaborating with any partnership that offers a new experience for me. I think that's the most exciting when someone approaches me with an idea that I would never have been able to figure out how to make myself. For example, with &k amsterdam, the brand came to me with the idea of tableware. That's something I had never really dreamed too much of making. Any partnership that I can also learn from is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. When they give me an idea of how their products are made and I can put forth my expertise on how I would do it. Then the back and forth of the learning process is really exciting to me.
LM: Was it challenging for you working with tableware? Did you enjoy the experience?
LF: It wasn't too challenging. If you understand the basics of how things are printed, and now that we have digital printing versus screen printing, it’s basically always similar. What was different with this was just the materials. The hard surface was different than typical fabric printing because it didn't require a repeat. It was just like a one-time artwork that gets laminated onto these pieces versus yardage and yardage. In that specific project that was a little different for me but everything else pretty much stays the same. I design a piece of artwork and we decide on a scale together. Working as a team, they typically give me their mood board or their season colors for their collection. Then I work around that and we come to an agreement when they feel it's in a good place to be produced.
LM: Would you do tableware again?
LF: Yes, I would love to work in that area again. I like the idea of doing collections too so people can mix and match the pieces.
Leather Collection by Lillian Farag
LM: Which designs are you most proud of?
LF: Product-wise, I did a bedding collection with Anthropologie a few years ago and that was really exciting because the scale at which it was produced. It was in all their stores and the collection made it into one of their catalogs. I felt really proud of that collaboration. They didn't manipulate the artwork to not feel like my work. Sometimes you work with companies and because they need to change the colors to fit their aesthetic a little more, there can be a little bit of a disconnect, but I felt that for a company that large, they really did my work justice.
In terms of my favorite pattern that I've created I think my marbled work, which is not so much hand painted but more a dipping process. It’s a new technique that was difficult to achieve but I've done it enough times now where I've gotten better and better at it. That sort of design has now influenced some of my pattern work and some companies like &k amsterdam have wanted to do collaborations with these beautiful marble designs. They're so organic and different every time that it's really exciting to see when you pull one of these pieces out the water and see what color they end up looking like when it dries and the organic shapes that it creates. I'm really enjoying the marbled collections right now.
LM: Are you always coming up with new methods and new ways of creating?
LF: That’s an interesting question. I wish I was more often. It's really easy to get stuck in what you know and when you have a blank piece of paper in front of you, it's like ‘where do I begin?’. And that's where sometimes I'll go to the botanical gardens and just do a quick few sketches and see what I come up with. Or I’ll browse Instagram and pull some color inspiration and just try to be inspired by an interior or something. Every few months I sit down and try to create three new patterns, sometimes more, but it can be difficult.
I'm constantly pushing myself to learn new techniques. Sometimes I take some online classes. I take some painting classes and see what other artists are doing, what paints they’re using, how they use their brush and how that's different and what I can learn from it. It’s always nice to be stimulated in that way because I think that it's easy to get stuck in creating the same flower shape. Everything starts to look the same after a while. It’s always a goal of mine to keep it new.
Artist & Designer Lillian Farag
LM: How do you think COVID-19 and social distancing will impact your work and the industry in general?
LF: I thought about this a lot and I have this conversation with my husband all the time. I don't think it's a bad thing. Change is very hard and especially with change you cannot control. It's an opportunity for people to see what's working and see what's not working for their business and I think this is a very interesting time, financial issues aside. I think it's a beautiful time to reevaluate how your business is going and what you want to change about it.
In terms of my business, a lot of it was going to fairs and putting my product in front of people's eyes. I am personally a tactile individual; I like to see things in person and touch them and connect with people. It's going to be a while before I can go back to that part of my business as I don't have a storefront or anything, I am mostly online. It's still up in the air whether those small fairs and pop up shops will come back anytime soon. And my guess is that they won't for a while because it requires a lot of people to be in one space at a time and I think people are going to be really weary of getting back into that so quickly and also of spending money.
LM: Which would be your dream company to collaborate with?
LF: Well not so much a company but I'd love to do a wallpaper collaboration. I have one with Anthropologie out now but I would love to do another one. There's been such great success with that and so I'd love to do a collection of wallpaper. I’d also love to do a rug design. That’s one that I haven't done yet. I have some ideas and that's a process I really know nothing about so I'd love to learn a little bit about what that production would look like. I think there's room to explore these new territories that I haven't had an opportunity to yet.
I'm really grateful that I'm living through this time where bigger companies are taking risks with smaller artists like myself. Now everyone can do this. Everyone can become an artist that could potentially see their artwork on wallpaper and you don't have to develop it yourself and take that risk of becoming a wallpaper company. It could just be a one-time idea.
LM: If you're going to give one message to our readers, what would it be?
LB: It's never a good time to take a chance. You just have to do it. That is something I wish I had followed when I was doing a job I did for years and I was not enjoying it. I lost sense of myself and I always said, ‘after one more year at this job I'm going to create my own thing or start my own work.’ And once I really did it, I wished I'd done it sooner because there's never going to be a good time, you have to be comfortable enough to just do it. Taking risks can be scary but I truly believe that it's the only way you can really ensure growth.
Click here to learn more about Lillian Farag and to see more of her work.