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The Master Of Patterns Shirley Copperwhite Tells Her Inspiring Story

· Top Stories,Personal Stories

"It`s easy to work hard at something when your heart is really in it."

Hi, I`m Shirley Copperwhite, I was brought up in the heart of the countryside in Southern Ireland. My dad was an artist and he designed our family home in Limerick where we had a magical garden complete with orchards and a kitchen garden. My dad had his studio in our home as did my mother also an artist, so it was a given that creativity was a priority in our house. From a young age, I spent many hours drawing and creating. I was also very much inspired by my eccentric grandmother who had a flamboyant sense of style and a large collection of jewellery and ceramics.
I grew up in Limerick city in the eighties when we were in the grasp of a bad recession.

It was a grey and a rather dull place to live at the time.

Today it is a very different place. Art was my escape, a world where things were a lot more colorful. School for me was quite a bland and mundane affair with some very austere nuns at the helm. I loved art and design so when I escaped the shackles of secondary school I studied Graphic Design at The Limerick School of Art and Design. College summers were spent in London doing whatever creative jobs I could find. It was an exciting time where inspiration was everywhere! When I graduated I worked for many years in Dublin as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator. I designed corporate identities, packaging, and brochures for a variety of high profile clients. I always had a niggle in the back of my mind that this was not really the path I wanted to keep on traveling, so I made the big decision to change direction once I saw an opportunity. A visit to Liberty's in London and a whole day spent
at the V&A museum had inspired me and had sewn the seed. I started to make patterns for textiles, homewares and fashion accessories which I found I really loved!
It's easy to work hard at something when your heart is really in it.

I had my own vision for what I wanted to do so I started Shirley Copperwhite Designs in 2013.

Shirley Copperwhite cushion. Designer writes her story for Self Starter Magazine April 2018

I am very glad I took the leap of faith!

Licensing my designs forms a large part of my work. I have worked with companies in Germany and Canada creating and producing patterns for the textile industry. I also work on commissions and my latest collaboration was with Connemara Carpets where I worked on a large wool hand-tufted rug for a joint exhibition with my sister, the painter Diana Copperwhite.
I have also worked with some of the best silk printers in Como, Italy producing limited edition silk scarves and accessories. As a surface pattern designer, my work touches on lots of diverse areas from everyday objects to limited edition pieces. My work is informed and inspired by a large mix of influences from folk art to graphic design.

Working for yourself is not however without its challenges but very rewarding mostly. You have to wear a lot of different hats to start with. In my case, these are Designer, Accountant, Director of Marketing, PR and Social Media, Web Designer,
Print Production Manager, Quality Controller, and Tea Lady!
As your company grows, you will find that you can hire people to do all these things for you, apart from the design work of course!
You are in charge of your time and to begin with, will probably need to work almost double the hours anyone else works, but, you are investing in your own company and in a lot of cases,
you are probably learning on the job.
I don't recall anybody teaching me how to run a business at college, unfortunately.
Starting and running my own business was a day by day learning curve. Once you get to the top of that curve, you can look back with joy and realize how little you knew about running a business and where you are now.
It is also important to have reliable and trustworthy people to talk to, for advice and pep-talks.
It can be lonely running a business on your own but when things go right, the victory is all yours!

Beautiful scarf designed by Shirley Copperwhite in Self Starter Magazine April 2018

Shirley`s Pointers

Grasp the bull by the horns.

There are so many people who have great talent, ideas and lots of enthusiasm
but just never, for whatever reason make the decision to give it a go. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. You will be admired, criticised, ridiculed, and loved all at the one time but no-one can ever say that you never gave it a shot!

Be ready to hit the ground running.

Organization is so important when trying to make the best use of your time and
resources. Having a clear idea of what route you would like your business to take is very important. You must be clear on your route to market and how to get there.
This requires lots of research before you finally take the leap and register your business.

Your brand and marketing.​

You will need a strong and clear brand identity. This will be used over and over and will represent your business, so make sure it performs this function and is recognizable and unique. Marketing is vital and keeping yourself in the public eye and mind, through social media, collaborations, or whatever way best suits your business.

Be aware you will have to wear a lot of different hats.

Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted and will require bucket loads of
inspiration and perspiration! You will need to fill a lot of different roles at the beginning.

Build a team of reliable advisers and professionals.

Getting the advice and help of various professionals is always a good idea.
After all, you need to focus on your area of expertise.No man (or woman) is an island!

Receive feedback gratefully.

The public will be your greatest critics and admirers so take feedback graciously

and use it wisely.

And finally, be brave!

Go into battle armed with all these tools and you stand a chance of winning the war.

Fabric/Pattern designer Shirley Copperwhite tells her story to Self Starter Magazine April 2018
Irish designer Shirley Copperwhite writes her story for Self Starter Magazine April 2018
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