In the studio with Nicky Ovitt

NickyOvittHello and welcome to my studio! I’m excited you’re here. Grab a cup of peppermint tea and let’s sit.

My office is located only 1.5 blocks from my house in the The Burdell Building. This block long, brick building was built in 1897 and as one of the first structures arriving visitors would see from the train depot across the street, it is of historical significance. Also known as the Ice House, the building has had careers in cold storage, ice manufacturing, creamery (producing 20,000 pounds of butter a day) and the manufacture of electricity. Petaluma has a rich history of preserving it’s grand old buildings. Most afternoons a train or two will stop all traffic and whistle by— there are plans for a San Francisco bound train from this point. In the past 5 years it has been lovingly restored and now houses artists, woodworkers, architects and a fair number of therapists. At any given time when you will hear the whooshing sound of multiple white noise machines set up throughout the hallways.

In the Fall of 2011 I was attempting to work from home and being highly distracted by dust bunnies, dirty dishes and dog petting. I had been working at a company where I had my own office for almost 10 years so I was really used to a dedicated workspace.

An artist in this building had just advertised a sublease for half of her space so I jumped. This was a scary move as I had just returned to freelance work and didn’t have many clients yet. But I told myself to have faith, work hard, and it would just have to work out. A year later I now share the space with my friend Erin who does web design work for the San Francisco Marathon and other cool clients.

When I was moving in I purchased this huge drawing desk with yet more trust, it’s the kind I had always wanted since art school. This was another milestone, because if things didn’t work out I’d have to sell it— no space at home. The butterfly chair is from a local auction house and my computer desk is from IKEA (shelves can be attached to the bars on each side but then I’d look like an old-fashioned bank teller.) Any ideas on what to put there? Hang my jacket?

The room gets lots of morning light, which is great because my house tends to be dark.
I keep a lot of things that are very special to me here. I collect vintage, rubber-faced stuffed animals so this little circus elephant keeps me company. The “stained glass” pillow is from one of my oldest friends named Audrey and her mom, Karen who is a master quilter. I had given Karen all of my cut vintage squares— finally admitting I’d never do anything with them. When Audrey moved away I was presented this beautiful pillow they designed together using MY squares! I cherish the pillow and the memory. The calico transfer-ware cup was on my dad’s desk and held mechanical pencils since the beginning of my memory. He was an artist and now the cup is something I use every day and think of him. The quilted piece of fabric that covers my plastic tub “coffee table” is a piece my mom made in the 60s from upholstery samples— note the damask/pile combo. My husband recently made the large bulletin board and I keep lots of my daughter’s drawings around, as well photos of her beautiful face. A few times a week I bring my dog, Cherry to the office, who usually sleeps the afternoon away.

I’d love to say I have a finely-tuned “process” and predictable schedule to my days, but right now it’s still mostly a mix of urgent client jobs attempts to fit in “my work” whenever possible. In the past few months this has meant lots of late nights and many weekends. This year I’d like to start the habit of only checking email at certain times during the day as I hear this can lead to massive improvement in productivity.

For pattern design in my own style I have no lack of ideas, just time. I keep a sketch book going and often draw during TV watching, sometimes Googling a subject or object on my phone for shape reference. I now have a pretty good stash of these idea sketches and the next step is to ink them with crow quill, chose the best versions, scan, assemble, and then color in Illustrator. Most often I visualize in terms of collections with a story but I’m beginning to think I should concentrate on designing more single patterns. To this end I’m working on a single floral (another thing I don’t usually do) for 101Florals just for fun. My favorite way to begin any new design is by assignment so The Printed Bolt is a thrilling opportunity.

Briefs I get from clients are also fun assignments. I like to see what research they have done and add my own ideas. In the past year I’ve been channeling tweens and have presented patterns and prints that are supposed to look like a kid created them. This is what I call chameleon-style work; design for private label that includes a range of composite vector art, hand-drawn illustrations and trend-driven graphics. Working in a variety of styles keeps me on my toes and gives me a gauge of what sells. Some of the work I’ve described here will be available this Spring so check back to the client work area of my site if you want to see examples.

Thank you for stopping in. I’m really looking forward to visiting the other designer’s studios and discovering more about their work lives.

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7 comments on “In the studio with Nicky Ovitt

  1. Royal Courtship is to-die-for, and the name is wonderful, too.

  2. Holly Helgeson on said:

    Peppermint tea….yes please! I love the little bit of history you gave about the building that houses your studio! Old brick buildings have a very special place in my heart! I really adore your style! I actually chuckled when I saw pictures of your studio, because it reminded me so much of my own…dog included! :) I admire your desire to follow your dream! You are a wonderful designer! I feel so honored to be a part of this competition with so many talented designers!
    Holly :)

  3. thank you, ladies! going to comment on yours today, Holly!

  4. Janel Maske on said:

    Oh, what a nice space! The lighting looks great, and the whole place looks so comfortable, yet ready for work. It’s great that you have a studio outside of your home! It is soooo easy to get distracted. Cherry is adorable, by the way. :)

  5. “For pattern design in my own style I have no lack of ideas, just time.” Yes! You could’ve plucked that from my own head. Wouldn’t it be nice if all us artists had as much time as we wanted to make beautiful things? Best of luck in the contest; I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  6. Nicky your space is awesome! I love the history of the building. I have had some spaces in Toronto in old warehouses and they have so much character and warmth. It’s also great you share your space with a friend- and that there’s all that activity going on in the building- very inspiring! Your daughter looks so sweet and her drawings are beautiful- love your wall of art! That cactus is super impressive too. I was in California in the fall and I have major succulent envy- your state can grow some nice plants! Your website is really great too- your collections look so fabulous all together. Such nice work!! Thanks for the tour- totally looking forward to seeing your design for the first challenge!

  7. Nicky,
    your studio looks fab, and I love the thought of it being in a historic building in downtown SF… just wow! I’ve never been to SF, but I have this inner desire to go there and there’s also a voice within me that tells me I should move to California… if only it was that easy.
    Anyway, back to you. Your desk looks so cool, so industrial! and your dog… she’s a cutie! Love that last pic with her on her back ;)

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