Who and what is Rough Designs?
My name is Sara Baker and I’m a Plymouth based surface pattern designer; I love designing prints and patterns and at the moment am focusing on designing for fashion. Rough Designs is my company that’s really grown and developed into what it is now, which is a very unique fashion brand.
When did you realise you were interested in fashion and printmaking?
Fashion has always been important to me, not necessarily in a conventional way though. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally followed trends, but even when I was a child I was very aware of what I wanted to wear and how I wanted to wear it.
As a teenager I struggled to find clothes that fitted me properly, I think that’s what created my desire to just do it myself. I would rip and cut, then stitch clothes back together to try and make what was in my head, but it was all very ‘make do.’ Luckily I had a very ‘90’s grunge’ look going on so it kind of worked.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I realised just how much there is to fashion with all the different paths you can take and then I discovered surface design! I was so taken with the concept of mark making and not actually having to be typically good at drawing to be able to create beautiful and interesting images. Then after discovering processes such as linocut and screen-printing I was able to develop ideas further. It all really blew me away and I found myself drawn more and more towards surface design than the actual garment construction.
You did a BA in Fashion at Plymouth College of Art, how did you find your experience there?
Well, I’m still doing it now! 5 years, a marriage and 2 children later I’m still part way through my degree, but have taken another break to have my now 3-month-old daughter.
In all honesty when I started at the college I was clueless. My ideas were flat and unoriginal, I had no concept of how to design something innovative. All I had going for me was a desire to learn and achieve. I completed a foundation course that just really opened me up and helped my design process become more fluid. Rather than being given a brief and instantly visualising my end result I began to allow my research to take me in different directions.
Since being on the fashion degree I’ve started to think more like an industry professional and have really pushed my skills further. It helped being around other students, bouncing ideas off each other and having tutors like Becky Dodman who have their own experiences and input. It helps you step outside your comfort zone when you take on board other people’s views.
I’ve actually decided to move onto the Printed Textile Design and Surface Pattern BA when I go back. I want to specialise in that one area and put everything I have into it. I’m ridiculously excited to go back!
I think each time I’ve had a break, it’s actually helped let it all sink in and let me take on board what the tutors have been saying. I feel like I’ve come so far and yet I have so much more to learn, it’s like I’m just starting still.
What made you decide to start Rough Designs?
It’s always been my intention to work for myself and to run my own business, but it was the first time I took a break, to have my son Logan, that I booked myself in for a craft fayre under the name Rough Designs. I think I was so panicked that I wouldn’t carry on and I would just get left behind so I wanted to keep creating during my time away.
What I was doing with the company then was entirely different; I didn’t have the skills I have now so it took a very eclectic, upcycled, craft direction. It wasn’t until May this year that I launched my first clothing line and rebranded as a fashion focused surface design brand and since then things have been going really well. I feel like I’m actually doing what I want with my life and taking the company in the right direction.
Who or what inspires your designs?
Absolutely everything! Patterns, textures, colours and shapes, sometimes things that may seem completely insignificant. Some of my prints have derived from Brutalist architecture and others from tree branches. Wherever we go I’m always pointing things out to my husband, who’s a bit of photographer, asking him to take pictures for me to use as inspiration later. I do it so much that he’s started to pre-empt it. It doesn’t matter if I’m picking my son up from nursery or if we’re having a family day out, my brains always in design mode… or scouting for photo shoot locations!
I do follow designers from all kinds of creative practices online as well. It’s really interesting to see particularly how different surface pattern designers work and then sometimes I see something and I’m like ‘ah that’s the same technique I used!’
Some of your patterns are really psychedelic and geometric, what’s the process behind creating these?
I often have sets of designs the all originate from the same pattern, I really love to push and develop a design as far as I can to get the most from it. I also love to combine various processes and technologies like photography, screen printing and Photoshop. I think the further I go with one design the more intricate it becomes and that’s what gives it a kind of trippy look.
Going forward I really want focus on specific collections of designs that all have the same starting point, but each collection is going to be very different. Part of what I’m trying to achieve is to create a brand that is quite bold and unique, but that everyone who appreciates it can wear. I want to have a broad range of styles so people can find something that they are drawn to and identify with.
What does the future hold for Rough Designs?
Quite a lot! I’ve got two very exciting photo shoots planned for next month that are going to be a lot of fun and one of which is going to be particularly creative. I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by some very talented and creative people who I’ve been able to collaborate on things like this. Alongside that, I’m releasing a new line of designs that are purely digital based which is a first for me, I normally like to get my hands at least a little bit dirty when designing!
More long term, I’ve got plans to bring more of the production in-house by investing in sublimation and direct to garment printing equipment as well as expanding the product lines to include menswear and more accessories.
I’m also hoping that this will allow me to provide paid jobs for Plymouth fashion students. I know that a part of studying fashion involves having an internship, which is often unpaid, and a lot of the time outside of Plymouth. This isn’t easy for a lot of students to do so as Rough Designs grows I really want to be able to offer them flexible work that can be done around their deadlines.
How can we purchase your work?
You can buy online at www.roughdesigns.co.uk and of course follow the brands’ progress by checking out Rough Designs on Facebook… sometimes I release new designs here before putting them on the website.
I do let people return items online, but if you’re local to Plymouth I’m always happy to have customers pop over to try things on first and see the items in person.