Fashion inspired print and pattern design by Brooklyn based artist Caitlin Foster
Introducing Brooklyn based pattern and textile designer Caitlin Foster
Where did you grow up?
I grew up as a really quiet kid in New England, and I did a lot of drawing, making my own books, comics, and magazines. I spent a lot of time in the library, taking out books about art and renting weird old movies, just trying to soak up as much as I could about art. I studied fine art at The School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Studying at two colleges that were both attached to museums led to my interest in working in arts administration. Now, after having worked in the art world for a decade, I’ve deviated away from working on behalf of other artists to becoming an artist in my own right and promoting my own practice.
Do you have any consistent sources of inspiration from your childhood or adult life?
Fashion has always been something that I’ve looked at incessantly and been thrilled by it when it’s done well. It’s very daring to wear wild prints, crazy colours, or anything outside of what you’re used to seeing. When people take their clothes seriously and it becomes a performative act, it’s an inspiring thing to witness.
It’s very daring to wear wild prints, crazy colours, or anything outside of what you’re used to seeing.
You currently live and work in Brooklyn, New York. Are there any particular places or hidden gems of the city that you’re drawn to? Do you have much opportunity to escape the city?
I think people dress up more (in New York) because they feel there is an audience to make a statement to with their appearance.
Just walking down the street in New York has always been exciting to me, and I love being able to see such a broad range of people. I think people dress up more here because they feel there is an audience to make a statement to with appearance. I’ve always loved the late photographer Bill Cunningham’s work, he captured that feeling so perfectly and made me want to be a part of it. I think my work reflects that vibration and pulse that you feel in New York. That being said, escaping the city is crucial, especially for me in the dead heat of summer. After leaving New York, I am always struck by how profound having more space between people feels.
Your work often has a very organic feel, with mark-making that sometimes feels almost tribal in origin. Can you talk us through how your style has evolved?
Pattern heavy drawings with tiny marks, usually in black and white and covering the whole page is something I have always done. Patterns would evolve organically as the drawing was made. As I’ve shifted away from making more fine-art drawings and more into design work, I work in a much smaller scale, which allows me to work faster. I sort of set rules for myself as I figure out the pattern, kind of like a less structured Sol LeWitt drawing. Working smaller has also led to me experimenting more in colour.
Before, when I was making big drawings that were so time consuming, I didn’t have as much freedom to risk bad colour choices and I just focused on miniscule detail. I still use that level of detail in my work but it’s not the only thing that holds the pattern together. Colour plays a big role now too.
Pattern heavy drawings with tiny marks, usually in black and white and covering the whole page is something I have always done.
The irregularities of shape and mark making are paramount to my work, taking on the organic and personal quality I strive for.
Can you tell us more about your designer’s toolkit?
Tiny pens and brush pens are the majority of what I use. The presence of my hand is a quintessential component of my work. While many of my pieces become digitised and altered in CAD, the irregularities of shape and mark making are paramount to my work taking on the organic and personal quality I strive for. I always have a sketchbook on me and a bag full of micron pens. Being able to work from home, my studio, my garden, and just about anywhere else I find myself allows me to approach drawings at different moments, leading to interesting paths in mark making.
The view out of my studio window is onto a street that’s usually jammed with trucks making deliveries to the spice factory next door.
Can you describe your studio? Where is it located?
My studio is in a very industrial part of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and so the view out of my window is onto a street that’s usually jammed with trucks making deliveries to the spice factory next door. But when you open the window, the air smells of exotic spices, not at all what you’d expect from looking at the view! I have a Chinese New Year good luck gold monkey hanging on my wall that was given to me in the beginning of the year of the monkey. My most-appreciated pens are kept on my desk in a ceramic cup with a face on it, handmade for me by my brother-in-law. More of my pens are kept in a pink pouch that I decorated with puff paints when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. I also have a collection of books published by the Victoria and Albert Museum that focus on different parts of their collections. The decorative endpapers book is one of my favourites.
Having a studio in New York is expensive, I need to be able to constantly prove to myself that it’s worth it to keep my studio. My constant goal is to support myself entirely with illustration and design work, I’m working towards that.
Do you encounter many challenges making a living as a freelance artist?
Finding the next job is always a challenge, it’s something that I dedicate just as much time to as making work. I have a day job working part time in the art world, so I have to be very disciplined with my time. Having a studio in New York is expensive, I need to be able to constantly prove to myself that it’s worth it to keep my studio. My constant goal is to support myself entirely with illustration and design work, I’m working towards that.
What’s next for you? Do you have any specific aspirations for the rest of the year?
I’m looking forward to doing an artist residency in Crete this summer, where I plan to make a body of work referencing the rich geology of the land there and the artwork of the Minoans. Other than that, I would love to make a mural! Working larger and in different mediums is something I’m always pushing myself to do more of, and I think my patterns would translate well into mural scale.