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The Designer Behind Wolfum Textiles' Surprisingly Playful Approach to Digital Design

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At Food52, we are all about the good old ways: We've taught you to make your own butter and your own soap, plus every kind of pickle imaginable. Our Shop sells an old-fashioned popcorn popper and a hand-cranked coffee bean grinder. But on the flip side, you might have noticed we just launched an iOS cooking app—and began selling a sous vide machine! The power of technology can be beautiful, too.

I was reminded just how appealing both ways of making—old and new—can be when put together while chatting with Annabel Inganni, from the design shop Wolfum, on the phone. Before speaking, I'd seen her work and remembered the powerful, vibrant patterns—but it wasn't until we talked that I learned how they were made.

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Photos by WorkOf

Annabel's patterns, for which Wolfum is known, aren't screen-printed or wood-blocked or hand-woven—they're digital. And she's proud to tell you so. "The digital process allows me to manipulate colors and angles and the way the design looks," she says. "I engineer each print for each item we sell, and even though it’s [often] the same print, you’ll see different angles or scales on different pieces." All this tinkering happens in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, which Annabel taught herself to use. (Her joyful response to my, "Where'd you go to art school?" was, "I didn't!")

Designing a pattern is complex: The edges of one iteration have to line up in a way that, once tiled side by side in a grid, smoothly repeats. And Annabel's method allows for her to make constant changes until the pattern is just how she likes it. "It’s an organic process," she explains. "I start drawing curves, connecting the lines, and then try to repeat it—but ultimately, it's trial and error."

The designs that emerge aren't ever too perfect, which is just what she (and her customers) love about how they come out: "There’s always something off about them, a quirk to them, but there’s a nice symmetry." Once she's satisfied with the look of the pattern, she tweaks the color; in digital printing, as opposed to screen printing, the options for adding color are truly endless. Then she sends them out for printing on woods and textiles. The ink absorbs into her fabrics so smoothly that you can't feel the difference in textures.

It's the balance of natural materials and new processes that Annabel loves about her work. With digital printing, she explains, "you can play with gradient, photorealism, texture," and more, but "when they’re put on these nice natural materials it adds a life element."

We're sharing this snapshot of Annabel's work in collaboration with WorkOf, where you can shop her pillows, rugs, trays, and games.

Tags: wolfum, Annabel Inganni, textiles, patterns