'Designer of the Week': Virpi Karjalainen

This week, we interviewed Virpi Karjalainen from Kuosittelija, based in Turku Finland. She produces a rich style of amazing graphics, colorful geometrical patterns with vivid pastel tones. We want you to discover more about her work process:

- What is your studio name and location?

I am a Finland based surface pattern designer living in Turku. My brand name is ´Kuosittelija´ - it’s a shortening for “kuosisuunnittelija”, meaning print designer in Finnish. I’m aware it could be a tongue twister for foreigners! But then, even my own name might not be so easy to pronounce for non-Finns.


- Which design school did you study at ( if you did)?

I had a career change at the tender age of 36. Until then, I had worked for a decade as a Translation Project Manager, ie. being the middle-man between clients and translators. My long held dream was to work with interiors, so I took a course in Interior Design in 2012 and then took a degree in Textile Design at Salo Region Vocational College during 2013-2015. It was definitely different than what I had done previously: getting up at 5:30 to take a train to another city and to study with people half my age. But in the end it was what ignited my desire to become a surface pattern designer.


- When did you first start being interested in design?

I’ve always been into Interior Design and visual arts and had vague hopes of designing posters and textiles when I was little. It just took me 30 years to actually start doing it!


- Describe your style for us in 10 words?

My designs are cool, fresh and contemporary, with element of surprise.


- What / who are your major influences?

 I look up to Designers Guild and Matthew Williamson in the surface pattern world but my major influence comes from rough-on-the-edges street life, architecture and travelling. It really opens the eyes. I don’t get my best ideas just staying at home!


- What are you working on at the moment?

 I just finished creating a wallpaper collection for Finnish feature wall specialist Kuvatapetti.fi. It’s actually my first ever product line for sale, so I’m really just at the beginning of my career. The collection that Kuvatapetti.fi are selling at the moment consists of 13 wallpaper designs and colourways but I have plenty more up my sleeve, so I’m hoping the collection will eventually grow.

Besides that, I have collected a lot of pattern inspiration this summer and just need to sit down and start working on them. Getting inspiration is not hard, making it all work on the computer is more tricky. I’m a bit like an old steam locomotive - getting started is the toughest part, you need to touch all the right buttons. When I finally get going, I keep working until the fuel runs out, often burning the midnight oil. When I’m in the creative haze, everything else fades into the background and I might forget to eat or I’m too excited to sleep.


- What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

 I have started to play with the thought of creating a fashion line with an experienced fashion designer and/or retailer. I would love to create the prints and decide what kind of clothing it would work on and then leave the actual garment design and construction as well as marketing to someone else’s safe hands. So yes, it’s basically fashion prints that tickle my nerve. So far I’ve been quite interiors and wallpaper oriented but as I love bold coloured fashion it would be a dream come true.


My more moderate hopes include just getting better with the technical side of things and finding the right companies to collaborate with.


- What tips would you give new designers starting out?

I guess the biggest tip I can give at this point is to believe in yourself and your capabilities to grow. If you start from zero, you can still learn a hell of a lot in one year! Let alone five years. So start doing and keep dreaming. Pessimism and self-doubt will definitely not take you anywhere. Also, I encourage you to stay true to yourself. I’m not a doodler and drawing motifs by hand just isn’t my style, rather it just gets me frustrated. I can accept that and still create beautiful patterns using another kind of technique. For me, that’s using shapes I see around me, photographing them and then creating a pattern out of it. Personally, I have also learnt so much with the help of online courses, Make It In Design e-courses in particular. I can only warmly recommend them.


You can purchase some of Virpi's designs on fabric, wallpaper and accessories from her Fashion Formula shop


August 01, 2017 — Artemis Doupa