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Introducing Our Designer: Elishka Jepson!

by Rebecca Melsky November 03, 2014 6 min read

Eva and I knew that ordering fabric on-line or wholesale would only last as long as our first run of hand-made dresses.  The center of the Venn diagram that we're looking for in our patterns - cute, fun, colorful, smart, non-traditional - just doesn't exist in the fabric industry right now.  We knew that one of the first things we would need to do was get an awesome designer working with us to create designs for our dresses that would call out to girls and their parents alike.  

Two of our favorite designs from our first run - Pi and Periodic Table of Elements - which also happened to be two of our bestsellers, were created by the same person, Elishka Jepson.  We also loved just about every single one of the other designs she had up on her Spoonflower page.  So we reached out to her to ask if she would be willing to custom design for us.  She wrote back right away, which was very nice of her as I was super anxious to see her response, and said she was in.  We're using the Pi design she has up on Spoonflower, and she is custom designing two other prints for our first run of professionally produced dresses.  (Check back soon to see a preview of one of the designs!)

We are so incredibly thrilled to be working with her.  First of all, she is an amazing designer.  Period.  Secondly, she's willing to work with us, two newbies learning the ropes.  And to top it all off, do you know what she does for her day job?  She's an actual rocket scientist.  Super duper amazing, right?

We sent her some questions about herself and her design process a few days ago, and in between being a rocket scientist, creating designs, and all the other things she has going on, she wrote us back.  Here's what she said:

What is your background - educational, work-related, etc.? I grew up in Washington state, so I went to the University of Washington in Seattle for college. I graduated with a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering. So I actually am a rocket scientist! After school, I moved to Tucson, Arizona, for work at an aerospace company. I spent several years working on my masters in astronautical engineering after I moved to Tucson. Through distance education, I received my masters from USC without ever setting foot on their campus!

How did you get into graphic design? My mom is a graphic designer, and has her own graphic design business. She also has a degree in chemistry - the arts/technical combo runs in the family! I was homeschooled when I was younger; we would do all kinds of art projects along with the academic work. Things like illustrating stories I would write, or drawing comics and doing the layout for the newspaper I wrote for a couple years. We have always had graphic design programs on the computer, so I learned to use those, and that skill really led me into doing graphic design work as an adult. When I was in college, I wanted a rocket scientist shirt and couldn't find exactly what I had in my mind. So I designed one myself, found the print-on-demand site Cafepress online and printed myself a shirt! I started selling that shirt, and others I designed through there, and it all grew from that! The artistic side of designing is a nice balance to the technical work I do in my day job.

Do you sew things using fabric printed with your own designs? I do! Right now, I'm having fun making infinity scarfs to wear to work. I have one scarf with flowers and ninjas - I wonder how many people catch the ninjas in that print! Another favorite project is designing and sewing baby cheater quilts for my expecting friends. Cheater quilts are fabric panels that look like patchwork quilts, but are really a single printed design. All you have to do is quilt the design, edge and you have a gift! I've also enlisted my mom to help me with projects beyond my sewing ability. One of our basset hounds loves to sit in our papasan chair, so she made a cover for the cushion featuring one of my basset fabrics. Now everyone knows that's his seat!

Do you have kids? Yes, I have an almost one year old son, Tucker, and two basset hound fur-kids, Orville and Wilbur.

Describe how you take a design from idea to completion. When I either have an idea for a design, or get a customer request, first thing I usually do is sketch out some ideas, usually on whatever I have at hand (the margins of my daily planner are filled with little doodles for designs). From there, if I really like my initial sketches, I scan them and start cleaning them up, or if they're pretty rough I will redraw the design on the computer. At this point, I choose a color pallet for the design, and start coloring the components of the design. If I'm making a fabric design, I draw all the elements of the pattern before I start creating a repeat. There are two types of repeats I typically do: designs with very ordered elements, or a freeform pattern. The ordered repeat is much easier to design, but I love the feel of a free form pattern! Once I am happy with the repeat, I select a scale and preview it at a yard sized view to get a feel for how the repeat works, the colors, the scale, etc. If I'm happy, or my customer is happy, then I'm done! Otherwise, I make tweaks and changes until I'm happy with the end product! On Spoonflower, I order fabric swatches to proof a design's colors before I sell the fabric (sometimes the fabric colors print very different than you see them on your monitor). If I like the colors, I can then put the fabric up for sale! Overall, for a fabric design, it can take several weeks to several months to get a single design from the drawing board to being ready to print.

What did you like to play and wear as a child? I liked playing with dolls, but also my action figures. I was always mad that my Barbies and Star Trek people were not the same scale so they could not play together! As I got older, I learned to sew clothes for my dolls (and I admit, my Star Trek figures) and made my own stuffed animals. My mom ran a mail order kids clothing business in the days before the internet, so she made a lot of my clothes. I wore a lot of overalls, sweatshirts and leggings. I was not a huge fan of dresses, unless they we were having a tea party (you cannot go to a tea party in overalls!)

What do you do for fun when you're not working, designing, or sleeping? I like to cook, and bake. Because of this, I've learned to like running and working out (ha ha). I haven't done a lot of that since the baby arrived, but I'm starting to get back into it. We like to go walking with the stroller at one of our parks - we are lucky to have so many beautiful places to stroll and hike here in Tucson! I also try to sneak in some reading whenever I get a chance!

What made you interested in working with Princess Awesome? For me, it goes back to when I started shopping for baby clothes. I could not believe the difference in styles between the two sexes, even in baby clothes! We waited until birth to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, so we were hunting for "neutral" clothes that could work for either a girl or boy. Being an engineer, I was looking for some planes, and rockets, and robot clothes for the baby (as well as dogs - I do love puppies). Those types of styles should work for both boys and girls, right? I guess not, silly me! I bought all boy clothes, and if if we had had a daughter, I probably would have spent the first year of her life explaining she was in fact a girl, even though she would have had a shirt with something like an airplane on it. So I think it is fantastic that Princess Awesome is here to fill that gaping hole in the girl clothing market!

If people are interested in your other work, where can they find/buy it? My website has links to the different places you can buy my fabric, or other products with my design work: http://www.robyriker.com. You can also follow me on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/RobyrikerDesigns. I'm also available for custom work at robyriker@aol.com!

Rebecca Melsky
Rebecca Melsky

Rebecca Melsky is a co-founder of Princess Awesome and its Chief Executive Officer. She and her husband are raising three kids in Washington, DC.

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