I want to be a textile designer but I’m worried I’m too old

I graduated 10 years ago with a degree in printed textile design. Circumstances meant not being able to pursue my dream and i worked in telephone customer service for 9 years :( I now have an opportunity where financially i can just about manage to now pursue my dream.

My degree course was quite broad and i vaguely specialised in repeat pattern design but found the process of doing repeats hard. The repeats we were taught was by hand as well. I am trying to build up a new portfolio but I am struggling.

The problems I am facing are numerous: no contacts to know what designers are doing these days. no experience of illustrator or photoshop, lack of confidence in my own ability and not sure of first steps or direction.

10 yrs is a long time to have been away from design, I didn’t pick up a pencil, paint brush or pen in that time for various reasons Design is my natural talent, especially colour, I have a excellent eye for putting together colourways. I feel I have something to offer but I’m overwhelmed by the feeling of being too old (33!) not up-to-date with skills and not knowing who to go to for help and guidance.

I’m wondering whether agents who take on freelance designers would be able to help if i were to approach them and for them to give me a design brief that i can use as guidance and direction to build my portfolio and then ask them for feedback? (unpaid) Hope you can help!

— Lucy Holloway

Expert answers

Patricia van den Akker's reply:

Great to hear that you want to pursue your career.  And no, you are not too old!  But you probably do need to work on updating your technical and social media skills, and also on your confidence. However, agents will not be able to help you with that, as it is a very competitive world out there, and they run a very commercial business. 

My advice would be to identify your strengths and talents (as you already have started to do) and really look at what kind of products or markets you want to work for e.g. interior textiles for children’s rooms is very different from fashion fabrics for French luxury fashion houses. 

Then start looking who is working in that area already.  Who are your competitors or role models, who would be your potential clients? 

It’s crucial that you get a good understanding of the market and how it works, and the fees etc before you approach clients.

I also suggest that you look into extra training, both technical, social media and business skills.  There are many courses available either in person or online.  I personally would recommend Rachel Taylor’s online business school for surface pattern designers: http://makeitindesign.com/design-school/# 

You will then get more knowledge and confidence, and when you do this course you will be building a portfolio of relevant designs that you can show future clients.

All the best.

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