A few years ago, I met artist, curator, author & teacher, Courtney Cerruti. Courtney works for Creativebug and helped to concept and produce all of my classes there (including my two best-selling Basic Line Drawing and Sketchbook Explorations classes). Courtney has become one of my most treasured friends. I am perpetually in awe of her prolific creative energy and free spirit. Courtney and I also share a longtime love of neon colors. Courtney has published several books (one which I wrote about here) and her latest is my new favorite. It’s called Playing with Surface Design, and it’s a book of surface design projects, including projects for creating wrapping paper, ribbon, lampshades, garlands, plates and more. Each project is fully photographed and includes step by step instructions. Last week, I sat down with Courtney to talk about this gorgeous new book. I’m also sharing here photos of some projects from the book, all styled by Courtney and photographed by Liz Daly (except the one above, which was taken by me). I hope you enjoy this latest in my Interviews with People I Admire!
Lisa: What inspired this particular book?
Courtney: I wanted to make a book that showed traditional printmaking techniques with a fresh and contemporary look and feel. I’ve added neons, metallics and indigos to the color palette overall and made specific tweaks to some of the processes like marbling, paste papers and monoprinting so that they better fit into the craft and DIY world we all know and love today. I’ve also thrown in some favorite painting and stamping methods to cover designs for all surfaces.
Lisa: You have several amazing and beautiful project-based books under your belt. Tell us about what it’s like to make books like this. What inspires you to share techniques with other people?
Courtney: Every book I’ve written came from my current passion/obsession. In addition to wanting to share a process or project that I love to make, most of the projects are ones I teach in my in-person and online workshops. The books aim to inspire people as well as teach successful methods for making. I want people to pick up any one of my books and learn a better way to make an image transfer, a monoprint, a book, etc., and to feel proud about learning a new skill AND smitten because they made something beautiful too.
Lisa: That is a great feeling! To learn something new and make something beautiful. What is your favorite project in the book and why?
Courtney: OOOH, so hard! I think my favorite might be the Bold Botanical Prints because its evokes the feeling of cyanotypes with the addition of neon. Its also more accessible and less expensive than the cyanotype process. Best of all, the printing surface is an actual slab of gelatin, as in Jell-o, which is just plain awesome.
Lisa: When you come up with an idea for a project for one of your books, does it always go as you planned? Or do you end up scrapping some of them and trying other techniques? Tell us about this process of risk-taking and experimentation.
Courtney: The process of making a book is ever-evolving. Although I come up with an initial list of projects, they change and shift, because I become inspired by something new as I work. Delving deep into any method allows for moments of discovery and that in turn causes me to add projects and strike others as I become more or less inspired by a certain aspect of the process. Luckily I worked with a great photographer, Liz Daly, and a great Editor, Jonathan Simkosky at Quarry, who were both flexible along the way.
Lisa: When a project you’ve imagined and then try comes out beautifully, what does that feel like?
Courtney: A successful project feels like falling in love, like what you expected and at the same time like a tiny miracle. The processes I love — and most often use and teach — all have an element of unexpectedness, which is why I think they’ve kept me interested and engaged for years.
Lisa: There is a gallery in the back of the book of artists who do surface design, in which I am so honored to by included. Besides the artists in the book, who are some of your favorite surface designers today?
Courtney: Helen Dealtry, Chris Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop, Naomi Ito of Nani Iro, Kindah Khalidy, Llew Mejia, Kitty McCall, and fabric and work from the studios of Mara Mi, Marimekko, and Liberty of London just to name a few.
You can find Courtney’s website here and follow her on Instagram here. You can purchase Courtney’s new book here or wherever books are sold. Did you make something from the book? Tag it #PlayingWithSurfaceDesign to share with others. Thank you Courtney for this inspiring interview. I hope everyone has a great Monday!