Who: Katie Deedy, founder and designer of indie narrative wallpaper line Grow House Grow.
What: It can be argued that a good story — and we all have one — inspires and gives meaning to the world around us. Each pattern Grow House Grow creates has a different tale to tell, and endeavors to spark the creativity, mystery, and comfort of stories in those around us.
I’ve gotten to the point where much of my sketch work is done on Illustrator, and in some cases, I’ll have over 50 versions of the same pattern. I also work a lot with word maps when I’m brainstorming ideas…included is one for a story I was considering doing a pattern on in the past.
Where do the story ideas come from?
For each line, I’ll usually start with one story that I’ve read or heard that was really memorable; then I build the rest of the line from there. For a recent example, my Parlour Room Collection came about after reading a bizarre article about Aleister Crowley in a magazine called Fortean Times. I couldn’t get the story out of my head, and over several months began to sketch of bits of imagery I associated with it. Suddenly a pattern popped out, and I loved it so much, I decided to build a line around it. I created a theme: what would different individuals from history have papered their parlour room walls with? I started doing research on interesting historical figures whose tales struck a chord with me, and ended up adding Captain Smith of the Titanic and Cattle Kate to the bunch. The fun part is pulling pieces of the narratives together and building the pattern. Sometimes I can get it on first try, sometimes I’ll work on the same pattern for six months until I get it right.
What comes first, the story or the imagery?
Usually the story, although with Cattle Kate I’d been thinking of doing a pattern with nooses and lassos for a while. Sometimes a story comes together with a previous visual idea, and those are really fun to create. It’s give that random sketch some meaning, which is satisfying on my end.
React to the following phrases in three words or less.
*Design icon: Fibonacci and fractals
*Design inspiration: Scandinavia
*Design disaster: linoleum and cinder-clock condos
*Design independence: self-employment
We’ve read that your mother is a children’s book author, and she is part of the reason you believe in narrative design. Can you tell us a little about her?
Most people think their mom is the coolest, and I’m no exception. Her name is Carmen Agra Deedy, and she’s a professional storyteller and children’s book author; she has been self-employed and following her dreams my entire life. She’s a huge inspiration, and is an important model for me as I pursue my own business. She’s had a one-woman show on Broadway, has been a regular contributor to NPR, a speaker at the TED conference, a frequent presenter at the National Book Festival at the White House…the list goes on! She’s the author of seven children’s books, with two more on the way. My favorites are The Library Dragon, The Yellow Star, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach and her newest release that will be out this fall: 14 Cows for America.