Make it in Design Winner: Nelli Khatmoullina
Updated: May 3, 2018
Our final Make it in Design Winner this season is Nelli Khatmoullina. We loved the way she interpreted our brief to create an abstract cushion design, and her finished product feels very unique. She answers our Wraptious questions and shares her experiences of working in the design industry.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? I’m a graphic designer specializing in pattern and surface design living in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. I was born in Russia, in the city called Ufa (it is located near the Ural Mountains). I came to the United Stated 15 years ago, travelled a little bit around and settled in Cleveland. I have a family of 5 – me, my husband, two wonderful kids (6 and 4 years old) and a giant dog named Francesca (she is a Cane Corso). Currently I work from my home/studio.
2. How long have you been creating art? I have a very long and complex relationship with art and design. Since I was a little kid I’ve been painting and drawing, and I even finished the art school, which took me 4 years of studying art and painting mostly in traditional style. I thought I’d be an artist or designer, maybe a fashion designer, but being an artist was impractical in Russia back in those days. So, I was told to get a “real education” in management and economy. For a long time I didn’t even touch a pencil or a brush until I realized how much I missed it. By that time, I’d moved to the US. I decided to pursue a Bachelor Degree in graphic design. I graduated from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2011. In the same year I had my first child and I was very distracted from work. Therefore, I decided to dedicate all my time to my kids and family.
About a year or so ago I started noticing patterns everywhere and it got my attention. I never knew before there is such a vast world of patterns and tons of opportunities for its application. My new found interest in patterns lead me to take a design course (Make It In Design -MIID) focused in the area in the spring of 2017; I’m very happy I did it. Now, I believe I have finally found my place! Patterns and surface design is an ideal field for me. I do plan to develop my own brand in the nearest future.
3. What inspires you? Where do you go to get inspiration?
Nature and animals are my biggest inspiration. I love nature and our planet Earth! My mother was a biologist and my father was a geologist, so, I had lots of books related to those fields of science in my childhood. I believe it influenced me a lot. I also appreciate abstract art and its endless expressions. I like the feeling of creating something that doesn’t exist yet and can’t be recognized, but reminds you of something and awakes certain emotions.
4. Which artists or pattern designers have influenced you? Lately I admire folk art and artists like Dinara Mirtalipova, Helen Dardik, Yelena Bryksenkova, Flora Waycott, Ana Victoria Calderon, Madalina Andronic. In my opinion I tend to overwork my projects; being simple and sophisticated is hard for me. Those artists I mentioned above have the ability to keep it simple, yet create something very interesting and fascinating. They create gorgeous pieces without even trying to be realistic. That is exactly what attracts me.
5. What have you learnt that you'd like to pass on to other start-out designers? Thanks to MIID, I’ve discovered the whole world of patterns and trade shows like Surtex and Blue Print. Before this course I didn’t know how and where to use the patterns or how important it was to go to shows and meet other designers. I went to both shows this spring. The things I’ve seen and people I’ve met inspired, and have given me great motivation. So, my suggestion for the other designers is to get out of your studio, visit shows, and meet real people especially if you’re out of inspiration and ideas.
6. What was the process of coming up with your winning design? How did you develop the idea? After going through Wraptious Designs I knew I would want to create something related to nature and/or abstract. So, I came up with two different concepts since I had to submit two designs. One of them reflected a nature theme (tropical frogs) and the other was abstract. Since I believe the best ideas come throughout the process of doodling and sketching, I decided to grab my new Posca markers and just draw abstract shapes without really thinking about it. After a couple of pages of warming up, I finished the design, which was converted to vector format and adjusted later. As the call of this brief was for something wild, I thought about bright colors. For me bright colors and “wild” are often synonymous with one another. Both of my designs are very intense in color. I tried different versions, but ultimately kept the original color palette.
7. In a dream world, what would you be designing? Where would you love to see your patterns? This is my favorite question of the interview. I’d love to see my designs on bedding sets, pillows, cushions, rags, curtains, napkins, towels, kitchen sets, children’s apparel, greeting cards, adult clothing, or just hanging on walls.