One of the newest artists to our fam at endemicworld is illustrator and pattern designer Bren Michelle. After several years working for Disney animating kids’ movies, she’s returned to NZ (welcome home!) to raise her young family, and is now turning her talents to pretty, vibrant and contemporary patterns for a growing range of art prints and - coming soon – other products too!
You were an animation artist for kids’ movies – awesome! What a dream job! Tell us about that…
That is my background, but not what I do now. I did a six month training course here in Auckland, then I learnt the rest on the job. The most exciting time of my career was when I worked for Walt Disney (then in Sydney.) I worked with some incredibly talented and fascinating people from all over the world. I got to work on some amazing films – mostly sequels to the classics – including The Lion King 2 and 3, The Little Mermaid 2, Lady and the Tramp 2, An Extremely Goofy Movie, The Jungle Book 2, Cinderella 2, and more. Yeah it was awesome, a dream job, but extremely demanding as the standard was so high and our output had to meet a quota of footage of film per week. I gained a lot from the experience and I am so grateful for it.
I met my partner there too and we came back to NZ together. I made the switch from hand-drawn to computer animation, and I worked for Flux Animation on a number of projects including The Adventures of Massey Ferguson and Puzzles Inc. Following that I moved to the children’s fashion industry to work with my sister. When I started a family I began working part-time from home doing pattern design – mostly for textiles.
What are you working on (with your own projects/art prints) at the moment?
I have just created my first lino print since school days! I’ve really enjoyed the print-making process so next year I would like to develop my skills in this area, perhaps using wood instead of lino. For my digital prints I’ve started a piece in the style of my Emerald Garden design, but I have a lot happening right now so I can’t get back to it for a while. Next year I expect to have much more time to indulge my own ideas and I can’t wait to see what emerges!
A pretty page from Bren’s sketchbook
Which NZ artists/designers/creatives (of any discipline) do you most look up to?
In the pattern design industry it is critical to watch the European and US catwalks and trend-forecasting sites/blogs for inspiration. As a result a lot of my heroes are from abroad, but I do admire many creatives here too:
Fashion designer Karen Walker, Artist/designer Ellen Giggenbach, Illustrator Sarah Wilkins, Animation Director/Illustrator/Writer Raymond McGrath, and the artist Flox. I’m also hugely inspired by the amazing NZ women writers Charlotte Grimshaw, Emily Perkins and Eleanor Catton.
What’s on the walls of your creative space/home currently?
My favourite framed piece is a drawing by William Auerbach Levy of Victor Borge. But in my workspace I have an inspiration board covered in gorgeousness. It includes:
- Vogue covers from the 20s (Georges Lepape and Helen Dryden)
- Surface Pattern Designers/illustrators: Helen Dardik, Orla Kiely, Tom Schamp, Tove Johansson, Florence Broadhurst
- Artists: Koloman Moser, Angie Lewin, Inaluxe, Mary Blair, James Leman
- Fashion Designers: Anna Sui, Tsumori Chisato
…and a heap more!
Bren’s right – her inspiration board is covered in gorgeousness!
Besides art/illustration, what else do you love to do?
My greatest love outside of art is reading; there are always teetering piles of books around the house, especially art and design hardbacks from the library. Other loves are creative writing, running, camping and tramping.
What would be a dream project/collaboration you’d love to do?
I would love to see some of my designs licensed onto stationery for a company such as Madison Park Greetings. I’m also interested in book cover design, and perhaps motif designs for ceramics. But soon I am moving away from pattern design and into the children’s apparel industry and I am really excited about that.
I am at my happiest when I am growing and learning. I can’t wait to be working under some talented designers and upskilling in that area, so right now I am very content with the path in front of me.
Bren at work in her home studio
Some of Bren’s art prints (available at endemicworld!)
What words of advice do you have to anyone looking to make art their career?
Be sure that it really is your passion, because it can be a difficult way to make a living. The people I have seen thrive are very confident within themselves and/or are willing to live outside of their comfort zone. They have high standards but can stop short of perfectionism, and they have an entrepreneurial mind or strong business skills. They also have bucketloads of passion and drive.
I think artists need to be very open to new techniques and technologies in order to keep themselves valuable in rapidly changing industries. And I think it is really important to seek out communities of similar artists – even if only online. I belong to a large Facebook group of surface pattern designers. We share inspiration, industry news, ideas, resources, and personal stories/insights. It is an incredibly supportive environment and benefits everyone.There is nothing more inspiring than connecting with people that share your passion.