Log / Illustration / DFF

Nature, Women, Movement — Katie Rodgers

In conversation with fashion illustrator Katie Rodgers about the world of Paper Fashion, her whimsical series Shadow Dancers and a peek into an upcoming collaboration at Design Fabric Festival.

By Ritupriya Basu on 23 March

  • Krcollage

Dancing In Gold, a collaboration with photographer Walid Azami

Katie Rogers’ art comes alive in a haze of colours, glitter and gold. The artist and fashion illustrator became a rage in the creative world ever since she started her website Paper Fashion. The whimsical girls in the trailing gowns she calls Shadow Dancers twirl through the tiles of her Instagram feed. Ever since childhood, Katie’s imagination always ran wild, finding moments of magic in the unlikeliest places. Her dancers sometimes hide amidst the petals of a blooming flower, or become a swirl of light on a dark beach at night.

Having worked with the likes of Cartier, Estee Lauder and Swarovski, her work has gained a certain character over the years, moving from realistic to the slightly abstract. With no distinct features, the Shadow Dancers could be anyone and everyone, leaving a little to the imagination of the viewer. From her apartment in New York, Katie indulges us in a conversation about her relationship with art and fashion, and an exclusive collaboration with Taxi Fabric at Design Fabric Festival.

Is this going to be your first trip to India? What excites you about being a part of Design Fabric Festival’s debut edition?

Yes! I’ve dreamed of visiting India for a long long time, and I’m so happy to come be a part of the Design Fabric Festival. I’m excited to share my art with the people of Mumbai, and to experience the colorful Indian culture.

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Blood Moon by Katie Rodgers

An industrial designer turned full-time fashion illustrator. How did that transition happen?

I had practiced art and illustration ever since I was a little girl, but I never considered pursuing it as a career. I ended up studying Industrial Design to keep close to the creative aspect, but also because I thought it was more traditional and would be easier to find work. During my studies, I discovered my true passion was in art and fashion, and eventually began working as an apparel designer after college. From there, I began sharing my artwork online and eventually quit my job to do it full time. It all felt very natural (but still risky) over the years. I don't regret studying Industrial Design. It has helped me so much in other ways. My journey through other studies is what ultimately led me here.

When and how did your tryst with fashion begin?

I grew up in a more rural part of Georgia and didn’t know much about fashion. It wasn’t until I went abroad to study fashion and accessory design during my college years in Italy that I fell in love with fashion. I was always drawn to it because it seemed so foreign to me…and once I had seen it up and close, I knew I had to be a part of it somehow.

What are the three significant things that influence your work?

Nature, women, movement.

  • 14 Cave Inspired Dancers
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Creating patterns with Shadow Dancers

You are currently experimenting a lot with gold foil. It’s a very interesting medium to be working with. What is the biggest challenge it poses?

My biggest challenge with gold foil was my lack of patience! I’m a bit odd. I love to figure things out through trial and error instead of following step by step instructions. Sort of creating my own method, if you will. So it took me a while to figure out the best way to do foiling. And once I got a hang of it, I became addicted. The way foil glows in comparison to gold pigment and paint is beautiful. I love how it plays and moves with light.

The Shadow Dancers are imagined in curious materials - from strawberries, egg shells, flowers to sea algae. Does inspiration ever take you by surprise?

All the time! I can be doing something very random and not ‘creative’ and get wild ideas. I love it. For instance, I could see someone knitting with yarn, and it makes me think of spaghetti noodles, which makes me want to create a dancer out of noodles. It’s all very random and almost like a game to try and find the Shadow Dancers. I also do get inspired by traveling as well - taking bits and pieces of culture wherever I am and finding my dancers within it. It’s my way of bringing myself somewhere new. I can’t wait to be inspired by India in this way.

Your illustrative style has edged more towards the abstract over the years. Was this a conscious decision or something that just happened over time?

It’s something that happened naturally. As I work, I am also growing as a woman. I first began sharing my work online almost 10 years ago. As you can imagine, I have also grown a lot as a person during that time. I think evolution in your work is magical and inevitable. I would be bored if I were still creating the same work I was 10 years ago.

My evolution to a looser, more abstract technique came from building confidence and a sense of movement in my work. I feel more grounded in my brush strokes and less dependent on creating something that looks very realistic. I also love it when someone can view an image that is slightly abstract and fill in the missing pieces in their own mind. It’s interactive in a sense. I hope my work will continue to evolve throughout my life!

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A spaghetti Shadow Dancer

Is there a shift in your creative process while working on commissioned briefs vis-a-vis creating for yourself?

Yes, working on something commissioned, they often reference work that is a few years old, or there are so many guidelines that it can be a bit more restricting. I have also found that what’s most difficult for me to manage at times is the pressure of other peoples' visions or expectations on my work. It can be inhibiting, so I have found some ways to deal with it and try to stay as true to myself and to my work as possible. It’s all a game of give and take, while making sure your work shines through in an authentic way.

While in Mumbai, you will be creating an exclusive Taxi Fabric. Where are you looking for inspiration for the illustrations? What kind of research goes into it?

I am so excited to create my own Taxi Fabric. I have wanted to do so for a few years now, since I first learned about it. I’m taking inspiration from Indian culture, both through nature and fashion. My work mainly focuses on women, so I have been doing research on different types of saris and colors to work with. From there, I experiment on paper through sketches and paintings until I come up with something that feels right.

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  • Star Catcher 2

Illustrations from the Star Catcher series

What does 2018 hold for you?

2017 was a year of transition for me, and in 2018, I am finally bringing many of these projects to life. One of the biggest ones (which I sadly cannot reveal yet) involves a line of products - I’m excited to share something completely new, yet very familiar, in the next year. I’m also expanding my roles. I recently took on a project that involves designing a space, which is very different from my typical 2D work. It’s challenging, but I love to experiment with my work in different mediums and get out of your comfort zone. I also have a limited edition collaboration with Dove Chocolate debuting in May!

Katie Rodgers will be speaking at the Design Fabric Festival on 30th March. She will also be hosting a workshop in collaboration with Taxi Fabric and Asian Paints Colour Next '18 on the 29th March.

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