You started your own company in 2007. What inspired you to take the leap from freelance illustrator to pattern-making entrepreneur?
Though I enjoyed the challenges of designing for others, it didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted to work for myself. Having creative control of the final product was especially motivating; with freelancing, I was able to fulfill the artistic vision of my clients, but I wasn’t spending time on my own art. And of course, having the dream is one thing—actually figuring out how in the world to make it happen is a different story altogether. Once I had the confidence to strike out on my own and found my company Grow House Grow, it took years of research, saving, and trial/error before the first wallpaper line came out.
I think the hardest part has been building a career around something for which I never had technical training. When I decided to start designing wallpaper I didn't have a class I could go to with someone who had all the answers. It took several years of learning everything from the ground up: the history of wallpaper, how to silkscreen, how to create patterns from scratch, and other things like getting a business license and setting up a system for handling accounts. The great thing is that because I did each thing the "hard" way, I have an integral understanding of how each piece of my business works.
What is the most exciting project you have worked on?
That's a really tough question. I've been able to do some pretty interesting things, though I'd say one of the most challenging was helping to design a box set with some amazing record labels, including with Jack White. Both box sets won Grammy Awards for packaging, so I'm really proud about that.
I may be most proud, however, about having my wallpaper accepted into the Brooklyn Museum's permanent decorative arts collection. It boggles my mind that long after I'm gone, the patterns I thought up in my head will be archived for people to see. It's a strange feeling.
What is your process from conception to finished product - your design cycle?
I usually start with a story. It's normally just a seed of inspiration, like coming across an interesting person or tidbit from history. Once I get excited about the inspiration, I spend time considering how I can make that person, place or thing a pattern. I research the design and climate of the era, make word and color maps, and begin to draw.
Once the pattern is finished (sometimes it takes a day, sometimes it takes months), it is sent to a screen builder who hand builds the silkscreen and creates a stencil of the pattern on it. Once finished, it's driven to our print shop (which is in an old bowling alley with long tables down the lanes) where we have the colors hand mixed and then printing begins. The whole process is done by hand, and the finished product really shows the time and care that went into creating it.
Your mother is a noted children’s author; how has her love of storytelling influenced your work?
I credit my mom with so much: my love of stories, which influence all of my wallpaper patterns; the drive to build one's own creative career without a clear path and a work ethic that gets it done on the good days and the bad.
What is your vision for the future of your designs?
I would love for Grow House Grow to become a larger brand like Finland's Marimekko. They do a beautiful job of applying their patterns onto many products...fashion, ceramics, textiles, etc. and they're all beautifully made. Definitely, something to aspire to.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do? The biggest challenge?
Most rewarding: seeing something in my mind and then watching it become a physical product. It's always a little different than how I think it'll look, but that's part of the excitement.
Biggest challenge: balancing motherhood and running a business. It's one of the hardest things I've done (and that I'm still trying to do).
Based in Brooklyn, Katie Deedy is a designer, artist, and entrepreneur specializing in narrative-based pattern design for interiors and accessories.
Originally published in the Fall 2016 Global Exchange.