Shannon Gillman Orr is a licensed surface and sewing pattern designer with Moda Fabrics, author, and self-described “doodler” who was able to turn her artistic passions into a career with the help of Bonnie Christine’s Skillshare classes on surface design. Her company, Eva Blake’s Makery, showcases her fabric designs, quilting patterns, illustrations, and more.
We chatted with Shannon and got to know her creative inspirations, professional aspirations, and how Skillshare helped her get to where she is today.
Hi Shannon! Thanks for chatting with us. We’d love to hear about how you got you start in surface and fabric design. Can you tell us a little about how you found your creative calling?
It’s taken me several years - nearly a decade - to find what I felt I was meant to do. I have a degree in architecture and worked in that field for a while, I’ve dabbled in every kind of making; jewelry, cakes, polymer clay, painting, and graphic design. None of [those pursuits] fit quite right.
A friend taught me to quilt 10 years ago, she really let me loose. I talked her into letting me design it from scratch rather than follow a pattern - something beginners are [usually] discouraged from doing! It turned out beautifully and I kept making more quilts. My quilting friend also suggested I try applying my art to the fabric. I was so naive, I didn't realize that was something people got paid to do.
Why are you so passionate about fabric and textile design? Why do you think this art form, in particular, was the one that stuck?
I absolutely love the fabric and textile design process; fabric is such a flexible medium, literally and figuratively. It is used in endless applications, apparel, home decor, quilts, accessories...we use it for everything. I love seeing how my sketchbook doodles become something [that can be] used in so many ways.
How did Bonnie Christine’s class on Skillshare help you hone your craft?
In school, I had learned Photoshop, but never Illustrator. I knew that in order to take my artwork from sketchbook to surfaces I needed to learn Illustrator and make vector files. At first, I was looking at general classes on Illustrator but was struck by Bonnie Christine's class on surface design. Her approach was very natural, and focused on creating repeats, color pallets, and variations on a theme. I felt like her class helped [me] focus my efforts and directly apply them to the illustration avenue I was exploring.
Have any other Skillshare classes been inspiring or useful to you as you’ve developed your creative skillset?
There are so many great classes on Skillshare, I have on my list Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Inspiring Visual Stories by Marte Marie Forsberg and Waterbrush Lettering Essentials by Teela Cunningham. I do all of my photography for social media, so I’m working on taking better pictures. I own several water brushes and watercolor, but my lettering is still a work in progress.
What are you making these days? What’s next on the horizon?
I just finished a large collection of watercolor and gouache paintings for my newest portfolio. Although I love the quilting fabrics, and the quilt making process, I'd love to see my work expanded to additional textile applications in housewares and home decor.
You can find more of Shannon’s fabric designs, illustrations and creative inspirations on Instagram at @evabmakery.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.