Grad is Graphic Designer for Textiles at Pair of Thieves
Illustrator and Textile Designer Julia Williams was born in Santa Rosa, California and received a B.S. in Plant Sciences from UC Santa Cruz before pursuing her passion for the arts full-time as a Textile Design Professional Designation Student at FIDM. After an illustrious career at the legendary fabric company Robert Kaufman, the 2014 graduate is now working as a Graphic Designer for Textiles at Pair of Thieves. We recently caught up with Julia to learn more about her career and the advice she'd share with current students and fellow FIDM Grads.
How did FIDM's Textile Design Program help prepare you for your career? The Professional Designation in Textile Design was instrumental in my career. Being able to create strong graphics in traditional media, and learning to do repeats by hand, have given me an intimate knowledge of the craft that has translated in a tremendously helpful way when working digitally. Textile design is a very specific sort of graphic design and having strong creative and repeat skills has made me a standout in a pile of resumes.
Tell us about your five-year career at Robert Kaufman Fabrics. My career at Robert Kaufman was a literal dream come true. When I expressed my interest in the company to FIDM’s Career Center, they used their connections to help me land an internship, and that internship led to an amazing career where I became a leader in the Robert Kaufman design department and had many opportunities to travel domestically and overseas for work. I was also able to release three collections of fabric under my own name, which were sold internationally by Robert Kaufman.
I think my biggest takeaway was that sometimes the most satisfying work comes from tackling projects that are outside of my usual aesthetic. Delivering good work on a brief for a target customer that does not look or shop like you is a huge challenge, but a really fun one, and it helps grow your skills immensely. I think it also taught me the power of seeking out spaces where you can really learn something and have mentors. I was so privileged to work with industry veterans at RK and listening to and learning from them was invaluable. Seeking spaces where you can grow and learn is an important part of managing your career.
You've most recently been at Pair of Thieves as a Graphic Designer for Textiles. What is your day-to-day like? Working at Pair of Thieves is incredibly fast-paced, and I’m constantly trying to get into the mindset of male shoppers. Nothing day-to-day is standard in this industry, but my main responsibilities are to supply repeat patterns to the Senior Designer that are on trend, on brand, and executable by our factories. I also supply graphics for use by the Assistant Graphic Designer, and support where needed in the development of placement designs for socks and branded imagery. Working for a young company means that processes are always changing and targets are always moving, but it’s also very exciting to see a company grow quickly. It’s very different from working at a 200-year old company, but I recommend both experiences.
What is it about the creation of textiles that you most enjoy? There’s a magical moment when building a repeat where everything just “clicks” and a layout starts to really work. It’s kind of like watching those oddly satisfying videos on Instagram, but I get paid to do it all day! I also love how textiles involve the blending of mathematics and art and often chemistry too. It’s both intellectually and creatively satisfying.
What advice would you share with FIDM Students or recent grads looking to make their way in the textiles world? For students: use your resources! The Career Center and FIDM Library are so, so, so amazing, and you will have less access after you graduate so use them now. There are so many people at FIDM who were hired to help you, so talk to them and attend weekend workshops, and check out books, and touch material resources, and ask every question you have. You will never get this opportunity again in your life, so don’t waste it. For graduates: stay connected to your faculty and classmates and co-workers. You never know where those connections and friendships will get you later on. It’s a lonely world out there, but it’s also a world that functions on clout and personal recommendations.
You’re going to be speaking at the LA campus later this month as part of the FIDM Lecture Series. Why is it important to you to return to FIDM? The Faculty at FIDM did a lot to help my career out, and I owe it to them to do my best in my career, and help younger generations of FIDM Students out. There are a lot of great programs at FIDM, but they require dedication and drive, and I want to let prospective students that they’ll get back whatever they put in, and it’s worth it if they’re willing to work hard and learn and have fun learning.
View more of Julia’s work at juliaelenawilliams.com and on Instagram @alchemytea.